Robot, plants take off on upcoming SpaceX mission to the International Space Station | science and technology news

When the commercial space company’s Dragon spacecraft is launched Saturday, it will be loaded with custom experiments examining everything from bone and eye health to robotic prowess.

SpaceX is targeting the launch of its next resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, and is planning some great science experiments.

When the commercial space company’s Dragon spacecraft is launched along with its Falcon rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US, it will be loaded with research projects dedicated to exploring everything from astronauts’ bone and eye health to the ingenuity of robots and how plants are used. dealing with stress, NASA Announce before launch.

The US space agency confirmed that it will also include a customized experiment “plant growth, ant colonization, and the life cycle of brine shrimp” designed by a group of Girl Scouts from Central Florida.

It’s the 23rd resupply mission to the International Space Station carried out by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and is scheduled to launch at 3:37 a.m. local time (07:37 GMT) on Saturday.

One experiment will use metabolites created as by-products during winemaking to see if “substances such as antioxidants that form when food is broken down may protect bones during spaceflight,” according to NASA.

Another experiment sponsored by the European Space Agency, the European Astronaut Center and the Institute of Space Medicine of the German Aerospace Center will use a small device to take pictures of astronauts’ retinas to screen them for spaceflight-associated neurological eye syndrome (SANS). ).

Principal investigator J├╝rgen Drescher said in the press release that the condition is “thought to be associated with long-term exposure to microgravity” and affects more than two-thirds of astronauts.

“Currently, visual problems that may arise from SANS are mitigated by providing eyeglasses or contact lenses to crew members,” Drescher explained. “Multi-year missions to Mars may exacerbate these symptoms, and a portable device is needed to diagnose the retinal image.”

He added that this technology could eventually be used in space and here on Earth.

An experiment from space robotics startup Gitai Japan Inc will test the robotic arm’s versatility and maneuverability inside the Bishop Airlock, a pressurized environment.

Gitai’s director of technology, Toyotaka Kozuki, said in the press release that the robot could provide “an inexpensive and safer source of labor in space, opening the door to real space commercialization.” On Earth, it could be used to help with disaster relief efforts or nuclear emergencies where sending humans to help would be dangerous.

Additional experiments on Saturday’s mission include an investigation aimed at testing the strength of materials such as concrete, 3D-printed polymers, fiberglass composites and more in space and a study of how to help plants deal with microgravity stress in space.

NASA said the Dragon spacecraft will also carry supplies and hardware for the crew currently on the International Space Station.

In addition to serving as a taxi service to the International Space Station, SpaceX has recently registered a number of major NASA contracts, including one for assistance Exploration of Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa.

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