SpaceX’s 26th CRS mission
SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply mission (CRS) to the International Space Station is set to launch in late November from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Dragon spacecraft will conduct experimental research and technology demonstrations that will investigate plant growth in space, on-demand nutrient generation, diagnosis and astronaut medication, and other capacities.
Here are some specifics about the research that will be launched into the space station:
Interstellar Horticulture: Tiny Tomato (Red Robin)
Long-duration exploration missions demand a continual availability of proper nutrition. Fresh foods grown in space may be needed to complement the typical pre-packaged spaceman diet. Researchers have cultivated a wide assortment of leafy greens on the plant growth unit on the station, known as Veggie. The following step in these studies is Veg-05, which focuses on growing dwarf or cherry tomatoes.
“We’re testing tomatoes to see how the light spectrum affects how well the crop grows, how tasty and nutritious the tomatoes are, and how much microbial activity there is on the produce,” asserts Gioia Massa, NASA Life Sciences project scientist, and VEG-05 principal investigator. “We are also investigating the overall impact of crop growing, care, and consumption on crew behavioral health. All of this will provide useful data for potential space exploration.”
Massa adds that tomatoes are commonly consumed, may be eaten fresh, and are healthy. The cherry dwarf tomato type utilized in the study, Red Robin, thrived well when tested in the ground and yielded a sizable harvest of wholesome and delectable fruit.
Astronaut Diagnoses: Take a test midflight
A toolkit for in-flight diagnostic testing that comes with a compact handheld microscope and a tiny self-contained human blood staining apparatus is put to the test by Moon Microscope. To diagnose sickness and provide treatment, a flight medic collects and dyes a blood sample, uses the microscope to capture photos, and sends the images back to Earth.
However, crew members do experience alterations in their immune systems, according to NASA immunologist and principal investigator Brian Crucian. “We do not have a significant clinical problem aboard the space station,” he adds. “All stressors intensify during interplanetary missions, and we are less able to take care of the crew as a result. This combo could raise certain clinical hazards. The goal of this project is to develop a very minuscule diagnostic laboratory facility that is suitable for use in microgravity and under operational restrictions. A sick crew member may quickly execute the blood smear, imaging, and image transmission.”
The kit might enable crew members to do diagnostic tests while in orbit or while on the lunar or Martian surface, as well as to check the water, food, and surface for contamination. Additionally, the equipment might allow for better medical monitoring on subsequent Artemis and Gateway missions.
Nutrient production: Compounds a click of a button away
Future prolonged space missions will face a significant issue in providing appropriate nourishment to ensure crew health. Making such materials on-demand could assist in preserving crew health and well-being because many vitamins, minerals, and medications have short shelf lives. In BioNutrients-2, a method for synthesizing essential nutrients from yogurt, kefir, and a yeast-based probiotic is put to the test.
Phase two of the five-year BioNutrients initiative, which will be overseen by NASA’s Ames Research Center and operated by Game Changing Development under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, will begin with the research and analysis. The introduction of BioNutrients-1 kickstarted the initiative. The BioNutrients-2 system uses a more compact setup with a heated incubator to encourage the growth of helpful organisms.
According to lead researcher John Hogan of NASA Ames, “this experiment adds follistatin, a protein therapy used to preserve muscle strength, as well as the fermented milk products yogurt and kefir.” We are also assessing our food safety procedures and developing a new lightweight bag system for efficient microbial preservation and growth in microgravity. The scientists want to create a single yeast strain that can produce up to four nutritional products for a third study.
The researchers are also searching for innovative ways to produce bulk goods like plastics, concrete binders, and raw chemicals using local resources. Such innovations aim to expand the boundaries of human exploration by lowering launch costs and raising self-sufficiency.