Below, explore peer-reviewed journal articles related to ISS National Lab investigations. For a more extensive list of spaceflight-related publications (not limited to ISS National Lab sponsorship), see the International Space Station Research Results Citations on the NASA website.
We explain the excess of the antiproton fraction recently reported by the AMS-02 experiment by considering collisions between cosmic-ray protons accelerated by a local supernova remnant and the surrounding dense cloud. The same “pp collisions” provide the right ratio of daughter particles to fit the observed positron excess simultaneously in the natural model parameters. The supernova happened in relatively lower metallicity than the major cosmic-ray sources. The cutoff energy of electrons marks the supernova age of ∼105 years, while the antiproton excess may extend to higher energy. Both antiproton and positron fluxes are completely consistent with our predictions in an earlier paper.
The heart and its cellular components are profoundly altered by missions to space and injury on Earth. Further research, however, is needed to characterize and address the molecular substrates of such changes. For this reason, neonatal and adult human cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs) were cultured aboard the International Space Station. Upon return to Earth, we measured changes in the expression of microRNAs and of genes related to mechanotransduction, cardiogenesis, cell cycling, DNA repair, and paracrine signaling. We additionally assessed endothelial-like tube formation, cell cycling, and migratory capacity of CPCs. Changes in microRNA expression were predicted to target extracellular matrix interactions and Hippo signaling in both neonatal and adult CPCs. Genes related to mechanotransduction (YAP1, RHOA) were downregulated, while the expression of cytoskeletal genes (VIM, NES, DES, LMNB2, LMNA), non-canonical Wnt ligands (WNT5A, WNT9A), and Wnt/calcium signaling molecules (PLCG1, PRKCA) was significantly elevated in neonatal CPCs. Increased mesendodermal gene expression along with decreased expression of mesodermal derivative markers (TNNT2, VWF, and RUNX2), reduced readiness to form endothelial-like tubes, and elevated expression of Bmp and Tbx genes, were observed in neonatal CPCs. Both neonatal and adult CPCs exhibited increased expression of DNA repair genes and paracrine factors, which was supported by enhanced migration. While spaceflight affects cytoskeletal organization and migration in neonatal and adult CPCs, only neonatal CPCs experienced increased expression of early developmental markers and an enhanced proliferative potential. Efforts to recapitulate the effects of spaceflight on Earth by regulating processes described herein may be a promising avenue for cardiac repair.
Jatropha (Jatropha curcas) is a tropical perennial species identified as a potential biofuel crop. The oil is of excellent quality and it has been successfully tested as biodiesel and in jet fuel mixes. However, studies on breeding and genetic improvement of jatropha are limited. Space offers a unique environment for experiments aiming at the assessment of mutations and differential gene expression of crops and in vitro cultures of plants are convenient for studies of genetic variation as affected by microgravity. However, before microgravity studies can be successfully performed, pre-flight experiments are necessary to characterize plant material and validate flight hardware environmental conditions. Such preliminary studies set the ground for subsequent spaceflight experiments. The objectives of this study were to compare the in vitro growth of cultures from three explant sources (cotyledon, leaf, and stem sections) of three jatropha accessions (Brazil, India, and Tanzania) outside and inside the petriGAP, a modified group activation pack (GAP) flight hardware to fit petri dishes. In vitro jatropha cell cultures were established in petri dishes containing a modified MS medium and maintained in a plant growth chamber at 25 ± 2 °C in the dark. Parameters evaluated were surface area of the explant tissue (A), fresh weight (FW), and dry weight (DW) for a period of 12 weeks. Growth was observed for cultures from all accessions at week 12, including subsequent plantlet regeneration. For all accessions differences in A, FW and DW were observed for inside vs. outside the PetriGAPs. Growth parameters were affected by accession (genotype), explant type, and environment. The type of explant influenced the type of cell growth and subsequent plantlet regeneration capacity. However, overall cell growth showed no abnormalities. The present study demonstrated that jatropha in vitro cell cultures are suitable for growth inside PetriGAPs for a period of 12 weeks. The parameters evaluated in this study provide the basic ground work and pre-flight assessment needed to justify a model for microgravity studies with jatropha in vitro cell cultures. Future studies should focus on results of experiments performed with jatropha in vitro cultures in microgravity.
We studied the growth of metal-ion silicate chemical gardens under Earth gravity (1 g) and microgravity (μg) conditions. Identical sets of reaction chambers from an automated system (the Silicate Garden Habitat or SGHab) were used in both cases. The μg experiment was performed on board the International Space Station (ISS) within a temperature-controlled setup that provided still and video images of the experiment downlinked to the ground. Calcium chloride, manganese chloride, cobalt chloride, and nickel sulfate were used as seed salts in sodium silicate solutions of several concentrations. The formation and growth of osmotic envelopes and microtubes was much slower under μg conditions. In 1 g, buoyancy forces caused tubes to grow upward, whereas a random orientation for tube growth was found under μg conditions.
The Communications Interface Board (CIB) is an improved communications architecture that was demonstrated on the International Space Station (ISS). ISS communication interfaces allowing for real-time telemetry and health monitoring require a significant amount of development. The CIB simplifies the communications interface to the ISS for real-time health monitoring, telemetry, and control of resident sensors or experiments. With a simpler interface available to the telemetry bus, more sensors or experiments may be flown. The CIB accomplishes this by acting as a bridge between the ISS MIL-STD-1553 low-rate telemetry (LRT) bus and the sensors allowing for two-way command and telemetry data transfer. The CIB was designed to be highly reliable and radiation hard for an extended flight in low Earth orbit (LEO) and has been proven with over 40 months of flight operation on the outside of ISS supporting two sets of flight experiments. Since the CIB is currently operating in flight on the ISS, recent results of operations will be provided. Additionally, as a vehicle health monitoring enabling technology, an overview and results from two experiments enabled by the CIB will be provided. Future applications for vehicle health monitoring utilizing the CIB architecture will also be discussed.
A central mechanism for controlling circadian gene amplitude remains elusive. We present evidence for a “facilitated repression (FR)” model that functions as an amplitude rheostat for circadian gene oscillation. We demonstrate that ROR and/or BMAL1 promote global chromatin decondensation during the activation phase of the circadian cycle to actively facilitate REV-ERB loading for repression of circadian gene expression. Mechanistically, we found that SRC-2 dictates global circadian chromatin remodeling through spatial and temporal recruitment of PBAF members of the SWI/SNF complex to facilitate loading of REV-ERB in the hepatic genome. Mathematical modeling highlights how the FR model sustains proper circadian rhythm despite fluctuations of REV-ERB levels. Our study not only reveals a mechanism for active communication between the positive and negative limbs of the circadian transcriptional loop but also establishes the concept that clock transcription factor binding dynamics is perhaps a central tenet for fine-tuning circadian rhythm.
Spaceflight results in bone loss like that associated with osteoporosis or decreased weight-bearing (for example, high-energy trauma such as explosive injuries and automobile accidents). Thus, the unique spaceflight laboratory on the International Space Station presents the opportunity to test bone healing agents during weightlessness. We are collaborating with NASA and the US Army to study bone healing in spaceflight. Given the unique constraints of spaceflight, study design optimization was required. Male mice were selected primarily because their femur is larger than females', allowing for more reproducible surgical outcomes. However, concern was raised regarding male mouse aggression. In addition, the original spaceflight study design included cohousing nonoperated control mice with mice that had undergone surgery to create a segmental bone defect. This strategy prompted the concern that nonoperated mice would exhibit aggressive behavior toward vulnerable operated mice. We hypothesized that operated and nonoperated male mice could be cohoused successfully when they were cagemates since birth and underwent identical anesthetic, analgesic, preoperative, and postoperative conditions. Using quantitative behavioral scoring, body weight, and organ weight analyses (Student t test and ANOVA), we found that nonoperated and operated C57BL/6 male mice could successfully be housed together. The male mice did not exhibit aggressive behavior toward cagemates, whether operated or nonoperated, and the mice did not show evidence of stress, as indicated by veterinary assessment, or change in body or proportional organ weights. These findings allowed our mission to proceed (launched February 2017) and may inform future surgical study designs, potentially increasing housing flexibility.
There is widespread investment of resources in the fields of Computer Science, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (CS-STEM) education to improve STEM interests and skills. This paper addresses the goal of revolutionizing student education using collaborative gaming and competition, both in virtual simulation environments and on real hardware in space. The concept is demonstrated using the SPHERES Zero Robotics (ZR) Program which is a robotics programming competition. The robots are miniature satellites called SPHERES—an experimental test bed developed by the MIT SSL on the International Space Station (ISS) to test navigation, formation flight and control algorithms in microgravity. The participants compete to win a technically challenging game by programming their strategies into the SPHERES satellites, completely from a web browser. The programs are demonstrated in simulation, on ground hardware and then in a final competition when an astronaut runs the student software aboard the ISS. ZR had a pilot event in 2009 with 10 High School (HS) students, a nationwide pilot tournament in 2010 with over 200 HS students from 19 US states, a summer tournament in 2010 with ∼150 middle school students and an open-registration tournament in 2011 with over 1000 HS students from USA and Europe. The influence of collaboration was investigated by (1) building new web infrastructure and an Integrated Development Environment where intensive inter-participant collaboration is possible, (2) designing and programming a game to solve a relevant formation flight problem, collaborative in nature—and (3) structuring a tournament such that inter-team collaboration is mandated. This paper introduces the ZR web tools, assesses the educational value delivered by the program using space and games and evaluates the utility of collaborative gaming within this framework. There were three types of collaborations as variables—within matches (to achieve game objectives), inter-team alliances and unstructured communication on online forums. Simulation competition scores, website usage statistics and post-competition surveys are used to evaluate educational impact and the effect of collaboration.
The problem of collective search is a tradeoff between searching thoroughly and covering as much area as possible. This tradeoff depends on the density of searchers. Solutions to the problem of collective search are currently of much interest in robotics and in the study of distributed algorithms, for example to design ways that without central control robots can use local information to perform search and rescue operations. Ant colonies operate without central control. Because they can perceive only local, mostly chemical and tactile cues, they must search collectively to find resources and to monitor the colony's environment. Examining how ants in diverse environments solve the problem of collective search can elucidate how evolution has led to diverse forms of collective behavior. An experiment on the International Space Station in January 2014 examined how ants (Tetramorium caespitum) perform collective search in microgravity. In the ISS experiment, the ants explored a small arena in which a barrier was lowered to increase the area and thus lower ant density. In microgravity, relative to ground controls, ants explored the area less thoroughly and took more convoluted paths. It appears that the difficulty of holding on to the surface interfered with the ants' ability to search collectively. Ants frequently lost contact with the surface, but showed a remarkable ability to regain contact with the surface.
Huntington's disease is one of nine neurodegenerative diseases caused by a polyglutamine (polyQ)-repeat expansion. An anti-polyQ antigen-binding fragment, MW1 Fab, was crystallized both on Earth and on the International Space Station, a microgravity environment where convection is limited. Once the crystals returned to Earth, the number, size and morphology of all crystals were recorded, and X-ray data were collected from representative crystals. The results generally agreed with previous microgravity crystallization studies. On average, microgravity-grown crystals were 20% larger than control crystals grown on Earth, and microgravity-grown crystals had a slightly improved mosaicity (decreased by 0.03°) and diffraction resolution (decreased by 0.2 Å) compared with control crystals grown on Earth. However, the highest resolution and lowest mosaicity crystals were formed on Earth, and the highest-quality crystal overall was formed on Earth after return from microgravity.
The Geostationary Ocean Color Imager (GOCI) is the first geostationary ocean color sensor in orbit that provides bio-optical properties from coastal and open waters around the Korean Peninsula at unprecedented temporal resolution. In this study, we compare the normalized water-leaving radiance (nLw) products generated by the Naval Research Laboratory Automated Processing System (APS) with those produced by the stand-alone software package, the GOCI Data Processing System (GDPS), developed by the Korean Ocean Research & Development Institute (KORDI). Both results are then compared to the nLw measured by the above water radiometer at the Ieodo site. This above-water radiometer is part of the Aerosol Robotic NETwork (AeroNET). The results indicate that the APS and GDPS processed correlates well within the same image slot where the coefficient of determination (r^2) is higher than 0.84 for all the bands from 412 nm to 745 nm. The agreement between APS and the AeroNET data is higher when compared to the GDPS results. The Root-Mean-Squared-Error (RMSE) between AeroNET and APS data ranges from 0.24 [mW/(cm^2srμm)] at 555 nm to 0.52 [mW/(cm^2srμm)] at 412 nm while RMSE between AeroNET and GDPS data ranges from 0.47 [mW/(cm^2srμm)] at 443 nm to 0.69 [mW/(cm6^2srμm)] at 490 nm.
The root apex is an important region involved in environmental sensing, but comprises a very small part of the root. Obtaining root apex transcriptomes is therefore challenging when the samples are limited. The feasibility of using tiny root sections for transcriptome analysis was examined, comparing RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) to microarrays in characterizing genes that are relevant to spaceflight.
We analyze the consolidation of freshly deposited cohesive and noncohesive sediment by means of particle-resolved direct Navier-Stokes simulations based on the immersed boundary method. The computational model is parametrized by material properties and does not involve any arbitrary calibrations. We obtain the stress balance of the fluid-particle mixture from first principles and link it to the classical effective stress concept. The detailed data sets obtained from our simulations allow us to evaluate all terms of the derived stress balance. We compare the settling of cohesive sediment to its noncohesive counterpart, which corresponds to the settling of the individual primary particles. The simulation results yield a complete parametrization of the Gibson equation, which has been the method of choice to analyze self-weight consolidation.
Muscle wasting, or muscle atrophy, can occur with age, injury, and disease; it affects the quality of life and complicates treatment. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) is a key positive regulator of muscle mass. The IGF1/Igf1 gene encodes multiple protein isoforms that differ in tissue expression, potency, and function, particularly in cel-lular proliferation and differentiation, as well as in systemic versus localized signal-ing. Genome engineering is a novel strategy for increasing gene expression and has the potential to recapitulate the diverse biology seen in IGF1 signaling through the overexpression of multiple IGF1 isoforms. Using a CRISPR-Cas9 gene activation approach, we showed that the expression of multiple IGF1 or Igf1 mRNA variants can be increased in human and mouse skeletal muscle myoblast cell lines using a sin-gle-guide RNA (sgRNA). We found increased IGF1 protein levels in the cell culture media and increased cellular phosphorylation of AKT1, the main effector of IGF1 signaling. We also showed that the expression of Class 1 or Class 2 mRNA variants can be selectively increased by changing the sgRNA target location. The expression of multiple IGF1 or Igf1 mRNA transcript variants in human and mouse skeletal muscle myoblasts promoted myotube differentiation and prevented dexamethasone-induced atrophy in myotubes in vitro. Our findings suggest that this novel approach for enhancing IGF1 signaling has potential therapeutic applications for treating skel-etal muscle atrophy.
Upregulation of Nell-1 has been associated with craniosynostosis (CS) in humans, and validated in a mouse transgenic Nell-1 overexpression model. Global Nell-1 inactivation in mice by N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenesis results in neonatal lethality with skeletal abnormalities including cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD)-like calvarial bone defects. This study further defines the role of Nell-1 in craniofacial skeletogenesis by investigating specific inactivation of Nell-1 in Wnt1 expressing cell lineages due to the importance of cranial neural crest cells (CNCCs) in craniofacial tissue development. Nell-1flox/flox; Wnt1-Cre (Nell-1Wnt1 KO) mice were generated for comprehensive analysis, while the relevant reporter mice were created for CNCC lineage tracing. Nell-1Wnt1 KO mice were born alive, but revealed significant frontonasal and mandibular bone defects with complete penetrance. Immunostaining demonstrated that the affected craniofacial bones exhibited decreased osteogenic and Wnt/β-catenin markers (Osteocalcin and active-β-catenin). Nell-1-deficient CNCCs demonstrated a significant reduction in cell proliferation and osteogenic differentiation. Active-β-catenin levels were significantly low in Nell-1-deficient CNCCs, but were rescued along with osteogenic capacity to a level close to that of wild-type (WT) cells via exogenous Nell-1 protein. Surprisingly, 5.4% of young adult Nell-1Wnt1 KO mice developed hydrocephalus with premature ossification of the intrasphenoidal synchondrosis and widened frontal, sagittal, and coronal sutures. Furthermore, the epithelial cells of the choroid plexus and ependymal cells exhibited degenerative changes with misplaced expression of their respective markers, transthyretin and vimentin, as well as dysregulated Pit-2 expression in hydrocephalic Nell-1Wnt1 KO mice. Nell-1Wnt1 KO embryos at E9.5, 14.5, 17.5, and newborn mice did not exhibit hydrocephalic phenotypes grossly and/or histologically. Collectively, Nell-1 is a pivotal modulator of CNCCs that is essential for normal development and growth of the cranial vault and base, and mandibles partially via activating the Wnt/β-catenin pathway. Nell-1 may also be critically involved in regulating cerebrospinal fluid homeostasis and in the pathogenesis of postnatal hydrocephalus
The immune system is one of the most affected systems of the human body during space flight. The cells of the immune system are exceptionally sensitive to microgravity. Thus, serious concerns arise, whether space flight associated weakening of the immune system ultimately precludes the expansion of human presence beyond the Earth's orbit. For human space flight, it is an urgent need to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which altered gravity influences and changes the functions of immune cells. The CELLBOX-PRIME (= CellBox-Primary Human Macrophages in Microgravity Environment) experiment investigated for the first time microgravity-associated long-term alterations in primary human macrophages, one of the most important effector cells of the immune system. The experiment was conducted in the U.S. National Laboratory on board of the International Space Station ISS using the NanoRacks laboratory and Biorack type I standard CELLBOX EUE type IV containers. Upload and download were performed with the SpaceX CRS-3 and the Dragon spaceship on April 18th, 2014 / May 18th, 2014. Surprisingly, primary human macrophages exhibited neither quantitative nor structural changes of the actin and vimentin cytoskeleton after 11 days in microgravity when compared to 1g controls. Neither CD18 or CD14 surface expression were altered in microgravity, however ICAM-1 expression was reduced. The analysis of 74 metabolites in the cell culture supernatant by GC–TOF–MS, revealed eight metabolites with significantly different quantities when compared to 1g controls. In particular, the significant increase of free fucose in the cell culture supernatant was associated with a significant decrease of cell surface–bound fucose. The reduced ICAM-1 expression and the loss of cell surface–bound fucose may contribute to functional impairments, e.g. the activation of T cells, migration and activation of the innate immune response. We assume that the surprisingly small and non-significant cytoskeletal alterations represent a stable “steady state” after adaptive processes are initiated in the new microgravity environment. Due to the utmost importance of the human macrophage system for the elimination of pathogens and the clearance of apoptotic cells, its apparent robustness to a low gravity environment is crucial for human health and performance during long-term space missions.
We perform a detailed quantitative analysis of the recent AMS-02 electron and positron data. We investigate the interplay between the emission from primary astrophysical sources, namely Supernova Remnants and Pulsar Wind Nebulae, and the contribution from a dark matter annihilation or decay signal. Our aim is to assess the information that can be derived on dark matter properties when both dark matter and primary astrophysical sources are assumed to jointly contribute to the leptonic observables measured by the AMS-02 experiment. We investigate both the possibility to set robust constraints on the dark matter annihilation/decay rate and the possibility to look for dark matter signals within realistic models that take into account the full complexity of the astrophysical background. Our results show that AMS-02 data enable to probe efficiently vast regions of the dark matter parameter space and, in some cases, to set constraints on the dark matter annihilation/decay rate that are comparable or even stronger than the ones derived from other indirect detection channels.
Remotely sensed data acquired by orbital sensor systems has emerged as a vital tool to identify the extent of damage resulting from a natural disaster, as well as providing near-real time mapping support to response efforts on the ground and humanitarian aid efforts. The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique terrestrial remote sensing platform for acquiring disaster response imagery. Unlike automated remote-sensing platforms it has a human crew; is equipped with both internal and externally-mounted remote sensing instruments; and has an inclined, low-Earth orbit that provides variable views and lighting (day and night) over 90 percent of the inhabited surface of the Earth. As such, it provides a useful complement to autonomous sensor systems in higher altitude polar orbits. NASA remote sensing assets on the station began collecting International Charter, Space and Major Disasters, also known informally as the International Disaster Charter (IDC) response data in May 2012. Since the start of IDC response in 2012, and as of late March 2015, there have been 123 IDC activations; NASA sensor systems have collected data for thirty-four of these events. Of the successful data collections, eight involved two or more ISS sensor systems responding to the same event. Data has also been collected by International Partners in response to natural disasters, most notably JAXA and Roscosmos/Energia through the Urugan program.
The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean (HICO) aboard the International Space Station has offered for the first time a dedicated space-borne hyperspectral sensor specifically designed for remote sensing of the coastal environment. However, several processing steps are required to convert calibrated top-of-atmosphere radiances to the desired geophysical parameter(s). These steps add various amounts of uncertainty that can cumulatively render the geophysical parameter imprecise and potentially unusable if the objective is to analyze trends and/or seasonal variability. This research presented here has focused on: (1) atmospheric correction of HICO imagery; (2) retrieval of bathymetry using an improved implementation of a shallow water inversion algorithm; (3) propagation of uncertainty due to environmental noise through the bathymetry retrieval process; (4) issues relating to consistent geo-location of HICO imagery necessary for time series analysis, and; (5) tide height corrections of the retrieved bathymetric dataset. The underlying question of whether a temporal change in depth is detectable above uncertainty is also addressed. To this end, nine HICO images spanning November 2011 to August 2012, over the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Western Australia, were examined. The results presented indicate that precision of the bathymetric retrievals is dependent on the shallow water inversion algorithm used. Within this study, an average of 70% of pixels for the entire HICO-derived bathymetry dataset achieved a relative uncertainty of less than ± 20%. A per-pixel t-test analysis between derived bathymetry images at successive timestamps revealed observable changes in depth to as low as 0.4 m. However, the present geolocation accuracy of HICO is relatively poor and needs further improvements before extensive time series analysis can be performed.
Specific coating processes and materials were investigated in the quest to develop multilayer coatings with greater tolerance to space radiation exposure. Ultraviolet reflection (UVR) and wide-band antireflection (AR) multilayer coatings were deposited on solar cell covers and test substrates and subsequently exposed to simulated space environments and also flown on the Materials International Space Station Experiment-7 (MISSE-7) to determine their space environment stability. Functional solar cells integrated with these coatings underwent simulated UV and MISSE-7 low earth orbit flight exposure. The effects of UV, proton, and atomic oxygen exposure on coatings and on assembled solar cells as related to the implemented deposition processes and material compositions were small. The UVR/AR coatings protected flexible polymer substrate materials that are intended for future flexible multijunction cell arrays to be deployed from rolls. Progress was made toward developing stable and protective coatings for extended space-mission applications. Test results are presented.