This Friday (10th)*, a Falcon 9 rocket will launch from the U.S. Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying a Dragon spacecraft loaded with supplies, equipment and a host of science experiments. This will be SpaceX’s 25th Commercial Resupply Service (CRS-25) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under a contract with NASA.
*Several hours after this article was published, a statement from NASA and SpaceX revealed that the launch had been suspended and no new dates were scheduled.
According to the agency, science for the orbiting laboratory on the mission includes investigating the global composition of Earth’s dust and its impact on climate, ways to use space resources to create habitats beyond Earth, human rehabilitation in space, and more.
Billions of Earth’s dust samples can be analyzed
One of those studies, called EMIT (Earth Surface Mineral Origins Survey), will next year measure the mineral composition of dust in the driest landscapes on Earth. In a press conference last week, EMIT mission principal investigator Robert Green explained a process he calls “planetary mineral dust cycling.”
According to the scientist, dust blown into Earth’s atmosphere by strong desert winds can travel thousands of kilometers. The mineral content of this atmospheric dust affects the interconnected global climate system, and understanding the composition of these minerals is critical to figuring out how this is done.
“Depending on the minerals present, atmospheric dust, for example, will absorb and reflect sunlight differently, warming or cooling regions, affecting cloud formation and atmospheric chemistry,” Green said, adding that this type of dust also Can serve as a rich store of nutrients when it settles in the ocean or soil.
Currently, scientists have only 5,000 mineral samples from Earth’s global dust cycle, he said. With EMIT, this number tends to grow significantly.
Once connected to the ISS’s External Logistics Module 1, EMIT (representing the CRS-25 mission’s largest payload) will be able to perform spectroscopic analysis of more than a billion dust samples from all over the planet. Scientists hope to use the data to update models of global systems for activities such as weather forecasting and climate research.
Building space bricks for exploration colonies
As planned missions to the moon and even Mars get closer, there is a growing need to figure out how to use local resources to build sustainable habitats. If building materials like steel and concrete are already heavy and extremely inefficient to launch into orbit, imagine reaching the moon or the red planet.
For this reason, students at Stanford University in California are studying how microgravity affects the formation of another type of concrete that mixes organic molecules with water and resources. “in situ”, such as lunar regolith or Martian dust to create biopolymer soil composites (BPC).
Rather than using chemical reactions, heat or pressure, the elements used in BPC allow the mixture to dry at “about half the strength of Portland cement,” according to computer science student Jocelyn Hoang Thai, one of the leading teams.
The experiment will use bovine serum albumin (BSA) to make six bricks on the space station, each about 7 mm long. On Earth, BSA forms protein bridges that connect dirt particles during drying. The researchers hope to compare bricks mixed in space with bricks made on Earth to determine the effect of microgravity on the drying process and protein bridge formation, and how this affects the density and strength of the bricks.
SpaceX brings skin and blood vessel samples to the International Space Station
The CRS-25 mission will send a medical experiment to the International Space Station led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the University of Florence in Italy. A set of tissue chips, containers used to store human cells for study in microgravity, contain ethically-standard samples of human skin and blood vessels that have been injured and then sutured to study points in the healing process in microgravity mechanical force.
The study’s lead researcher, Monica Monici of the University of Florence, said: space stitching, highlighting the benefits of studying sutures in space. “Previous experiments in cell cultures and animal models have shown that wound closure is delayed under microgravity conditions,” the scientist explained. “As the time of evacuation from space to Earth [em futuras missões] Can be very long, and the need to perform trauma care and surgery increases. Wound healing should be seen as a major challenge requiring research as it is critical to the survival of the crew. “
Other experiments the CRS-25 mission will bring to the International Space Station include the aging of the immune system, how microbial communities in soil are affected by microgravity, and award-winning research from the 9th edition of the Genes in Space program, a collaboration between NASA and U.S. educational institutions. Partnerships to encourage careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.
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