Space Station crew
Science & Exploration

Bones, bacteria and nutrition – European research on Space Station

14/10/2019 639 views 14 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / International Space Station

For eight days the International Space Station operated at full capacity with nine astronauts. With the extra set of hands in space the science teams on Earth got busy scheduling the astronauts’ days to get the most research time out of their time in orbit.

Sloshing fluids
Sloshing fluids

United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori completed a number of experiments for European researchers, adding more data to the pool of results. Just a day after arriving, Hazzaa set up the Fluidics experiment that consists of two transparent spheres containing liquid that can mimic satellite fuel tanks as well as help researchers understand ocean currents. 

Time experiment screenshot
Time experiment screenshot

Hazzaa conducted his second and last session of the Time experiment on 3 October. Time flies, the expression goes, but what happens to time when you are flying at 28 800 km/h around Earth? Hazzaa wore a virtual reality headset to avoid distraction and followed onscreen instructions to test his reaction speed and estimation of time. Tasks included guessing how long a blue square remained on the screen, pressing a button for a set number of seconds and pressing stop after estimating the passing of a minute.

Time probably flew for Hazzaa who has already returned to Earth alongside NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian commander Alexei Ovchinin in Soyuz MS-12.

EveryWear is everywhere
The astronaut app EveryWear was developed for Thomas Pesquet’s Proxima mission in 2016, and it is now a useful aid for recording all kinds of scientific data. On 2 October, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Drew Morgan wrapped up their third and last session of the Acoustic Diagnostics experiment. The session needed to be scheduled on their 80th day in space. Similar to the Time experiment but with sound, the astronauts wore headphones and answered questions on what they heard using the EveryWear app. The experiment will assess how hearing is affected in weightlessness as well as measure background noise on the International Space Station. Listen to this episode of ESA’s Beyond podcast for more on sounds in space:

  

 

Luca and Drew also did a second session for Grip, both in a seated and standing position. This experiment monitors how astronauts' brains assess grip force when reaching for an object.

Ready to grip
Ready to grip

Luca completed a third session of the NutrISS experiment that is charting his eating habits over five days, also using the EveryWear app. This experiment is helping mission designers adapt an astronaut’s diet when in space to ensure they get enough energy in preparation for longer missions farther into our Solar System. The researchers are testing a hypothesis that a high-protein diet might limit bone and muscle loss in space.

Linked to bone loss is the EDOS-2 experiment, Russian cosmonaut Alexander Ovchinin did a third and final in-flight session by taking samples of his blood. In true International Space Station style, NASA astronaut Christina Koch put the samples into the Station’s –80°C European-built freezer where they will stay until they are returned to Earth for analysis. Astronauts lose up to 1% of their bone mass each month they stay in space – a form of advanced osteoporosis – and finding way to limit this is important for further exploration. For researchers, having a pool of healthy subjects to study that experience acute osteoporosis is a fascinating opportunity, as osteoporosis on Earth takes years to develop and is harder to study.

Reconfiguring the Rubi Multiscale Boiling Experiment
Reconfiguring the Rubi Multiscale Boiling Experiment

The bubble-boiling experiment Rubi was reactivated on 1 October for fine-tuning and a second run. This experiment will continue blowing bubbles unattended while infrared and normal cameras as well as temperature and pressure sensors keep of how heat dissipates with the data sent to researchers on ground.

On 10 October Russian Cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov set up Europe’s Electromagnetic levitator so ground control could programme it ahead of another batch of melting and solidifying metals in microgravity. This facility is helping understand the deeper secrets of metallurgy and space-age alloys.

Constant monitoring

Matiss-2 in Columbus
Matiss-2 in Columbus

A number of experiments on the Space Station run quietly in the background without needing much attention. Drew placed a new set of Matiss sample holders in the European Columbus laboratory where they will remain for the next six months collecting dust and growing bacteria. The experiment will monitor how bacteria form biofilms that resist cleaning. The materials in this set have been selected for their hydrophobic qualities, hopefully bacteria will have a hard time setting up home, making for cleaner, more healthy spacecraft.

Luca also did periodic check of the DOSIS-3D radiation monitors dotted around the Space Station. These devices are charting radiation throughout the outpost to understand how to best protect astronauts from cosmic rays in the next generation of spacecraft.

Outside the Space Station, the space storm-hunter ASIM continues to track lightning events above thunderclouds while the Vessel-ID antenna monitors global marine traffic. The receiver underwent a “periodic maintenance powercycling performed by deactivation and reactivation of SUP1 J03 outlet” on 9 October, in other words, it was turned off and on again. Even in space it is good practice to try turning it off and on again.

Installing Vessel-ID antenna in 2009
Installing Vessel-ID antenna in 2009

Related Articles

Day and night
Science & Exploration

A space cocktail of science, bubbles and sounds

19/08/2019 3391 views 69 likes
Open item
Luca performs GRIP experiment on the International Space Station
Science & Exploration

Two weeks of science and Beyond

05/08/2019 2810 views 50 likes
Open item
Expedition 60 crewmembers in front of a mural of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission
Science & Exploration

Preparing science Beyond Earth

08/07/2019 1956 views 54 likes
Open item
Luca, Drew and Alexander take a selfie with their Soyuz spacecraft
Science & Exploration

Beyond hatch opening – watch live

25633 views 141 likes
Open item
Members of Expedition 60 pose with their Soyuz launcher
Science & Exploration

Europe celebrates a launch and a landing

17/07/2019 786 views 12 likes
Open item
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano returns to the International Space Station

21/07/2019 4954 views 86 likes
Open item
Luca
Science & Exploration

ESA launches new podcast for Beyond mission

20/06/2019 2418 views 51 likes
Open item
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano goes Beyond

27/09/2018 4971 views 43 likes
Open item
Luca spacewalk
Science & Exploration

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano to be Space Station commander …

31/05/2018 8230 views 93 likes
Open item
CAVES-X1
Science & Exploration

Exploring underground with a colliding drone

22/05/2017 9810 views 101 likes
Open item
Matthias, Luca and Pedro
Science & Exploration

One small step for a geologist

13/11/2016 2381 views 25 likes
Open item
Waterwalk
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano: this year’s Captain NEEMO

06/07/2015 5167 views 37 likes
Open item
Luca Parmitano
Science & Exploration

Chance to meet ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano

14/02/2013 1490 views 2 likes
Open item
Soyuz TMA-09M, Volare mission patch, 2013
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano flying high

07/09/2012 2266 views 5 likes
Open item
Luca Parmitano
Science & Exploration

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano assigned to 2013 Space Station…

18/02/2011 2463 views 3 likes
Open item
Luca spacewalk
Science & Exploration

Luca Parmitano

158402 views 441 likes
Open item
Dragon capture
Science & Exploration

Learning how to catch a spacecraft

04/06/2012 790 views 1 likes
Open item
Soyuz MS-11
Science & Exploration

Lung health, algae and radiation research on Space Station

24/06/2019 910 views 20 likes
Open item

Related Links