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NASA Selects 11 Space Biology Research Projects to Inform Biological Research During Future Lunar Exploration MissionsBy NASA
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NASA Selects 11 Space Biology Research Projects to Inform Biological Research During Future Lunar Exploration Missions
NASA announces the award of eleven grants or cooperative agreements for exciting new Space Biology research that will advance NASA’s understanding of how exposure to lunar dust/regolith impact both plant and animal systems.
As human exploration prepares to go beyond Earth Orbit, Space Biology is advancing its research priorities towards work that will enable organisms to Thrive In DEep Space (TIDES). The ultimate goal of the TIDES initiative is to enable long-duration space missions and improve life on Earth through innovative research. Space Biology supported research will enable the study of the effects of environmental stressors in spaceflight on model organisms, that will both inform future fundamental research, as well as provide valuable information that will better enable human exploration of deep space.
Proposals for these eleven projects were submitted in response to ROSES-2022 Program Element E.9 “Space Biology Research Studies” (NNH22ZDA001N-SBR). This funding opportunity solicited ground studies using plant or animal models (or their associated microbes) to characterize the responses of these organisms to lunar regolith simulant similar to that found at NASA candidate landing sites for future lunar exploration missions. This funding opportunity represents a collaboration between the Space Biology Program and NASA’s Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division within the Exploration Architecture, Integration, and Science (EAIS) Directorate at the NASA Johnson Space Center, who will be supplying the lunar regolith simulant required for these studies.
Selected studies include (but are not limited to) efforts to 1) test the ability of lunar regolith to act as a growth substrate for crop-producing plants including grains, tomatoes and potatoes, 2) understand how growth in lunar regolith influences plant and microbial interactions, and how in turn, these interactions affect plant development and health, 3) identify and test bioremediation methods/techniques to enhance the ability of regolith to act as a growth substrate, and 4) understand how lunar dust exposure impacts host/microbial interactions in human-analogous model systems under simulated microgravity conditions.
Eleven investigators will conduct these Space Biology investigations from ten institutions in nine states. Eight of these awards are to investigators new to the Space Biology Program. When fully implemented, approximately $2.3 million will be awarded in fiscal years 2024-2027.
Plant Research Investigations
Simon Gilroy, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Madison
Tailoring Lunar Regolith to Plant Nutrition
Aymeric Goyer, Ph.D. Oregon State University
Growth, physiology and nutrition dynamics of potato plants grown on lunar regolith
Christopher Mason, Ph.D. Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Leveraging the microbes of Earth’s extreme environments for sustainable plant growth
in lunar regolith
Thomas Juenger, Ph.D. University of Texas, Austin
Engineering plant-microbial interactions for improved plant growth on simulated lunar regolith
Plant Early Career Research Investigations
Miranda Haus, Ph.D. Michigan State University
The sources and extent of root stunting during growth in lunar highland regolith and its impact on legume symbioses
Joseph Lynch, Ph.D. West Virginia University
The metabolomic impact of lunar regolith-based substrate on tomatoes
Jared Broddrick, Ph.D. NASA Ames Research Center
Phycoremediation of lunar regolith towards in situ agriculture
Shuyang Zhen, Ph.D. Texas A&M AgriLife Research
Investigating the impact of foliar and root-zone exposure to lunar regolith simulant on lettuce growth and stress physiology in a hydroponic system
Plant Small Scale Research Investigations
Kathryn Fixen, Ph.D. University of Minnesota
The impact of lunar regolith on nitrogen fixation in a plant growth promoting rhizobacterium
Animal Research Investigations
Cheryl Nickerson, Arizona State University
Effects of Lunar Dust Simulant on Human 3-D Biomimetic Intestinal Models, Enteric Microorganisms, and Infectious Disease Risks
Afshin Beheshti, Ph.D. NASA Ames Research CenterSpaceflight and Regolith Induced Mitochondrial Stress Mitigated by miRNA-based Countermeasures
Last Updated Nov 21, 2023 Related Terms
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Newest Astronaut Candidate Class Visits NASA’s Glenn Research Center
Members of NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class visited NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland on Oct. 5 and 6 to learn more about the scope of work at the center. NASA Glenn’s world-class facilities and expertise in power, propulsion, and communications are crucial to advancing the agency’s Artemis program.
Dr. Rickey Shyne, NASA Glenn Research Center’s director of Research and Technology, briefs astronaut candidates on Glenn’s core competencies.Credit: NASA/Jef Janis
The astronaut candidates, accompanied by Shannon Walker, deputy chief of the Astronaut Office, toured several facilities at both NASA Glenn campuses – Lewis Field in Cleveland and Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky, Ohio. Some of the key facilities included the Electric Propulsion and Power Laboratory, Aerospace Communications Facility, NASA Electric Aircraft Testbed, and Space Environments Complex.
During a tour in the Exercise Countermeasures Lab, NASA Glenn Research Center’s Kelly Gilkey, right, discusses the features of a harness prototype being tested for exercising in space. Credit: NASA/Jef Janis
The visit integrated briefings with senior leadership and opportunities to interact with staff, including early-career employees.
Astronaut candidates and NASA Glenn Research Center staff stand at the top of the Zero Gravity Research Facility’s drop tower. Credit: NASA/Jef Janis As part of their rigorous two-year training, these future explorers are visiting each NASA center and learning how to prepare for NASA’s missions of tomorrow.
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Six Growing Beyond Earth Student Teams to Present at the 2023 American Association for Gravitational and Space Research ConferenceBy NASA
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Six Growing Beyond Earth Student Teams to Present at the 2023 American Association for Gravitational and Space Research Conference
To join Growing Beyond Earth, visit us www.fairchildgarden.org/gbe. Credit: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Congratulations to the six Growing Beyond Earth high school teams who will present their original research at this year’s American Association for Gravitational and Space Research Conference in Washington D.C.! The teams represent Biotech@Richmond Heights (Miami FL), Herbert Henry Dow High School (Midland, MI), iMater Preparatory Academy High School (Hialeah, FL), and Institute for Collaborative Education (New York, NY). The student projects include:
Exploring Autonomous Sensing and Watering Systems, Plant Growth and Gene Expression in Simulating Microgravity, 3D Printed Materials Property Impact on Plant Growth, and Optimizing Light to Maximum Anthocyanin Content in Plants. Growing Beyond Earth is a classroom-based citizen science project designed to advance NASA research on growing plants in space. For more information or to get involved, please visit: www.fairchildgarden.org/gbe.
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Last Updated Nov 08, 2023 Related Terms
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NASA Completes Key Step in Aviation Safety Research
NASA’s transformational vision for the skies above our communities includes enabling safer and more efficient air travel. Part of this goal involves using advanced new technology to prevent safety risks long before they have a chance to arise.MTSI / NASA NASA’s aeronautical innovators have completed a significant step in their pursuit of safer, more efficient aviation technologies that spot hazards before they occur.
Through its System-Wide Safety project, NASA and its partners in government, industry, and academia are exploring new technologies and techniques to improve current aviation safety and potentially enable widespread use of new types of aircraft such as drones or air taxis.
The project recently completed Technical Challenge 1 (TC-1), Terminal Area Risk Management, the first step towards achieving what is known as an In-Time Aviation Safety Management System. This new type of aviation safety technology can effectively address potential hazards expected with the rise in demand for the number and types of aircraft flying in the National Airspace System.
As aviation operations continue to grow in scale and diversity, and with new modes of flight expected to rise in the near future, keeping the skies safe becomes increasingly complex and drives the need to transform the way order is maintained above our communities.
“What we’ve accomplished with TC-1 is really just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” said Kyle Ellis, NASA’s project manager for System-Wide Safety. “Developing these systems enables a new economy for aviation uses that will benefit us all in the future.”
In a busy aviation environment, an In-Time Aviation Safety Management System can efficiently identify and predict safety issues a human would be hard tasked to keep up with.
In today’s airspace safety system, let’s say an air traffic manager is looking at their screen and guiding 10 airplanes towards their destinations. This person would use a combination of established safety rules and pattern recognition to make sure those aircraft remain a safe distance apart. If this person saw a hazard that posed a safety risk, they would work with the pilots aboard the aircraft and resolve the issue.
Now, let’s think about the airspace of tomorrow. Instead of 10 airplanes total, 10 air taxis, 10 ultra-efficient airliners, and 10 commercial supersonic jets might be sharing the same confined airspace. Preventing and addressing hazards would become a more complex issue nearly impossible for a person to identify in time to prevent an accident.
An In-Time Aviation Safety Management System is designed to identify these events much more rapidly than human operators, then quickly deliver actionable safety procedures to prevent the dangerous situation long before it develops.
Furthermore, preventing these situations from ever arising in the first place increases the efficiency of the airspace overall, since not as much time and effort would be spent by managers keeping things running smoothly.
Laying the Foundation
TC-1 contributed several important pieces of technology working towards the development of such a system. These contributions improve aviation safety not just for tomorrow – but also for today.
For example, part of the research included using new machine learning algorithms to analyze data gathered from major airlines, which use existing aviation safety management systems, to discover potential safety risks that had previously been undefined – overall making things safer.
Researchers also gathered information on exact ways human safety managers, pilots, air traffic controllers, and others interact with safety procedures. The team identified useful, efficient practices, as well as those that could potentially lead to safety risks. Their work contributes substantially to improving training and safety operations.
Additionally, researchers studied human performance and fatigue, partnering with pilots to study how various factors such as flight scheduling, certain short-haul routes, and even the COVID-19 pandemic affect operations.
Other results include prototype safety tools and surveys on human performance.
With this more comprehensive understanding of the safety landscape, NASA and its partners can more effectively continue ushering in new safety technologies.
“We focused on gathering data on current-day operations, but always have an eye for the near future,” said Nikunj Oza, subproject manager for TC-1. “We can use the lessons learned about current aviation safety to best inform new systems.”
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Last Updated Nov 02, 2023 Editor Lillian Gipson Contact Jim Bankejim.email@example.com Related Terms
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The 29th SpaceX commercial resupply services (CRS) mission for NASA carries scientific experiments and technology demonstrations, including studies of enhanced optical communications and measurement of atmospheric waves. The uncrewed SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than Nov. 5.
Download high-resolution photos and videos of the research mentioned in this article.
Here are details on some of the research launching to the orbiting lab:
Laser Communication from Space
NASA’s ILLUMA-T investigation tests technology to provide enhanced data communication capabilities on the space station. A terminal mounted on the station’s exterior uses laser or optical communications to send high-resolution information to the agency’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) system, which is in geosynchronous orbit around Earth. LCRD then beams the data to optical ground stations in Haleakala, Hawaii, and Table Mountain, California. The system uses invisible infrared light and can send and receive information at higher data rates than traditional radio frequency systems, making it possible to send more images and videos to and from the space station in a single transmission. The ILLUMA-T demonstration also paves the way for placing laser communications terminals on spacecraft orbiting the Moon or Mars.
ILLUMA-T and LCRD create NASA’s first two-way laser communications relay system. Laser communications can supplement the radio frequency systems that most space-based missions currently use to send data to and from Earth. According to acting ILLUMA-T project manager Glenn Jackson at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, laser systems are smaller, more lightweight, and use less power than radio systems. The smaller size frees up more room for science instruments, the lighter weight reduces launch costs, and lower power use results in less drain on spacecraft batteries.
Managed by NASA Goddard in partnership with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory, ILLUMA-T is funded by the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The ILLUMA-T laser communications system being prepared for launch at Goddard Space Flight Center.NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Watching Waves in the Atmosphere
NASA’s Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) uses an infrared imaging instrument to measure the characteristics, distribution, and movement of atmospheric gravity waves (AGWs). These waves roll through Earth’s atmosphere when air is disturbed much like waves created by dropping a stone into water.
“Atmospheric gravity waves are one mechanism for transporting energy and momentum within the climate system and they play a role in defining the climate and its evolution,” says co-investigator Jeff Forbes of the University of Colorado Boulder. He explains that these waves are relatively small at the source but amplified at altitudes, and potentially indicate climate changes not readily observable at lower altitudes. This investigation’s long-term observations of physical processes in atmospheric circulation could increase insight into AGWs and improve understanding of Earth’s atmosphere, weather, and climate.
Researchers also are looking at how AGWs contribute to space weather, which refers to the varying conditions within the Solar System, including solar wind. Space weather affects space- and ground-based communications, navigation, and tracking systems. Scientists know little about exactly how AGWs influence space weather and this investigation could help fill in these knowledge gaps. Results could support development of ways to mitigate the effects of space weather.
The space station provides an ideal platform for the investigation given its altitude and geographic and time coverage.
“AWE is pioneering research, making the first global measurements of gravity waves at the edge of space,” Forbes says. “This is an important step forward in understanding waves in the atmosphere and their contributions to near-Earth space weather.”
The Atmospheric Waves Experiment is managed by Goddard for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
Scientists prepare the optical assembly for AWE for launch in a clean room at Space Dynamics Laboratory facilities.Space Dynamics Laboratory/Allison Bills More science going to the space station
Space Flight Induced Ovarian and Estrogen Signaling Dysfunction, Adaptation, and Recovery is a fundamental science investigation sponsored by NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division. It advances previous microgravity studies that seek to better understand the combined effects of spaceflight, nutritional, and environmental stresses on control of ovulation and resulting effects on the skeleton. Results of this study could help identify and treat the effects of stress on ovulation and improve bone health on Earth.
A section of ovarian tissue prepared for an investigation of ovarian function and bone health in space.University of Kansas Medical Center Aquamembrane-3, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), continues evaluation of replacing the multi-filtration beds used for water recovery on the space station with a type of membrane known as an Aquaporin Inside Membrane (AIM). These are membranes that incorporate proteins found in biological cells, known as aquaporins, to filter water faster while using less energy. Initial testing of AIM technology in 2015 showed that water filtration by membranes is possible in microgravity, and this follow-up testing could demonstrate how effectively the membranes eliminate contaminants in space station wastewater. Results could advance development of a complete and full-scale membrane-based water recovery system, improving water reclamation and reducing the amount of material that needs to be launched to the space station. This water filtration technology also could have applications in extreme environments on Earth, such as military and emergency settings, and for decentralized water systems in remote locations.
A pre-launch view of equipment for the Aquamembrane-3 investigation.ESA Gaucho Lung, sponsored by the ISS National Lab, studies how mucus lining the respiratory system affects delivery of drugs carried in a small amount of injected liquid, known as a liquid plug. Conducting this research in microgravity makes it possible to isolate the factors involved, including capillary or wicking forces, mucus characteristics, and gravity. Understanding the role of these factors could inform the development and optimization of targeted respiratory treatments. In addition, the work could contribute to new strategies to control contamination in tubing for liquids used in the health care and food industries.
An investigator at University of California Santa Barbara prepares the camera and work light for recording images from the Gaucho Lung investigation prior to launch.BioServe Space Technologies Search this database of scientific experiments to learn more about those mentioned above.
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