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How humans spent the first 20 years of orbit on the International Space Station



A few years ago, Congress designated the US part of the International Space Station as the newest member of the country’s national laboratory, which will handle all non-NASA microgravity research. In 2011, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials chose the non-profit Space Science Development Center to manage the laboratory, which is responsible for managing hundreds of experiments by researchers in American universities and companies. The laboratory cooperates with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to select these experiments, flying about 50 times a year.

Ken Shields, chief operating officer of ISS National, said: “We have this excellent public-private partnership model on this site, and we can provide ourselves to organizations other than NASA. The microgravity activities of these organizations may not be related to space exploration. “laboratory. “In establishing these partnerships, we now have companies that can quickly develop technology and apply the results on stations.”

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The ISS National Laboratory handles experiments in basic and applied sciences. In the hundreds of inquiries received each year, the laboratory can only transport dozens of payloads, which will arouse people’s interest, such as remote sensing or life sciences. Although world-class national laboratories like Lawrence Livermore or Argonne may have thousands of employees, the ISS National Laboratory has only a few NASA crew members. ISS National Laboratory Acting Chief Scientist Michael Roberts (Michael Roberts) said: “We rely heavily on astronauts to perform experiments.” He said that astronauts have limited time and they are also responsible for carrying out NASA’s own experiments and taking care of the space station. This has brought various unique challenges to other national laboratories. Just keeping the experiment in your hands will bring logistical difficulties. Roberts said: “It’s not easy to experiment, pack, put in a rocket, launch it to a remote destination, transfer, activate, shut down, collect and send it back.” said.

Scientific or technological payloads on the International Space Station may involve anything from making fireballs to growing barley, but NASA administrators have selected some of the core areas that they believe are most likely to be developed in low-Earth orbit. For example, microgravity manufacturing has the advantage of manufacturing dissimilar materials (such as fragile glass), which can significantly improve the performance of submarine cables. But it can be said that the most exciting application is in the medical field. Experiments with organs on a chip can eventually eliminate animal testing and accelerate drug development. The microgravity environment can be used to cultivate 3D cell tissue models (called organoids), which will be very useful for studying various human diseases.

Last year, Valentina Fossati, a researcher at the New York Stem Cell Foundation, sent organoids to the International Space Station to study the key cellular mechanisms of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis in microgravity. Fossati is particularly interested in the role of microglia (cells of the nervous system involved in neuroinflammatory processes) in these diseases. Microglia are extremely sensitive to their environment, so studying their behavior in the absence of gravity is crucial to better understand their role in neurodegenerative diseases. Fossati said: “This is actually about modeling disease and trying to understand what is happening in the brain.” “What I am trying to recreate in the plate is how neurons die. Without gravity, it is likely to change the situation between batteries. “Although Fossati’s research ultimately involves treating people on Earth, it can also help improve the health of astronauts by revealing how microgravity stays in our brain cells for long periods of time.


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