Station Investigations: Nervous System, Fire, and Foams

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of September 12 that included examining the adaptation of hand movements in space, studying the properties of foams and emulsions, and analysis of how fuel temperature affects flammability.

Here are details on some of the microgravity research currently being carried out at the orbiting lab:

Ensuring Reach Does Not Exceed Grip

GRASP, an investigation of the European Space Agency (ESA), examines how the central nervous system integrates information from different senses such as sight and hearing to coordinate the movements of the hands. The researchers are specifically seeking to better understand how and if gravity acts as a frame of reference to control an object’s reach and grip. The absence of an up and down in space requires the brain to adapt, and this research could provide insights into how that adaptation occurs. The results could help crew members better adapt to conditions on the space station and on spacewalks. The research could also contribute to treating loss of balance or vestibular function on Earth. Crew members conducted protocol sessions GRASP in seated, back, and free configurations during the week.

NASA astronaut Bob Hines conducts a session for the investigation
ESA (European Space Agency) GRASP, which examines how the system
central nervous system uses gravity as a frame of reference to control
the reach and grasp of an object.
Image Credit: NASA

Stabilizing foams and emulsions

Foams (dispersions of bubbles in a liquid) and emulsions (dispersions of droplets in a liquid) are found in many food, consumer and personal care products and are used by a variety of industries. The investigation Foams and Emulsions examines their properties and performance, including the use of particles of various shapes and degrees of surface roughness to stabilize them. Gravity-related factors, such as particle buoyancy, complicate such research on Earth, and microgravity allows better examination of the microstructures of foams and emulsions. Stabilizing particles can be made from environmentally friendly materials, and this research could provide insights into the most effective use of such particles. In addition, data on foam and emulsion packaging structures could guide engineering designs that use as little material as possible. During the week, crew members installed hardware, prepared samples for insertion into the microscope Kermit and exchanged samples for the third run of the experiment.

Modeling fire behavior

SOFIE-GEL, research sponsored by the International Space Station National Laboratory, studies microgravity burning, specifically how fuel temperature affects material flammability. The results could improve understanding of early fire growth behavior and help researchers determine optimal fire suppression techniques. Effective firefighting is critical to ensuring crew safety in facilities on future space missions. Microgravity removes the complicated aspects of buoyancy, and studying flames in space could help refine computer models of combustion for applications in space and on Earth. SOFIE-GEL It is part of an extensive investigation into the behavior and control of fire in space. During the week, crew members began preparing the Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinguishing (SoFIE) hardware insert for the Integrated Combustion Rack (CIR) for upcoming operations research.

image of an astronaut processing some research samples

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti processes samples of microbes collected for Veggie Monitoring. This research is expected to help establish requirements to protect plant growth systems, plants, and crew members from contamination on future long-duration missions.
Image Credit: NASA

Other investigations involving the crew:

  • Veggie Monitoring collects microbial samples from the surface of the Veggie Plant Production System. Longer exploration missions require space-based systems used to grow plants, and this research could help establish requirements to protect these systems and the plants and crew from contamination.
  • Ring Sheared Drop examines the formation of amyloid fibrils, which create a waxy plaque in the brain and may be involved in the development of some neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The results of the research could contribute to a better understanding of these diseases and the development of possible treatments.
  • 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.
  • Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut is a global educational initiative supported by ESA and the national space agencies of Austria, Belgium, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom to promote healthy and active lifestyles between children. Lessons and activities are linked to a curriculum with a focus on science, health, and nutrition.
  • light ESA demonstrates a dosimeter that uses optical fibers to monitor in real time the radiation dose received by crew members. Radiation exposure monitoring is key to crew safety, and this technology also has potential applications in the medical and nuclear industries on Earth.
  • Surface Avatar, an ESA investigation, evaluates the command of multiple autonomous robots in space. The results could provide insights into the challenges that future missions with Earth-orbit configurations could face to operate robots remotely.

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 your sponsored research. And, for a chance to see the International Space Station pass over your city, view Spot the Station.

image of the Andes mountain range of Chile in South America

The Andes mountain range photographed from the International Space Station as it orbits 424 kilometers above the coast of central Chile in South America.
Image Credit: NASA

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.

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