In the 1990s, a photo taken by the probe Voyager showed the Earth as a small island right in the middle of an infinite black ocean 6 billion kilometres away. A ‘Blue Marble’ turned into a ‘Pale Blue Dot’ and initiated a public discourse about a sustainable handling of our resources. Therefore, ‘Blue Dot – Shaping the Future’ became the title of the mission of Alexander Gerst’s space flight. From 28 May to 10 November 10, 2014 the ESA Astronaut fascinated the German public with his live-impressions from the International Space Station (ISS). Simultaneously, the project ‘Columbus Eye – Live-Imagery from the ISS in Schools’ established a learning portal on earth observation from the ISS (www.columbuseye.uni-bonn.de). The portal makes use of NASA’s High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment which features four cameras observing the earth 24/7. Columbus Eye is carried out at the University of Bonn and sponsored by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Space Administration. The main goal of Columbus Eye is to enable children to observe our planet from the astronaut’s perspective while applying professional remote sensing analysis tools. During the IAC 2014, we published a concept on how the fascination of technology and environment should be bundled in order to ignite the pupil’s interest on spaceflight and earth observation. Following up on this, in 2015 we are proud to present the implementations of this concept: the HDEV archive and, even more important, the observatory. While the archive provides spectacular footage of e.g. the Mediterranean Sea, the Himalaya, and sunrises available for everybody, the observatory was specifically constructed for pupils and teachers. Here, it is possible to learn about processes and phenomena of the coupled human- environment system in an interactive manner. The pupils can conduct easy-to-use image processing analyses on their own. In doing so, they get the opportunity to derive a map out of an HDEV image and hence turn a continuous spatial texture into a discrete spatial pattern of land uses. The presentation explains how teachers can be taught to apply the Columbus Eye learning tools in their everyday school lessons. Additionally, we present the next mission of the project: HDEV videos will be edited in order to perceive them in virtual reality. Witnessing geospatial analysis turns into experience and enters our understanding.
Research Containing: ISS
Extracellular Lipase and Protease Production from a Model Drinking Water Bacterial Community Is Functionally Robust to Absence of Individual Members
Bacteria secrete enzymes into the extracellular space to hydrolyze macromolecules into constituents that can be imported for microbial nutrition. In bacterial communities, these enzymes and their resultant products can be modeled as community property. Our goal was to investigate the impact of individual community member absence on the resulting community production of exoenzymes (extracellular enzymes) involved in lipid and protein hydrolysis. Our model community contained nine bacteria isolated from the potable water system of the International Space Station. Bacteria were grown in static conditions individually, all together, or in all combinations of eight species and exoproduct production was measured by colorimetric or fluorometric reagents to assess short chain and long chain lipases, choline-specific phospholipases C, and proteases. The exoenzyme production of each species grown alone varied widely, however, the enzyme activity levels of the mixed communities were functionally robust to absence of any single species, with the exception of phospholipase C production in one community. For phospholipase C, absence of Chryseobacterium gleum led to increased choline-specific phospholipase C production, correlated with increased growth of Burkholderia cepacia and Sphingomonas sanguinis. Because each individual species produced different enzyme activity levels in isolation, we calculated an expected activity value for each bacterial mixture using input levels or known final composition. This analysis suggested that robustness of each exoenzyme activity is not solely mediated by community composition, but possibly influenced by bacterial communication, which is known to regulate such pathways in many bacteria. We conclude that in this simplified model of a drinking water bacterial community, community structure imposes constraints on production and/or secretion of exoenzymes to generate a level appropriate to exploit a given nutrient environment.
INTRODUCTION: Postflight postural ataxia reflects both the control strategies adopted for movement in microgravity and the direct effects of deconditioning. Computerized dynamic posturography (CDP) has been used during the first decade of the International Space Station (ISS) expeditions to quantify the initial postflight decrements and recovery of postural stability. METHODS: The CDP data were obtained on 37 crewmembers as part of their pre- and postflight medical examinations. Sensory organization tests evaluated the ability to make effective use of (or suppress inappropriate) visual, vestibular, and somatosensory information for balance control. This report focuses on eyes closed conditions with either a fixed or sway-referenced base of support, with the head erect or during pitch-head tilts (+/- 20 degrees at 0.33 Hz). Equilibrium scores were derived from peak-to-peak anterior-posterior sway. Motor-control tests were also used to evaluate a crewmember’s ability to automatically recover from unexpected support-surface perturbations. RESULTS: The standard Romberg condition was the least sensitive. Dynamic head tilts led to increased incidence of falls and revealed significantly longer recovery than head-erect conditions. Improvements in postflight postural performance during the later expeditions may be attributable to higher preflight baselines and/or advanced exercise capabilities aboard the ISS. CONCLUSIONS: The diagnostic assessment of postural instability is more pronounced during unstable-support conditions requiring active head movements. In addition to supporting return-to-duty decisions by flight surgeons, the CDP provides a standardized sensorimotor measure that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of countermeasures designed to either minimize deconditioning on orbit or promote reconditioning upon return to Earth.
Chemical Potency and Degradation Products of Medications Stored Over 550 Earth Days at the International Space Station
Medications degrade over time, and degradation is hastened by extreme storage conditions. Current procedures ensure that medications aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are restocked before their expiration dates, but resupply may not be possible on future long-duration exploration missions. For this reason, medications stored on the ISS were returned to Earth for analysis. This was an opportunistic, observational pilot-scale investigation to test the hypothesis that ISS-aging does not cause unusual degradation. Nine medications were analyzed for active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) content and degradant amounts; results were compared to 2012 United States Pharmacopeia (USP) requirements. The medications were two sleep aids, two antihistamines/decongestants, three pain relievers, an antidiarrheal, and an alertness medication. Because the samples were obtained opportunistically from unused medical supplies, each medication was available at only 1 time point and no control samples (samples aged for a similar period on Earth) were available. One medication met USP requirements 5 months after its expiration date. Four of the nine (44% of those tested) medications tested met USP requirements 8 months post expiration. Another three medications (33%) met USP guidelines 2-3 months before expiration. One compound, a dietary supplement used as a sleep aid, failed to meet USP requirements at 11 months post expiration. No unusual degradation products were identified. Limited, evidence-based extension of medication shelf-lives may be possible and would be useful in preparation for lengthy exploration missions. Only analysis of flight-aged samples compared to appropriately matched ground controls will permit determination of the spaceflight environment on medication stability.
Adaptive optics correction into single mode fiber for a low Earth orbiting space to ground optical communication link using the OPALS downlink
An adaptive optics (AO) testbed was integrated to the Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) ground station telescope at the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory (OCTL) as part of the free space laser communications experiment with the flight system on board the International Space Station (ISS). Atmospheric turbulence induced aberrations on the optical downlink were adaptively corrected during an overflight of the ISS so that the transmitted laser signal could be efficiently coupled into a single mode fiber continuously. A stable output Strehl ratio of around 0.6 was demonstrated along with the recovery of a 50 Mbps encoded high definition (HD) video transmission from the ISS at the output of the single mode fiber. This proof of concept demonstration validates multi-Gbps optical downlinks from fast slewing low-Earth orbiting (LEO) spacecraft to ground assets in a manner that potentially allows seamless space to ground connectivity for future high data-rates network.
Concurrent flame growth, spread and extinction over composite fabric samples in low speed purely forced flow in microgravity
As a part of the NASA BASS and BASS-II experimental projects aboard the International Space Station, flame growth, spread and extinction over a composite cotton-fiberglass fabric blend (referred to as the SIBAL fabric) were studied in low-speed concurrent forced flows. The tests were conducted in a small flow duct within the Microgravity Science Glovebox. The fuel samples measured 1.2 and 2.2 cm wide and 10 cm long. Ambient oxygen was varied from 21% down to 16% and flow speed from 40 cm/s down to 1 cm/s. A small flame resulted at low flow, enabling us to observe the entire history of flame development including ignition, flame growth, steady spread (in some cases) and decay at the end of the sample. In addition, by decreasing flow velocity during some of the tests, low-speed flame quenching extinction limits were found as a function of oxygen percentage. The quenching speeds were found to be between 1 and 5 cm/s with higher speed in lower oxygen atmosphere. The shape of the quenching boundary supports the prediction by earlier theoretical models. These long duration microgravity experiments provide a rare opportunity for solid fuel combustion since microgravity time in ground-based facilities is generally not sufficient. This is the first time that a low-speed quenching boundary in concurrent spread is determined in a clean and unambiguous manner.
INTRODUCTION: Countermeasures to prevent or partially offset the negative physiologic changes that are caused by the effects of microgravity play an important role in supporting the performance of crewmembers in flight and their safe return to Earth. Research conducted in Russia on the orbital stations Salyut and Mir, as well as simulation experiments on the ground, have demonstrated that changes that occur during extended spaceflight in various physiologic systems can be prevented or significantly decreased by using countermeasures. Hardware and techniques used on the ISS have been substantially improved to reflect the experience of previous extended missions on Russian orbital stations. Countermeasures used during early ISS missions consisted of the U.S. treadmill (TVIS), cycle ergometer (capital VE, Cyrilliccapital BE, Cyrillic-3), a set of resistance bands, a postural muscle loading suit (Penguin-3), electrical stimulator (Tonus-3), compression thigh cuffs (Braslet-capital EM, Cyrillic), a lower body negative pressure (LBNP) suit (Chibis), a lower body g-loading suit (Kentavr), and water/salt supplements. These countermeasures are described in this article.
Transient gene and microRNA expression profile changes of confluent human fibroblast cells in spaceflight
Microgravity, or an altered gravity environment different from the 1 g of the Earth, has been shown to influence global gene expression patterns and protein levels in cultured cells. However, most of the reported studies that have been conducted in space or by using simulated microgravity on the ground have focused on the growth or differentiation of these cells. It has not been specifically addressed whether nonproliferating cultured cells will sense the presence of microgravity in space. In an experiment conducted onboard the International Space Station, confluent human fibroblast cells were fixed after being cultured in space for 3 and 14 d, respectively, to investigate changes in gene and microRNA (miRNA) expression profiles in these cells. Results of the experiment showed that on d 3, both the flown and ground cells were still proliferating slowly, as measured by the percentage of Ki-67(+) cells. Gene and miRNA expression data indicated activation of NF-kappaB and other growth-related pathways that involve hepatocyte growth factor and VEGF as well as the down-regulation of the Let-7 miRNA family. On d 14, when the cells were mostly nonproliferating, the gene and miRNA expression profile of the flight sample was indistinguishable from that of the ground sample. Comparison of gene and miRNA expressions in the d 3 samples, with respect to d 14, revealed that most of the changes observed on d 3 were related to cell growth for both the flown and ground cells. Analysis of cytoskeletal changes via immunohistochemistry staining of the cells with antibodies for alpha-tubulin and fibronectin showed no difference between the flown and ground samples. Taken together, our study suggests that in true nondividing human fibroblast cells in culture, microgravity experienced in space has little effect on gene and miRNA expression profiles.-Zhang, Y., Lu, T., Wong, M., Wang, X., Stodieck, L., Karouia, F., Story, M., Wu, H. Transient gene and microRNA expression profile changes of confluent human fibroblast cells in spaceflight.
This paper describes the activities for utilization and control of ELITE S2 on board the International Space Station (ISS). ELITE S2 is a payload of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) for quantitative human movement analysis in weightlessness. Within the frame of a bilateral agreement with NASA, ASI has funded a number of facilities, enabling different scientific experiments on board the ISS. ELITE S2 has been developed by the ASI contractor Kayser Italia, delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in 2006 for pre-flight processing, launched in 2007 by the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-118), integrated in the U.S. lab and used during the Increments 16 and 17 through 2008. The ELITE S2 flight segment comprises equipment mounted into an Express Rack and a number of stowed items to be deployed for experiment performance (video cameras and accessories). The ground segment consists in a User Support Operations Center (based at Kayser Italia) enabling real-time payload control and a number of User Home Bases (located at the ASI and PIs premises), for the scientific assessment of the experiment performance. Two scientific protocols on reaching and cognitive processing have been successfully performed in five sessions involving two ISS crewmembers: IMAGINE 2 and MOVE.
Space biology provides an opportunity to study plant physiology and development in a unique microgravity environment. Recent space studies with plants have provided interesting insights into plant biology, including discovering that plants can grow seed-to-seed in microgravity, as well as identifying novel responses to light. However, spaceflight experiments are not without their challenges, including limited space, limited access, and stressors such as lack of convection and cosmic radiation. Therefore, it is important to design experiments in a way to maximize the scientific return from research conducted on orbiting platforms such as the International Space Station. Here, we provide a critical review of recent spaceflight experiments and suggest ways in which future experiments can be designed to improve the value and applicability of the results generated. These potential improvements include: utilizing in-flight controls to delineate microgravity versus other spaceflight effects, increasing scientific return via next-generation sequencing technologies, and utilizing multiple genotypes to ensure results are not unique to one genetic background. Space experiments have given us new insights into plant biology. However, to move forward, special care should be given to maximize science return in understanding both microgravity itself as well as the combinatorial effects of living in space.