Key idea: A new technology could provide a simple, portable, and low-cost tool for medical diagnostics, on-demand production of medicine and vaccines, and environmental monitoring on future space missions.
Original author and publication date: Mark García – July 16, 2022
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: We can only hope space exploration will truly benefit all humans, and not just a few of them.
From the article:
The Dragon launched on SpaceX’s 25th contracted commercial resupply mission for NASA at 8:44 p.m., Thursday, July 14, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After Dragon spends about one month attached to the space station, the spacecraft will return to Earth with cargo and research.
Among the science experiments Dragon is delivering to the space station are:
Mapping Earth’s Dust
The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, employs NASA imaging spectroscopy technology to measure the mineral composition of dust in Earth’s arid regions. Mineral dust blown into the air can travel significant distances and affect Earth’s climate, weather, vegetation, and more. For example, dust containing dark minerals that absorb sunlight can warm an area, while light-colored mineral dust can cool it. Blowing dust also affects air quality, surface conditions such as rate of snow melt, and phytoplankton health in the ocean. The investigation collects images for one year to generate maps of the mineral composition in the regions on Earth that produce dust. Such mapping could advance our understanding of the effects of mineral dust on human populations now and in the future.
Speedier Immune System Aging
Aging is associated with changes in the immune response known as immunosenescence. Microgravity causes changes in human immune cells that resemble this condition, but happen faster than the actual process of aging on Earth. The Immunosenescence investigation, sponsored the by International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, uses tissue chips to study how microgravity affects immune function during flight and whether immune cells recover post-flight. Tissue chips are small devices that contain human cells in a 3D structure, allowing scientists to test how those cells respond to stresses, drugs, and genetic changes.
Genes, No Cells
Cell-free technology is a platform for producing protein without specialized equipment of living cells that need to be cultured. Genes in Space-9, sponsored by the National Lab, demonstrates cell-free production of protein in microgravity and evaluates two cell-free biosensors that can detect specific target molecules. This technology could provide a simple, portable, and low-cost tool for medical diagnostics, on-demand production of medicine and vaccines, and environmental monitoring on future space missions.