rss_2.0Gravitational and Space Research FeedSciendo RSS Feed for Gravitational and Space Research and Space Research Feed of payload shielding on viability and proteomic profile: Insights from a stratospheric weather balloon flight experiment<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p><italic>Enterobacter cloacae</italic>, a gram-negative bacterium commonly found in the human gut microbiota, poses potential health risks to astronauts in the unique environment of space flight. This study investigated the effects of payload shielding on <italic>E. cloacae</italic> in a short-duration, student-initiated, weather balloon flight experiment. Faraday fabric-based payload shielding did not impact the viability of the balloon flight samples. However, murine macrophage infection assays showed that shielded balloon flight <italic>E. cloacae</italic> had significantly improved intracellular survival compared to unshielded <italic>E. cloacae</italic>. Proteomic analysis demonstrated distinct profiles in shielded and unshielded samples, with a differential abundance of proteins involved in diverse biological processes. Specifically, decreased abundance of proteins involved in chemotaxis, DNA repair, replication, transcription, peptidoglycan synthesis, and proteolysis were observed in the Faraday fabric-based payload-shielded samples. In contrast, proteins associated with protein translation, transport, tricarboxylic acid cycle, fatty acid biosynthesis, and amino acid metabolism were increased in shielded conditions. This experiment provides a framework for which future long-duration balloon flight experiments can be designed, and the findings provide initial insights into the impact of payload shielding on <italic>E. cloacae</italic> physiology. Understanding the impact of the stratosphere on human gut microbiota is important for preserving human health during future space flight missions.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Priming with . in Cultivars Grown in Martian and Lunar Regolith Analogues<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>As human settlements expand to lunar and Martian bases, optimizing food production in these environments becomes crucial. This study investigates the use of macroalgae, specifically <italic>Ulva lactuca</italic> L., as an affordable, sustainable approach for seed priming to enhance germination in extraterrestrial soils. The focus was on the germination and growth of <italic>Capsicum annuum</italic> L. (pepper), <italic>Lactuca sativa</italic> L. (lettuce), <italic>Cicer arietinum</italic> L. (chickpea), and <italic>Pisum sativum</italic> L. (pea) in simulated Martian and lunar regolith. Two concentrations of <italic>U. lactuca</italic> powder (0.2 and 0.4 g · L<sup>−1</sup>) were tested under controlled conditions. The study also conducted a qualitative chemical analysis of <italic>U. lactuca</italic> to identify bioactive components essential for phytohormone formation. The germination and emergence rates of the seeds in the lunar regolith were higher than those in the Martian regolith. Martian regolith's optimal treatment for pea and chickpea seed germination was 0.2 g · L<sup>−1</sup>, which also favored seedling emergence. In the lunar regolith, optimal germination rates for pea seeds were observed with both treatments and chickpea seeds. The germination percentage of lettuce seeds in the lunar regolith was higher than the control, with 0.2 g · L<sup>−1</sup>, while there was no significant difference for the other seeds. The study recommends the application of <italic>U. lactuca</italic> powder as an effective biostimulant for the examined cultivars due to the presence of plant growth regulators (PGRs) that enhance germination and seedling emergence under challenging conditions.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Effects of Simulated and Real Microgravity on Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>As considerations are being made for the limitations and safety of long-term human spaceflight, the vasculature is important given its connection to and impact on numerous organ systems. As a major constituent of blood vessels, vascular smooth muscle cells are of interest due to their influence over vascular tone and function. Additionally, vascular smooth muscle cells are responsive to pressure and flow changes. Therefore, alterations in these parameters under conditions of microgravity can be functionally disruptive. As such, here we review and discuss the existing literature that assesses the effects of microgravity, both actual and simulated, on smooth muscle cells. This includes the various methods for achieving or simulating microgravity, the animal models or cells used, and the various durations of microgravity assessed. We also discuss the various reported findings in the field, which include changes to cell proliferation, gene expression and phenotypic shifts, and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), nitric oxide synthase (NOS), and Ca<sup>2+</sup> signaling. Additionally, we briefly summarize the literature on smooth muscle tissue engineering in microgravity as well as considerations of radiation as another key component of spaceflight to contextualize spaceflight experiments, which by their nature include radiation exposure. Finally, we provide general recommendations based on the existing literature's focus and limitations.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Vapor Bubble Experiment (CVB) in the Light Microscopy Module (LMM)<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>This short article describes the major findings from the CVB experiment performed in the LMM on the International Space Station from 2010–2012. CVB was the first experiment to run in the new facility and focused on understanding the heat transfer and fluid mechanics occurring inside a wickless miniature heat pipe. The LMM was used to map the location of the vapor-liquid interface inside the device and to measure the film thickness profile on the walls of the device. Several interesting and unexpected phenomena were observed in microgravity including flooding of the heater end with liquid as the heat input increased, explosive nucleation of vapor bubbles at the heater end in the shortest version of the heat pipe tested, condensation on highly superheated surfaces, and the spontaneous formation of rip currents as the device tried to enhance the contact line area available for evaporation of the liquid.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue kinase is downregulated in the Drosophila Seizure Mutant during Spaceflight<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>Accelerated aging in space is detrimental to long-term space missions. The environmental conditions in space (e.g., microgravity and radiation) cause harmful effects similar to those seen during aging. As the mechanistic pathways underlying accelerated aging in spaceflight are not fully understood, the identification of critical targets for promoting longevity in spaceflight remains challenging. We analyzed genomics data from the GLDS-207 project to identify potential targets related to longevity. Analysis of RNA-seq data from four Drosophila variants using the GeneLab Galaxy platform indicated that spaceflight significantly affected differential gene expression in the heads of flies, specifically in the seizure (sei) mutant, which alters the voltage gated potassium channels in the cell membrane. Spaceflight induced a significant decrease in the expression of the retinal degeneration A gene (rdgA) in mutant flies that survived the 30-day space mission. This gene encodes for the protein diacylglycerol kinase (DGK), which modulates the activation of the mechanistic target of the rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway, known to negatively regulate aging. Therefore, DGK may be a potential target for promoting longevity in space conditions. Further investigation of the effects of decreased rdgA expression on the lifespan of other organisms under spaceflight conditions will clarify the role of DGK in promoting longevity.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue, Research Priorities, and Challenges for the Exploration of Space Beyond Low Earth Orbit<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>NASA's recent emphasis on human exploration of the Moon and, ultimately, Mars necessitates a transition from a focus of its research in the biological sciences from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to platforms beyond LEO. Fundamental research questions need to be addressed to enable humans to thrive in deep space. Work beyond LEO necessitates a shift in technology and the utilization of organisms in autonomous experiments, especially in the near term. The Beyond LEO Instrumentation &amp; Science Series Science Working Group (BLISS-SWG) was established to provide NASA's Space Biology Program input on its strategy for developing research priorities and tools for exploration beyond LEO. Here, we present an abridged version of the first annual report of the BLISS-SWG, which is publicly available on the NASA Technical Reports Server. Seven priority areas and pertinent research questions were identified for research beyond LEO in the coming 2–5 years. Appropriate experimental organisms and technology development needs for research addressing these questions are summarized. The BLISS-SWG aims for this review to serve as a resource for the space biology and science and engineering communities as they develop research to understand risks and mitigation strategies for deep-space stressors on human crew, plants, and their microbiomes.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Magnitude of the Soret Force on Colloidal Particles Measured in Microgravity<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>There is a broad interest in both industry and academe in understanding the time-evolution in the microstructure of colloidal gels, as such changes affect the properties of the gels including product self-life and rheology. In colloidal gels, the time-evolution results from the magnitude and the relative proportions of forces—including gravity, acting on the colloidal particles. The aim of this study was to measure the magnitude of the Soret force acting on the colloidal particles in a model gel in the microgravity on the International Space Station, as a proxy for gravitational forces in Earth-based experiments. It was found that the Soret force could be used to create an effective gravitational force of between about 10 × 10<sup>−17</sup> N (3 milli-G) and 3 × 10<sup>−17</sup> N (1 milli-G) on the colloidal particles, where the lower limit is set by the dominance of particle flux from Brownian forces. These results should allow mapping the behavior of colloidal gels broadly described in literature on other gels—such as polymer gels of industrial interest, where the colloidal particles are much smaller.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue, Build and Testing of Hardware to Safely Harvest Microgreens in Microgravity<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>In long-duration space missions, crops will supplement the astronaut diet. One proposed crop type is microgreens, the young seedlings of edible plants that are known for their high nutritional levels, intense flavors, colorful appearance, and variety of textures. While these characteristics make microgreens promising for space crop production, their small size presents a unique challenge within the microgravity environment. To address this challenge, a microgreen planting box was developed to improve microgreen harvest techniques both in 1 g and in microgravity without concern for contamination by roots. Using this microgreen planting box, three parabolic flights were conducted where two different bagging methods (attached and manual) and three different microgreen cutting methods (Guillotine, Pepper Grinder, Scissors) were tested. In flight, the microgreens were contained within a glovebox and footage of all microgreen harvests was recorded. Statistical and trade analyses revealed that the combination of Cutting &amp; Bagging method that performed the best was the Pepper Grinder with attached bagging. This was based on the following criteria: (1) average execution time, (2) microgreen debris, (3) biomass yield, (4) root debris, (5) microgreens left on the hardware, (6) number of seedlings growing under the lids, (7) hardware failure, and (8) perceived ease of use. This process allowed us to identify weaknesses and strengths of all hardware types and helped us identify major points of improvement within the hardware design to harvest microgreens in microgravity. Future directions include microgreen harvests in analog environments and further development of microgreen Cutting &amp; Bagging method.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Metabolic Remodeling Processes Characterize the Transcriptome of within Various Suborbital Flight Environments<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>The increasing availability of flights on suborbital rockets creates new avenues for the study of spaceflight effects on biological systems, particularly of the transitions between hypergravity and microgravity. This paper presents an initial comparison of the responses of Arabidopsis thaliana to suborbital and atmospheric parabolic flights as an important step toward characterizing these emerging suborbital platforms and their effects on biology. Transcriptomic profiling of the response of the Arabidopsis ecotype Wassilewskija (WS) to the aggregate suborbital spaceflight experiences in Blue Origin New Shepard and Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo revealed that the transcriptomic load induced by flight differed between the two flights, yet was biologically related to traditional parabolic flight responses. The sku5 skewing mutant and 14-3-3κ:GFP regulatory protein overexpression lines, flown in the Blue Origin and parabolic flights, respectively, each showed altered intra-platform responses compared to WS. An additional parabolic flight using the F-104 Starfighter showed that the response of 14-3-3κ:GFP to flight was modulated in a similar manner to the WS line. Despite the differing genotypes, experimental workflows, flight profiles, and platforms, differential gene expression linked to remodeling of central metabolic processes was commonly observed in the flight responses. However, the timing and directionality of differentially expressed genes involved in the conserved processes differed among the platforms. The processes included carbon and nitrogen metabolism, branched-chain amino acid degradation, and hypoxic responses. The data presented herein highlight the potential for various suborbital platforms to contribute insights into biological responses to spaceflight, and further suggest that in-flight fixation during suborbital experiments will enhance insights into responses during each phase of flight.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Tapered Channels to Improve LAD Performance for Cryogenic Fluids: Suborbital Testing Results<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>Improvement of cryogenic fluid storage and transfer technology for in-space propulsion and storage systems is required for long-term space missions. Screened channel liquid acquisition devices (LADs) have long been used with storable propellants to deliver vapor-free liquid during engine restart and liquid transfer processes. The use of LADs with cryogenic fluids is problematic due to low temperatures associated with cryogenic fluids. External heat leaks will cause vapor bubbles to form within the LADs that are difficult to remove in the existing designs. A tapered LAD channel has been proposed to reliably remove vapor bubbles within the device without costly thrusting maneuvers or active separation systems. A model has been developed to predict bubble movement within tapered LAD channels, and subsequent ground testing was completed with a simulant fluid to provide model validation data. Suborbital microgravity testing of tapered LAD technology was recently completed with two different simulant fluids and demonstrated that the concept can passively expel vapor bubbles within the channel. Two additional suborbital flights have been funded to further develop this technology by investigating the performance of larger scale versions of the design.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Adhesive Response of Regolith to Low-Energy Disturbances in Microgravity<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>Small, airless bodies are covered by a layer of regolith composed of particles ranging from μm-size dust to cm-size pebbles that evolve under conditions very different than those on Earth. Flight-based microgravity experiments investigating low-velocity collisions of cm-size projectiles into regolith have revealed that certain impact events result in a mass transfer from the target regolith onto the surface of the projectile. The key parameters that produce these events need to be characterized to understand the mechanical behavior of granular media, which is composed of the surfaces of small bodies. We carried out flight and ground-based research campaigns designed to investigate these mass transfer events. The goals of our experimental campaigns were (1) to identify projectile energy thresholds that influence mass transfer outcomes in low-energy collision events between cm-size projectiles and μm-size regolith, (2) to determine whether these mass transfer events required a microgravity environment to be observed, and (3) to determine whether the rebound portion of these collision events could be replicated in a laboratory drop tower environment. We found that (1) mass transfer events occurred for projectile rebound accelerations &lt;7.8 m/s<sup>2</sup> and we were unable to identify a corresponding impact velocity threshold, (2) mass transfer events require a microgravity environment, and (3) ourdrop tower experiments were able to produce mass transfer events. However, drop tower experiments do not exactly reproduce the free-particle impacts and rebound of the long-duration microgravity experiments and yielded systematically lower amounts of the overall mass transferred.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Flights on Blue Origin's New Shepard<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>Blue Origin's New Shepard launch vehicle made its first flight above the Kármán Line, returning safely to Earth in November 2015. At the time when this paper is being written (February 2021), the system has conducted 14 flights, including 10 with research and education payloads aboard. More than 100 payloads have exercised a wide range of capabilities and interfaces, from small cubesat-form factor student payloads to large custom payloads of nearly 100 kg. Investigations have spanned a wide range of high-altitude and microgravity research objectives, as well as raising technology readiness level (TRL) on diverse hardware. This paper summarizes New Shepard's payload missions to date, and presents standardized and custom accommodations, both in the shirtsleeve cabin and directly exposed to the space environment.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue the Approach to Understand a Trash-to-Gas Experiment in a Microgravity Environment<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>The Orbital Syngas/Commodity Augmentation Reactor (OSCAR) project investigated hardware and engineering development for waste conversion operations related to trash deconstruction and repurposing for long duration space missions. Operations of the trash-to-gas system were investigated to compare microgravity (μg) and Earth gravity environments. The OSCAR system has been demonstrated in other μg platforms, but here the performance and results on the Blue Origin New Shepard Suborbital Vehicle are discussed. The OSCAR suborbital operation demonstrated the introduction of trash into a high temperature reactor for solid to gas conversion, ignition of mixed trash feedstock, combustion during μg, and subsequent gas collection processes in a flight automated sequence. An oxygen (O<sub>2</sub>)- and steam-rich environment was created within the reactor for ignition conditions, and the product gases were quantified to verify the reaction product composition. This paper focuses on the chemistry processes of the reactor, and gas and solid product analysis of the μg and gravity conditions. The gas production, reactor thermal profile, and mass and carbon conversion results validated confidence in the system design to continue the advancement of this technology for future spaceflight implementations.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Impact of Hindlimb Suspension on the Rat Eye: A Molecular and Histological Analysis of the Retina<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>The Spaceflight Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) is hypothesized to be associated with microgravity-induced fluid shifts. There is a need for an animal model of SANS to investigate its pathophysiology. We used the rat hindlimb suspension (HS) model to examine the relationship between the assumed cephalad fluid shifts, intraocular (IOP) pressure and the molecular responses in the retina to the prolonged change in body posture. Long evans rats were subjected to HS up to 90 days. Animals completing 90-day suspension were further studied for recovery periods up to 90 additional days in normal posture. With respect to baseline, the average IOP increase in HS animals and the rate of change varied by cohort. Transcriptomics evidence supported a response to HS in the rat retina that was affected by age and sex. Several molecular networks suggested stress imposed by HS affected the retinal vasculature, oxidative and inflammation status, pigmented epithelium and glia. The CSNK1A1-TP53 pathway was implicated in the response in all cohorts. Sex-specific genes were involved in cytoprotection and may explain sex-dependent vulnerabilities to certain eye diseases. These results support the hypothesis that changes in the biology of the retina subjected to simulated microgravity involve both the neural and vascular retina.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue JANUS System Progress on Commercial Suborbital Launch Vehicles: Moving the Laboratory Environment to Near Space<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>Multiple private companies are building suborbital reusable launch vehicles possessing vastly different designs. Many of these companies originally focused on space tourism; however, revolutionary applications for scientific and engineering research as well as technology demonstrations and instrument development are emerging. The dramatic reduction in cost over traditional launch systems as well as a guaranteed (and rapid) safe payload return enable many new launch vehicle applications. These new capabilities will essentially move the laboratory environment up to the edge of space. To make use of these novel launch vehicles, the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has established a Commercial Suborbital Program with a core system (JANUS) to support and enable many future suborbital missions. This program has already conducted six suborbital flight missions to establish vehicle interfaces and analyze the suitability and limits of each flight environment. Additionally, this program has also been selected by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program for five additional operational suborbital missions. Here we present the results of our completed missions as well as descriptions of future selected missions scheduled for 2021–2023.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Propellant Mass Measurement in Microgravity<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>The Modal Propellant Gauging (MPG) experiment has demonstrated sub-1% gauging accuracy under laboratory conditions on both flight hardware and subscale tanks. Recently, MPG was adapted for flight on Blue Origin's New Shepard vehicle and has flown twice, achieving equilibrated, zero-g surface configurations of propellant simulant at three different fill fractions. Flight data from MPG missions on New Shepard P7 and P9 show agreement between known and measured propellant levels of 0.3% for the fill fractions investigated in the present study. Two approaches for estimating zero-g propellant mass are described here. Both approaches rely on measuring shifts in modal frequencies of a tank excited by acoustic surface waves and subject to fluid mass loading by the propellant. In the first approach, shifts in the lowest mode frequency (LMF) are measured and associated with liquid fill-level changes. In the second approach, 1-g modal spectra at a range of known fill levels are used in a cross-correlation calculation to predict fill levels associated with a zero-g modal spectrum. Flight data for both approaches are consistent with finite element predictions using a simple fluid–structure interaction model. In both settled and unsettled microgravity environments, MPG meets or exceeds NASA Roadmap goals for in-space propellant mass gauging.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Plasma Seed Treatments for Advancing Agriculture Applications on Earth and Into the Final Frontier<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>With benefits such as environmentally safe treatment methods to stimulate growth, to increase plant yield, and improve disinfection efficiency, literature on the field of plasma treatment of seeds is growing. Generalized variables and success criteria have not been well correlated between studies, so this review paper serves to connect plasma and agriculture technologies to coordinate future efforts in this growing area of research. The authors have particular interest due to space agriculture, where seeds are sanitized before being sent into space for crop production. In order to supply a spectrum of nutritional needs, it is necessary to provide a variety of crops and ensure biological decontamination before the seeds are being sent into space. Traditional seed sanitization methods are not viable for all seed types, so exploration of other options is needed to expand the astronaut diet on long-duration space missions. This review paper brings together the current state-of-the-art reported literature to aide in understanding plasma seed application apparatus, seed or crop performance pertaining to germination, growth, water interactions, inactivation of bacteria, and surface sanitization results. These recent works include evolving research themes for potential seed treatment sanitization processes for various seed types to ensure the viability of plants for future growth in microgravity crop production systems.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Flight Cultivation for Radish () in the Advanced Plant Habitat<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>In preparation of a flight experiment, ground-based studies for optimizing the growth of radishes (Raphanus sativus) were conducted at the ground-based Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) unit at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida. The APH provides a large, environmentally controlled chamber that has been used to grow various plants, such as Arabidopsis, wheat, peppers, and now radish. In support of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s goals to provide astronauts with fresh vegetables and fruits in a confined space, it is important to extend the cultivation period to produce substantial biomass. We selected Raphanus sativus cv. Cherry Belle as test variety both for preliminary tests and flight experiments because it provides edible biomass in as few as four weeks, has desirable secondary metabolites (glucosinolates), is rich in minerals, and requires relatively little space. We report our strategies to optimize the growth substrate, watering regimen, light settings, and planting design that produces good-sized radishes, minimizes competition, and allows for easy harvesting. This information will be applicable for growth optimization of other crop plants that will be grown in the APH or other future plant growth facilities.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue of DNA Microsatellites Using Multiplex Polymerase Chain Reaction Aboard the International Space Station<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>As human exploration extends further into deep space, it is critical to understand the cellular impacts of spaceflight in order to ensure the safety of future astronauts. Extended exposure to cosmic radiation and microgravity has been shown to cause genetic damage and impair cellular DNA repair mechanisms, which together can lead to genomic instability. In particular, microsatellite instability (MSI), in which dysfunction in DNA mismatch repair (MMR) causes alterations in tandemly repeated “microsatellite” sequences, is a manifestation of genomic instability that has been associated with certain cancers. In this study, we establish the feasibility of an on-orbit multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assay to detect mutations in cancer-related microsatellites. Multiplex PCR was used to amplify five quasimonomorphic microsatellites in space and on Earth from both wild-type and MMR-deficient human cell lines. These data provide proof of concept of simultaneous amplification of multiple DNA sequences in space, expanding in-flight research and health-monitoring capabilities.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue Rapid Fabrication Methodology for Payload Modules, Piloted for the Observation of Queen Honey Bees () in Microgravity<abstract> <title style='display:none'>Abstract</title> <p>Microgravity experiment modules for living organisms have been instrumental to space research, yet their design remains complex and costly. As the private space sector enables more widely available payloads for researchers, it is increasingly necessary to design experimental modules innovatively so that they are proportionately accessible. To ease this bottleneck, we developed a rapid fabrication methodology for producing custom modules compatible with commercial payload slots. Our method creates a unified housing geometry, based on a given component layout, which is fabricated in a digital design and subtractive manufacturing process from a single lightweight foam material. This module design demonstrated a 25–50% reduction in chassis weight compared with existing models, and is extremely competitive in manufacturing time, simplicity, and cost. To demonstrate the ability to capture data on previously limited areas of space biology, we apply this methodology to create an autonomous, video-enabled module for sensing and observing queen and retinue bees aboard the Blue Origin New Shepard 11 (NS-11) suborbital flight. To explore whether spaceflight impacts queen fitness, results used high-definition visual data enabled by the module's compact build to analyze queen-worker regulation under microgravity stress (n = 2, with controls). Overall, this generalizable method for constructing experimental modules provides wider accessibility to space research and new data on honey bee behavior in microgravity.</p> </abstract>ARTICLEtrue