The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a United States national science, technology, engineering, and mathematics initiative that aims to increase student interest in science by offering opportunities to perform spaceflight experiments. The experiment detailed here was selected and flown aboard the third SSEP mission and the first SSEP mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Caenorhabditis elegans is a small, transparent, self-fertilizing hermaphroditic roundworm that is commonly used in biological experiments both on Earth and in Low Earth Orbit. Past experiments have found decreased expression of mRNA for several genes whose expression can be controlled by the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16. We flew a daf-16 mutant and control worms to determine if the effects of spaceflight on C. elegans are mediated by DAF-16. The experiment used a Type Two Fluids Mixing Enclosure (FME), developed by Nanoracks LLC, and was delivered to the ISS aboard the SpaceX Dragon and returned aboard the Russian Soyuz. The short time interval between experiment selection and the flight rendered preflight experiment verification tests impossible. In addition, published research regarding the viability of the FME in life science experiments was not available. The experiment was therefore structured in such a way as to gather the needed data. Here we report that C. elegans can survive relatively short storage and activation in the FME but cannot produce viable populations for post-flight analysis on extended missions. The FME appears to support short-duration life science experiments, potentially on supply or crew exchange missions, but not on longer ISS expeditions. Additionally, the flown FME was not properly activated, reportedly due to a flaw in training procedures. We suggest that a modified transparent FME could prevent similar failures in future flight experiments.
Research Containing: Space Flight
We have used the broad appeal of the universe and space flight to boost interest in science education in The Netherlands via a classroom experiment designated Seeds In Space (SIS). By germinating Rucola seeds in the dark and in the light in ground classrooms and by comparing these results with those obtained in the same experiment performed in the International Space Station (ISS) during the Dutch Soyuz mission DELTA, students could learn about the cues that determine direction of plant growth. This paper describes both the preparations that led up to the SIS experiment as well as the popular and scientific outcome. Within The Netherlands, some 80.000 students participated, representing 15% of the population in the age group of 10-14 years old. In addition, another 80.000 German pupils, a few local schools in the Moscow -Koroljov- area and some in the Dutch Antilles also participated in the SIS experiment. Considering these numbers, it can be concluded that SIS was a very successful educational project and might be considered for future space flight missions.
Several small life sciences research modules were designed to accommodate both scientific research and K-12 educational objectives on the same spaceflight mission. The K-12 educational objectives are accomplished by participating students around the globe and complimented by ground experiments conducted in their own classrooms. The spaceflight research is analyzed by students through image analysis of downlinked video and still images. The science objectives of the mission often require sample return for more detailed sample analysis on ground. Integration of new modules as part of a CGBA Science Insert (CSI) into the CGBA incubator is facilitated through standardized interfaces. Engineering challenges, trades and system architecture designs are presented for the CGBA Incubator and the CSI life sciences habitats currently on board of ISS.
We studied the growth of metal-ion silicate chemical gardens under Earth gravity (1 g) and microgravity (mug) conditions. Identical sets of reaction chambers from an automated system (the Silicate Garden Habitat or SGHab) were used in both cases. The mug experiment was performed on board the International Space Station (ISS) within a temperature-controlled setup that provided still and video images of the experiment downlinked to the ground. Calcium chloride, manganese chloride, cobalt chloride, and nickel sulfate were used as seed salts in sodium silicate solutions of several concentrations. The formation and growth of osmotic envelopes and microtubes was much slower under mug conditions. In 1 g, buoyancy forces caused tubes to grow upward, whereas a random orientation for tube growth was found under mug conditions.
Producing sprouts directly during space missions may represent an interesting opportunity to offer high-quality fresh ready to eat food to the astronauts. The goal of this work was to compare, in terms of growth and nutritional quality, rocket (Eruca sativa Mill.) seedlings grown in the International Space Station during the ENEIDE mission with those grown in a ground-based experiment (in presence and absence of clinorotation). The rocket seedlings obtained from the space-experiment were thinner and more elongated than those obtained in the ground-based experiment. Cotyledons were often closed in the seedlings grown in the space experiment. Quantitative (germination, fresh and dry weight) and qualitative (glucose, fructose, sucrose and starch) traits of rocket seedling were negatively affected by micrograv-ity, especially those recorded on seedlings grown under real microgravity conditions The total chlorophyll, and carotenoids of seedlings obtained in the space experiment were strongly reduced in comparison to those obtained in the ground-based experiment (presence and absence of clinorotation). The results showed that it is possible to produce rocket seedlings in the ISS; however, further studies are needed to define the optimal environmental conditions for producing rocket seedlings with high nutritional value.
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a popular organism for biological studies, is being developed as a model system for space biology. The chemically defined liquid medium, C. elegans Maintenance Medium (CeMM), allows axenic cultivation and automation of experiments that are critical for spaceflight research. To validate CeMM for use during spaceflight, we grew animals using CeMM and standard laboratory conditions onboard STS-107, space shuttle Columbia. Tragically, the Columbia was destroyed while reentering the Earth's atmosphere. During the massive recovery effort, hardware that contained our experiment was found. Live animals were observed in four of the five recovered canisters, which had survived on both types of media. These data demonstrate that CeMM is capable of supporting C. elegans during spaceflight. They also demonstrate that animals can survive a relatively unprotected reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, which has implications with regard to the packaging of living material during space flight, planetary protection, and the interplanetary transfer of life.
Astronaut photography of cities collected during Apollo, Skylab, Shuttle, Mir, and International Space Station missions provides a useful dataset for urban analysis that complements the satellite data archive. Recent astronaut photography acquired with digital cameras is now approaching the ground resolutions of commercial satellites such as IKONOS (i.e. less than 6 m/pixel). Astronaut photographs are a relevant source of data for urban analyses, particularly for studies that do not have the resources to purchase commercial-quality data. The CCD image sensors in the cameras currently used for astronaut photography are sensitive to the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, but infrared signal is filtered out above 700 μm. As such, the digital camera data contain less information on actively synthesizing vegetation than they would with an infrared signal included. We present an analysis of aboveground biomass (i.e. actively photosynthesizing vegetation) derived from astronaut photography of the Paris, France metropolitan area acquired on April 24, 2002 using a Kodak DCS 760C electronic still camera aboard the International Space Station. The accuracy of biomass estimation obtained from the digital camera data is demonstrated by comparison with Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer visible to near infrared data for Paris acquired on April 8, 2002. Correlations of bands between the two instruments allow interpretation of the identified vegetation and soil classes. Collection of astronaut photography over global urban centers is ongoing and planned for future orbital missions, and will be a useful addition to ongoing studies of urban ecosystem change, sustainability, and resilience.
Impaired cerebrovascular autoregulation and reduced CO(2) reactivity after long duration spaceflight
Long duration habitation on the International Space Station (ISS) is associated with chronic elevations in arterial blood pressure in the brain compared with normal upright posture on Earth and elevated inspired CO(2). Although results from short-duration spaceflights suggested possibly improved cerebrovascular autoregulation, animal models provided evidence of structural and functional changes in cerebral vessels that might negatively impact autoregulation with longer periods in microgravity. Seven astronauts (1 woman) spent 147 +/- 49 days on ISS. Preflight testing (30-60 days before launch) was compared with postflight testing on landing day (n = 4) or the morning 1 (n = 2) or 2 days (n = 1) after return to Earth. Arterial blood pressure at the level of the middle cerebral artery (BP(MCA)) and expired CO(2) were monitored along with transcranial Doppler ultrasound assessment of middle cerebral artery (MCA) blood flow velocity (CBFV). Cerebrovascular resistance index was calculated as (CVRi = BP(MCA)/CBFV). Cerebrovascular autoregulation and CO(2) reactivity were assessed in a supine position from an autoregressive moving average (ARMA) model of data obtained during a test where two breaths of 10% CO(2) were given four times during a 5-min period. CBFV and Doppler pulsatility index were reduced during -20 mmHg lower body negative pressure, with no differences pre- to postflight. The postflight indicator of dynamic autoregulation from the ARMA model revealed reduced gain for the CVRi response to BP(MCA) (P = 0.017). The postflight responses to CO(2) were reduced for CBFV (P = 0.056) and CVRi (P = 0.047). These results indicate that long duration missions on the ISS impaired dynamic cerebrovascular autoregulation and reduced cerebrovascular CO(2) reactivity.
Spaceflight engages heat shock protein and other molecular chaperone genes in tissue culture cells of Arabidopsis thaliana
PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Gravity has been a major force throughout the evolution of terrestrial organisms, and plants have developed exquisitely sensitive, regulated tropisms and growth patterns that are based on the gravity vector. The nullified gravity during spaceflight allows direct assessment of gravity roles. The microgravity environments provided by the Space Shuttle and International Space Station have made it possible to seek novel insights into gravity perception at the organismal, tissue, and cellular levels. Cell cultures of Arabidopsis thaliana perceive and respond to spaceflight, even though they lack the specialized cell structures normally associated with gravity perception in intact plants; in particular, genes for a specific subset of heat shock proteins (HSPs) and factors (HSFs) are induced. Here we ask if similar changes in HSP gene expression occur during nonspaceflight changes in gravity stimulation. METHODS: Quantitative RT-qPCR was used to evaluate mRNA levels for Hsp17.6A and Hsp101 in cell cultures exposed to four conditions: spaceflight (mission STS-131), hypergravity (centrifugation at 3 g or 16 g), sustained two-dimensional clinorotation, and transient milligravity achieved on parabolic flights. KEY RESULTS: We showed that HSP genes were induced in cells only in response to sustained clinorotation. Transient microgravity intervals in parabolic flight and various hypergravity conditions failed to induce HSP genes. CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that nondifferentiated cells do indeed sense their gravity environment and HSP genes are induced only in response to prolonged microgravity or simulated microgravity conditions. We hypothesize that HSP induction upon microgravity indicates a role for HSP-related proteins in maintaining cytoskeletal architecture and cell shape signaling.
Vision changes after spaceflight are related to alterations in folate- and vitamin B-12-dependent one-carbon metabolism
Approximately 20% (7 of 38) of astronauts on International Space Station (ISS) missions have developed measurable ophthalmic changes after flight. This study was conducted to determine if the folate- and vitamin B-12-dependent 1-carbon metabolic pathway is altered in these individuals. Since 2006, we have conducted experiments on the ISS to evaluate nutritional status and related biochemical indices of astronauts before, during, and after flight. Data were modeled to evaluate differences between individuals with ophthalmic changes (n = 5) and those without them (n = 15), all of whom were on ISS missions of 48-215 d. We also determined whether mean preflight serum concentrations of the 1-carbon metabolites and changes in measured cycloplegic refraction after flight were associated. Serum homocysteine (Hcy), cystathionine, 2-methylcitric acid (2MCA), and methylmalonic acid concentrations were 25-45% higher (P < 0.001) in astronauts with ophthalmic changes than in those without them. These differences existed before, during, and after flight. Preflight serum concentrations of Hcy and cystathionine, and mean in-flight serum folate, were correlated with change (postflight relative to preflight) values in refraction (P < 0.05), and preflight serum concentrations of 2MCA tended to be associated (P = 0.06) with ophthalmic changes. The biochemical differences observed in crewmembers with vision issues strongly suggest that their folate- and vitamin B-12-dependent 1-carbon transfer metabolism was affected before and during flight. The consistent differences in markers of 1-carbon metabolism between those who did and those who did not develop changes in vision suggest that polymorphisms in enzymes of this pathway may interact with microgravity to cause these pathophysiologic changes.