On-Station Investigations: Adaptation to Space

This image shows the huge island of Hawaii as the space station orbits overhead.
Image Credit: NASA

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of October 10 that included collecting data to support studies of how the body adapts to space, comparing the properties of soil microbes in space and on the ground, and mapping of radiation doses within the space station.

adaptation to space

Many new crew members arriving at the space station are taking part in ongoing studies that assess how their bodies adapt. During the week, crew members held sessions for such ESA investigations.

GRASP examines the effect on hand coordination and the visual environment to control reaching and grasping an object. Astronauts conduct sessions before and after the flight, as well as within the first 15 days and at other points during the flight to help researchers assess how the brain adapts to microgravity.

GRIPS studies the long-term effects on a person’s ability to regulate the strength of their grip and the trajectory of their upper extremities when manipulating objects. The data could identify potential hazards to astronauts as they move between gravitational environments, as well as help design systems to control rovers, robots and other tools used to explore planets, moons and asteroids.

Myotones monitors changes in muscle properties during spaceflight, comparing data from preflight sessions with those obtained early in flight. The results could lead to the development of better countermeasures for future space missions, as well as alternative rehabilitation treatments for those experiencing the effects of aging and restricted mobility on Earth.

video of an astronaut conducting a seated session for the GRIP research

NASA astronaut Josh Cassada leads a seated session for GRIP,
ESA research on how microgravity affects the ability to
a person to regulate the strength of the grip and the trajectory of the limbs
superior when manipulating objects. GRIP is one of several ongoing studies that
They assess how the human body adapts to space.
Image Credit: NASA

Microbes in microgravity

DynaMoS compares metabolic interactions in a community of soil microbes on the space station and a control sample on the ground. Communities of microorganisms carry out key functions in the soil, including cycling carbon and nutrients and helping plants grow. The results could improve understanding of the role of soil microorganisms in space and support the design of life support systems for future missions that use the natural processes carried out by soil microorganisms. A better understanding of the role of soil microorganism communities could also help improve agricultural production on Earth. During the week, crew members performed a scheduled sample collection, placing the sealed tubes in MELFI, one of the station’s cold storage units.

image of soil samples for DynaMoS research

A pre-flight view of soil samples for the DynaMoS investigation, which examines how microgravity affects metabolic interactions in communities of soil microbes.
Image Credit: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Mapping of radiation doses

DOSE-3D, an ESA investigation, uses various active and passive detectors that determine the nature and distribution of the radiation field inside the space station to create a three-dimensional radiation map of its sections. Specific detectors measure various radiation components and absorbed doses, averaged over the mission. A comprehensive understanding of the space radiation environment could help scientists develop better ways to protect crews. On Earth, commercial and military flight crews and nuclear plant workers are exposed to higher-than-average levels of radiation, and the results could improve protection for them, too. The DOSIS-3D experiment also provides information on the combination of different dose monitoring devices and provides lessons on how to monitor data in real time. Crew members deployed dosimeters for the investigation during the week.

image of a bright orange sensor is part of the data collection for the DOSIS 3D investigation

This bright orange sensor is part of the data collection for DOSE 3D, an ESA investigation that measures the nature and distribution of the radiation field within the space station.
Image Credit: NASA

Other investigations involving the crew:

  • Wireless Compose-2, an ESA investigation, demonstrates an infrastructure for wireless data transmission and a smart shirt to measure the forces generated by the heart as it pumps blood. This technology could help monitor the health of astronauts on future missions, and this research could also improve the use of medical monitoring technology on the ground.
  • Robo Pro Challenge 3 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is an educational program where students solve various problems using NASA’s Astrobees and JAXA’s Internal Ball Camera robots. The experience helps inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers and leaders.
  • Standard measurements (Standard Measures) collects a set of core measures, including data on behavioral health and performance, cellular profiles and immunology, the microbiome, biochemical markers, sensorimotor changes, and cardiovascular health. These data help researchers characterize adaptive responses to living and working in space and monitor the effectiveness of countermeasures.
  • International Space Station Amateur Radio puts students, teachers, parents, and other community members in direct communication with astronauts through ground-based ham radio units. This experience helps promote interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  • Space microbiome isolates of rhodium (Rhodium Space Microbiome Isolates) characterizes spaceflight-induced changes in individual bacterial species of the human gut microbiome, a complex community of diverse bacterial species. The results could provide a better understanding of how spaceflight affects the human gut microbiome and lead to strategies to improve human health and function during future missions.
  • XROOTS uses the Veggie Facility to test hydroponic (liquid-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques for growing plants without soil or other traditional growing media, potentially allowing larger-scale crop production for future space exploration .

A robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialized research facilities and tools, the space station has supported many scientific breakthroughs from research spanning all major scientific disciplines. The International Space Station Benefits to Humanity 2022 publication details the expanding universe of results from more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the station. Access the publication and related materials online.

For more news in Spanish, follow @NASA and subscribe to the weekly newsletter here. For more news in English about the investigations aboard the station, follow @ISS_Research Y Space Station Research and Technology News. Follow ISS National Lab for information about their sponsored research. And, for a chance to see the International Space Station pass over your city, view Spot the Station.

By John Love
Johnson Center, Houston, Texas

Translation into Spanish: National University of Mar del Plata Mar del Plata, Argentina

Read this story in Spanish here.