Space Station Agriculture Teaching How to Sustain Space Crews

Waning Gibbous Moon Above Earth’s Horizon

The waning gibbous Moon is pictured above the Earth’s horizon from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

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Space agriculture dominated the research schedule aboard the International Space Station yesterday to learn how to sustain long-term crews far beyond low-Earth orbit. The Expedition 66 crew also had time set aside for ongoing life science work to help keep astronauts and Earthlings healthy.

NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Kayla Barron spent Wednesday afternoon servicing cotton plant cell samples for the Plant Habitat-5 space botany study. The experiment is investigating how microgravity affects cotton genetic expression possibly impacting plant regeneration on and off the Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked on a similar botany study yesterday nourishing Arabidopsis plants grown on petri plates. That study is exploring how plant molecular mechanisms and regulatory networks adapt to the weightless environment of space.

Astronauts Thomas Marshburn of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) worked throughout the day on research hardware supporting investigations into how space affects biology. Marshburn installed a centrifuge inside the Cell Biology Experiment Facility, an incubator with an artificial gravity generator that cultivates cells and plants inside the Kibo laboratory module. Maurer stowed science gear used for a visual function study after the experiment samples were returned to Earth on Monday inside the SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov from Roscosmos continued his exercise research yesterday studying how to maintain the physical fitness of crew members in weightlessness. Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov assisted the commander during the workout study and also swapped fuel bottles inside the Combustion Integrated Rack.

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