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      NASA/Jasmin Moghbeli While the International Space Station orbited 260 miles above the East China Sea, NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli snapped this photo of Shanghai’s city lights and the Huangpu River flowing through downtown. Shanghai is the most populous city in China with a population of about 24.9 million.
      The space station serves as a unique platform for observing Earth with both hands-on and automated equipment. Station crew members have produced hundreds of thousands of images, recording phenomena such as storms in real time, observing natural events such as volcanic eruptions as they happen, and providing input to ground personnel for programming automated Earth-sensing systems. Having a crew on board provides flexibility, a significant advantage over sensors on robotic spacecraft. Astronauts take images using handheld digital cameras, usually through windows in the station’s cupola, for Crew Earth Observations.
      Image Credit: NASA/Jasmin Moghbeli
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      5 Min Read NASA’s Planetary Protection Team Conducts Vital Research for Deep Space Missions
      Cassilly examines fungal growth obtained from a space environmental exposure study, part of the Planetary Protection team’s work to understand the ability of microbes to survive conditions in deep space. Credits: NASA/Charles Beason By Celine Smith
      As NASA continues its exploration of the solar system, including future crewed missions to Mars, experts in the agency’s Office of Planetary Protection are developing advanced tactics to prevent NASA expeditions from introducing biological contaminants to other worlds.
      At NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the Planetary Protection team is contributing to this work – pursuing new detection, cleaning, and decontamination methods that will protect alien biospheres, safeguard future planetary science missions, and prevent potentially hazardous microbes from being returned to Earth. The Planetary Protection team is a part of the Space Environmental Effects (SEE) team in Marshall’s Materials and Processes Laboratory.
      Chelsi Cassilly, lead of Marshall Space Flight Center’s Planetary Protection Laboratory, researches microbes and their behaviors to preserve the environment of other planetary bodies after future missions. NASA/Charles Beason Planetary Protection microbiologist Chelsi Cassilly said much of Planetary Protection focuses on “bioburden” which is typically considered the number of bacterial endospores (commonly referred to as “spores”) found on and in materials. Such materials can range from paints and coatings on robotic landers to solid propellants in solid rocket motors. NASA currently requires robotic missions to Mars meet strict bioburden limits and is assessing how to apply similar policies to future, crewed missions to the Red Planet.
      “It’s impossible to eliminate microbes completely,” Cassily said. “But it’s our job to minimize bioburden, keeping the probability of contamination sufficiently low to protect the extraterrestrial environments we explore.”
      Currently, Marshall’s Planetary Protection research supports NASA’s Mars Ascent Vehicle, a key component of the planned Mars Sample Return campaign, and risk-reduction efforts for the Human Landing System program.
      Critically, Planetary Protection prevents the introduction of microbes from Earth onto planetary bodies where they might proliferate and subsequently interfere with scientific study of past or current life there. If Earth’s microbes were to contaminate samples collected on Mars or Europa, the scientific findings would be an inaccurate depiction of these environments, potentially precluding the ability to determine if life ever existed there. Preserving the scientific integrity of these missions is of the utmost importance to Cassilly and her team.
      Contamination mitigation tactics used in the past also may not work with modern hardware and materials. For the Viking missions to Mars, NASA employed a total spacecraft “heat microbial reduction” (HMR) process, a prolonged exposure to high temperatures to kill off or minimize microbes. As spacecrafts advance, NASA is more discerning, using HMR for components and/or subassemblies instead of the entire spacecraft.
      According to Cassilly, HMR may not always be an ideal solution because, extended time at high temperatures required to kill microbes can degrade the integrity of certain materials, potentially impacting mission success. While this is not a problem for all materials, there is still a need to expand NASA’s repertoire of acceptable microbial reduction techniques to include ones that may be more efficient and sustainable.
      This mold from the genus Cladosporium was collected from the surface of a cleanroom table at Marshall. This and other microbes within cleanrooms pose the biggest threat to spacecraft cleanliness and meeting Planetary Protection requirements. Jacobs Engineering/Chelsi Cassilly To contribute to NASA’s Planetary Protection efforts, Cassilly undertook a project – funded by a Jacobs Innovation Grant – to build a microbial library that could better inform and guide mitigation research. That meant visiting cleanrooms at Marshall to collect prevalent microbes, extracting DNA, amplifying specific genes, and submitting them for commercial sequencing. They identified 95% of the microbes within their library which is continually growing as more microbes are collected and identified.
      The Planetary Protection team is interested in taking this work a step further by exposing their microbial library to space-like stressors—including ultraviolet light, ionizing radiation, temperature extremes, desiccation, and vacuum—to determine survivability.
      Understanding the response of these microbes to space environmental conditions, like those experienced during deep space transit, helps inform our understanding of contamination risks associated with proposed planetary missions.
      Chelsi Cassilly
      Planetary Protection microbiologist
      “The research we’re doing probes at the possibility of using space itself to our advantage,” Cassilly said.
      Cassilly and Marshall materials engineers also supported a study at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, to determine whether certain manufacturing processes effectively reduce bioburden. Funded by a NASA Research Opportunity in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) grant, the project assessed the antimicrobial activity of various additives and components used in solid rocket motor production. The team is currently revising a manuscript which should appear publicly in the coming months.
      This Bacillus isolate with striking morphology was collected from a sample of insulation commonly used in solid rocket motors. Cassilly studies these and other material-associated microbes to evaluate what could hitch a ride on spacecraft. Jacobs Engineering/Chelsi Cassilly Cassilly also supported research by Marshall’s Solid Propulsion and Pyrotechnic Devices Branch to assess estimates of microbial contamination associated with a variety of commonly used nonmetallic spacecraft materials. The results showed that nearly all the materials analyzed carry a lower microbial load than previously estimated – possibly decreasing the risk associated with sending these materials to sensitive locations.
      Such findings benefit researchers across NASA who are also pursuing novel bioburden reduction tactics, Cassilly said, improving agencywide standards for identifying, measuring, and studying advanced planetary protection techniques.
      “Collaboration unifies our efforts and makes it so much more possible to uncover new solutions than if we were all working individually,” she said.
      NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection is part of the agency’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Office of Planetary Protection oversees bioburden reduction research and development of advanced strategies for contamination mitigation at Marshall Space Flight Center; NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
      For more information about NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, visit:
      https://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/home/index.html
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    • By NASA
      After 25 years of international collaboration operating the largest and most technologically advanced laboratory in low Earth orbit, the current decade of research results has seen thousands of researchers around the world completing their investigations, analyzing their data, and publishing their findings.
      Through close examination of station client feedback obtained since 2002, station program managers, administration personnel, and technical staff have improved their processes and software tools to enhance communication with research teams for better in-flight data collection and sample return. These refinements affect experiment results and the conclusions researchers draw. The enhanced planning and coordination of investigation launch, stowage, crew time allocation, accessibility to station’s research capabilities (i.e., facilities), and data delivery are critical to the effective operation of scientific projects for accurate results to be shared with the scientific community, sponsors, legislators, and the public.
      Over 3,700 investigations have operated since Expedition 1, with more than 250 active research facilities, the participation of more than 100 countries, the work of more than 5,000 researchers, and over 4,000 publications. The growth in research (Figure 1) and international collaboration (Figure 2) has prompted the publication of over 560 research articles in top-tier scientific journals with about 75 percent of those groundbreaking studies occurring since 2018 (Figure 3).
      Figure 1 . Bibliometric mapping of station research growth over time. Count of the keyword microgravity co-occurring at least five times with other research keywords at different time periods. A) 1999-2005: n=11; B) 2006-2011: n=49; C) 2012-2017 n=69; D) 2018-Sep. 2023: n=115. The node size represents the number of publications containing the research keywords (larger nodes = more publications), the distance between nodes represents relatedness between research keywords, and the colors represent different research areas.
      Figure 1-A) 1999-2005: n=11
      Figure 1-B) 2006-2011: n=49
      Figure 1-C) 2012-2017 n=69
      Figure 1-D) 2018-Sep. 2023: n=115
      Bibliometric analyses conducted through VOSviewer1 measure the impact of space station research by quantifying and visualizing networks of journals, citations, subject areas, and collaboration between authors, countries, or organizations. Using bibliometrics, a broad range of challenges in research management and research evaluation can be addressed. The network visualizations, stacked charts, and line graphs provided in this introduction demonstrate the growth and influence of station research.
      Figure 2. Bibliometric mapping of station collaboration growth over time. Measurement of co-authorship strength (i.e., total line thicknesses) between the United States and other countries in the network at different time periods. A) 1999-2005: total link strength = 19 B) 2006-2011: total link strength = 74; C) 2012-2017: total link strength = 150; D) 2018-Sep. 2023: total link strength = 442. Nodes represent the number of publications for each country. Distance and color are not relevant indicators in this chart.
      Figure 2-A) 1999-2005: total link strength = 19
      Figure 2-B) 2006-2011: total link strength = 74
      Figure 2-C) 2012-2017: total link strength = 150
      Figure 2-D) 2018-Sep. 2023
      Figure 3. Count of publications reported in journals ranked in the top 100 according to global standards of Clarivate. A total of 567 top-tier publications through the end of FY-23 are shown by year and research category.
      In this year’s edition of the Annual Highlights of Results, we report findings from a wide range of topics in biology and biotechnology, physics, human research, Earth and space science, and technology development – including investigations about plant root orientation, tissue damage and repair, bubbles, lightning, fire dynamics, neutron stars, cosmic ray nuclei, imaging technology improvements, brain and vascular health, solar panel materials, grain flow, as well as satellite and robot control.
      The findings highlighted here are only a small sample representative of the research conducted by all the participating space agencies – ASI (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana), CSA (Canadian Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency), Roscosmos, and NASA – on station in the past 12 months.
      Many more studies in fiscal year (FY)-23 revealed remarkable results, such as finding reduced fat accumulation in the bone marrow (MARROW), identifying gene mutations that preserve muscle (Molecular Muscle), improving optical beams…detecting bacterial antibiotic resistance during spaceflight (Plazmida), observing abnormal cell division of human neural stem cells (STaARS Bioscience-4), among others. A full list of all the publications collected in FY-23 can be found at the end of this report.
      A publicly accessible database of space station investigations and publications can be found in the Space Station Research Explorer (SSRE) website, and all editions of the Annual Highlights of Results from the International Space Station can be found through the Past Annual Highlights of Results from the Space Station Research Results Library.
      Between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2023, we identified a total of 330 articles associated with station research. Of these 330 articles, 268 appeared in peer-reviewed journals, 59 in conference proceedings, and 3 in gray literature such as books, magazines, technical reports, or patents. Articles are also categorized based on how authors obtained their results. There were 204 publications that reported direct implementation of the science aboard station (i.e., Results), 37 that reported development of the payload prior to operation on station (i.e., Flight Preparation), and 89 that emerged as follow-ups to station science (i.e., Derived). Because derived articles are new scientific studies generated from shared data, derived science is an additional return on the investment trusted to station science. For FY-23, this return on investment was 27 percent. Full definitions of these publication types (i.e, Results, Flight Preparation, and Derived) categories can be found on page 10 of this report.
      Figure 4. Count of publications by agency and station research category. A total of 330 articles were collected in FY-23.
      Figure 4 shows a stacked chart with the count of articles collected in FY-23 broken out by space agency and research category. In summary, we found three articles for CSA, 43 articles for ESA, 58 articles for JAXA, 10 articles for Roscosmos, and 216 articles for NASA.  Of the 330 articles collected in FY-23, 66 were articles published prior to Oct. 1, 2022. 
      Measuring Space Station Impacts
      The significant impact of sustained international multidisciplinary research in microgravity can be observed through the findings published in world-class scientific journals that adhere to a rigorous scientific peer-review process.
      With the assistance of Clarivate, a global database that collects publication and journal information for annual journal ranking and metrics, we identified the top findings produced by station researchers. One parameter, the journal’s Eigenfactor Score2, ranks each journal based on readership and influence, including the different citation standards of each discipline. 
      From Oct 1, 2022, to Sept 30, 2023, 78 articles appeared in top-tier journals. Of those 78 articles, 26 were reported in top 20 journals (see Table 1).  
      Table 1. A total of 78 articles were published in top-tier journals in FY-23: 21 articles in top 20 (green) and 57 articles in top 100 (yellow). Data ranked according to Clarivate Journal Citations Reports (JCR) Eigenfactor score.
      In addition to the research diversity and top-tier results obtained from station, a comparison of station science to global and US standards of category-normalized citation impact (i.e., adjusted impact of a publication based on its research area) shows greater influence of station science since 2010 compared to other research endeavors taking place domestically or internationally. The authority of station research was particularly prominent in 2019, and it continues to hold its place in the scientific community to date. Figure 5 illustrates this important comparison.
      Figure 5. Citation impact (normalized by research area) of station science publications compared to national and global standards.
      The high impact of space station is in great part attributed to the researchers who conduct transformative science in low Earth orbit. As shown in Table 2, four studies published in FY-23 have already received much acclaim from others in their field.
      Table 2. List of articles published in FY-23 that have been widely recognized in a short period of time. *NICER reported two additional FY-23 publications with over 10 citations.
      Advancements in technology and research on station have inspired students all over the world to pursue STEM careers, encouraged researchers to explore bold questions, and incentivized economies through the initiation of businesses in the space industry. While some of the most decisive steps toward space commercialization are recent, researchers from small and large companies, academic institutions, and government agencies have been conducting experiments in space since 2005 through the International Space Station National Lab. Today, the hard work is paying off. In FY-23, we collected 39 publications from investigations sponsored by National Lab with fascinating results in droplet behavior for the improvement of condensing systems (Drop Vibration), the reliable use of a genome examination and editing tool (Ax-1 CRSPR), the identification of specific gut bacteria involved in bone loss (Rodent Research-5), the use of neural networks for improved image analysis (Spaceborne Computer-2), and much more. In addition to the accomplishments of the International Partners and NASA on space station, National Lab’s alternative route to send investigations to space have demonstrated that new paths can be explored to expand research in microgravity for the advancement of science and benefit of humanity. 
      Evolution of Space Station Results
      The archive of space station investigations went online in 2004.  Since that time, changes to methods for tracking investigations and publications have been implemented, including increased differentiation between research disciplines and a re-characterization of publication fields. Currently, the following publication types are included in the Program Science Toolbox:  
      Flight Preparation Results – publications about the development work performed for an investigation, facility, or project prior to operation on space station.   Station Results – publications that provide information about the performance and results of an investigation, facility, or project as a direct implementation on station or on a vehicle to space station.  Derived Results – publications that use data from an investigation that operated on station, but the authors of the article are not members of the original investigation team. Derived Results articles have emerged as a direct outcome of the open-source data initiative, which gives access to raw data for new researchers to analyze and publish innovative results, expanding global knowledge and scientific benefits.   Patents – applications filed based on the performance and results of an investigation, facility, or project on station, or on a vehicle to space station.  Related – publications that lead to the development of an investigation, facility, or project.  Linking Space Station Benefits 
      Space station research results lead to benefits for human exploration of space, benefits to humanity, and the advancement of scientific discovery. This year’s Annual Highlights of Results from the International Space Station includes descriptions of just a few of the results that were published from across the space station partnership during the past year.  
      Space station investigation results have yielded updated insights into how to live and work more effectively in space by addressing such topics as understanding radiation effects on crew health, combating bone and muscle loss, improving designs of systems that handle fluids in microgravity, and determining how to maintain environmental control efficiently. Results from the space station provide new contributions to the body of scientific knowledge in the physical sciences, life sciences, and Earth and space sciences to advance scientific discoveries in multi-disciplinary ways. Space station science results have Earth-based applications, including understanding our climate, contributing to the treatment of disease, improving existing materials, and inspiring the future generation of scientists, clinicians, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, artists, and explorers. Citations:
      1Van Eck NJ, Waltman L. Software survey: VOSviewer, a computer program for bibliometric mapping. Scientometrics. 2010; 84(2):523-538. DOI: 10.1007/s11192-009-0146-3.
      2West JD, Bergstrom TC, Bergstrom CT. The Eigenfactor Metrics™: A Network approach to assessing scholarly journals. College and Research Libraries. 2010;71(3). DOI: 10.5860/0710236.
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    • By NASA
      The 2023 Annual Highlights of Results from the International Space Station is now available. This new edition contains bibliometric analyses, a list of all the publications documented in fiscal year 2023, and synopses of the most recent and recognized scientific findings from investigations conducted on the space station. These investigations are sponsored by NASA and all international partners – CSA (Canadian Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and the State Space Corporation Roscosmos (Roscosmos) – for the advancement of science, technology, and education. These new peer-reviewed publications include insights that advance the commercialization of space and benefit humankind.
      Over 4,000 scientific publications have been collected from more than 5,000 investigators during the life of the space station. Between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2023, more than 300 publications were reported, most of them undergoing rigorous scientific review before release and dissemination. An in-depth bibliometric analysis of station science shows that the citation impact of these publications has been above national and global standards since 2010. This impact demonstrates that space station science continues to produce groundbreaking results for investigators around the world to further explore.
      Some of the findings presented in this edition include:
      Improved measurement of cosmic particles (Italian Space Agency) New ultrasound technologies for detection of physiological changes (CSA) Enhanced understanding of coordinated function in brain activity (ESA) Development of better semiconductor materials (NASA) Impacts of spaceflight on connective tissue for improved tissue remodeling (ROSCOSMOS) Understanding the behavior of granular materials for better spacecraft design (JAXA) The content in the Annual Highlights of Results from the International Space Station has been reviewed and approved by the Program Science Forum, a team of scientists and administrators from the international partnership of space agencies dedicated to planning, improving, and communicating the research operated on the space station.
      See the list of Station Research Results publications here and read more about the space station’s annual highlights of results and accomplishments here.  
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