The Dayton Hamvention, the largest amateur radio convention in the United States, has selected ARISS International Chair Frank Bauer to receive the 2017 Amateur of the Year Award.
Bauer served at NASA for more than 35 years before retiring as the Chief Engineer for Exploration at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. in September 2011. He has supported ISS Ham Radio (ARISS) since its inception and before that, the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX).
“Regarding ISS Ham radio, I am most proud of two things: The phenomenal STEM Education and Human Spaceflight outreach that our program instills in students and the general public and our worldwide volunteer team who have been instrumental in making this happen,” said Bauer.
Bauer receives this award for his well-cited aerospace GPS research, his work on a re-transmission system that gave access to tens of thousands of ham operators to live space shuttle communications and his outstanding dedication to ham radio education in space.
The International Space Station Ham Radio was the first operational payload aboard the station, turned on less than two weeks after Expedition 1 arrived. It has been on ever since, making contact with nearly 1,100 schools.
This CFI test point video shows a 4-mm dodecane fuel droplet. Once the camera light goes out, the needles simultaneously snap away from the droplet leaving it free-floating. The hot-wire igniters ignite the droplet and the test point begins. The droplet burns with a hot flame that is dim blue. The hot flame oscillates once then extinguishes. The burn continues with a cool flame, or low temperature combustion. Since cool flames are much dimmer than hot flames, you can only see the fuel droplet get smaller as it continues to burn. The fuel droplet eventually disappears as all of it is consumed by the burn.
Since a cool flame burns only a fraction of the fuel vaporized from the droplet, a large vapor cloud begins to form. On the ground, this fuel vapor would be quickly dispersed by the buoyant flow caused by the heated gases. In space, however, the fuel vapor stays in the vicinity, accumulates and recondenses. The vapor cloud could likely stay there for hours if not days or more in space! The possibility that areas with little air flow could have recondensation is a new item to consider in spacecraft fire safety, and will be considered by expert teams as the phenomenon is better defined by this experiment.
Understanding how cool flames behave without the influence of gravity could lead to developing vehicles that experience less wear on engine parts, get better gas mileage, and create less pollution.
When scientist and former astronaut Piers Sellers was a child in the United Kingdom, Apollo missions inspired him to dream of coming to the United States to work at NASA. He fulfilled that childhood dream when he began his climate research at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in 1982, launching a career at the space agency that spanned more than three decades. Sellers passed away at the age of 61 on Dec. 23, 2016, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
During his time at NASA, Sellers served as a scientist studying climate change at Goddard before being selected into the astronaut corps in 1996. As an astronaut, he flew to the International Space Station in 2002 (STS-112), 2006 (STS-121) and 2010 (STS-132), where he carried out six spacewalks during the assembly of the orbiting laboratory. The vantage point of space gave him a deeper appreciation for Earth’s fragility, and strengthened his passion for studying climate change and sharing his knowledge on the subject with audiences around the world.
In a New York Times opinion piece in 2016, Sellers wrote:
As an astronaut, I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its future.
Sellers published more than 70 papers, 30 of them as first author, and served as Project Scientist for the first large Earth Observing System platform, Terra, which launched in 1998. He worked on global climate problems, particularly those involving interactions between the biosphere and the atmosphere, and was involved in constructing computer models of the global climate system, satellite data interpretation and conducting large-scale field experiments in the United States, Canada, Africa and Brazil. After serving in the astronaut corps, Sellers returned to Goddard and was named Deputy Director of Sciences and Exploration. He was deeply interested in the role of science in the future development of human society, particularly with regard to global environmental issues and associated economic and political issues. He was also seeking funding for a new Earth science instrument concept for the space station.
I remember talking with Piers about the difficulties scientists have in communicating complex concepts and the caveats and limitations we are all trained to provide—while still being simple and accessible. Some at the agency have viewed “science” and “human spaceflight” as separate independent efforts. Piers and I shared the alternate view that science is the only way we can understand what we observe as humans explore—that the two efforts were tightly linked. Apollo led to a new view of the Earth as isolated and fragile, and was important in leading the agency to have an Earth Sciences program with all the satellites being operated today. We both shared great satisfaction as ISS matured to have Earth Science instruments that were enhancements and technology demonstrations to help us better understand the Earth and its climate.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote of Sellers’ passing:
Today we lost a tremendous public servant who was dedicated to NASA, the nation and the world. He was a strident defender and eloquent spokesperson for our home planet, Earth. Spacewalker and scientist, free thinker and friend to our planet, and all who seek new knowledge, to say he will be missed would be a gross understatement.
From the position of the International Space Station, it’s not always easy to consider the implications of gravity as a continuum, but society meetings like the recent American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) in Cleveland help bring that into focus. Gravity isn’t just on or off, and it can be easy to forget that the space station is not the only place to go if you need a little microgravity.
Solutions for simulated microgravity like High Aspect Ratio Vessels (HARVs), clinostats and random positioning machines exist to confuse the gravity vector. Magnetic levitation can balance the gravitational force for small, water-containing objects. Short durations of 2-6 seconds can be achieved through drop tower experiments. Up to 20 seconds of microgravity can be accessed through parabolic flight, and new commercial and sounding rockets can deliver 2-6 minutes of microgravity exposure. These methods provide the tools to explore various levels of microgravity, and when you add in the laboratory centrifuge, we can even explore the effects of hypergravity.
Dr. Mark Weislogel’s opening talk at ASGSR gave us great insights into the behaviors of fluids and fluid/surface interactions that you can achieve in just two seconds of microgravity. Non-intuitive behaviors that provide the building blocks for ideas, inventions, and for applications that need to be proven, need exposure to the long-duration microgravity environment on the space station. In the realm of space biology, we see genetic changes – differential gene expression – that occur in the first few seconds of exposure to microgravity, yet comparisons between long-duration space station exposure and simulated or short-duration micro-gravity exposure show some of these changes overlap and some do not. Clearly there is more going on here that we do not understand at this time.
To be successful interplanetary explorers, we need to be able to know what will happen to our physiology and systems as we transition from one to zero to 1/6 or 1/3 Gs, and back again. Knowledge of gravity as a continuum is a must. On the ground, we can explore aspects of this through magnetic levitation and centrifugation. Hypergravity studies on the ground are pointing
to interesting effects that we may need investigate further in microgravity, like glucose metabolism effects.
A healthy research community is using all of these tools to investigate gravity and better prepare us to make the most of our space station research. Our success in helping humanity explore the solar system is built on their research successes, not only in space but in research labs across the world.
Kirt Costello, PhD Deputy Chief Scientist for the International Space Station
Dr. Francis Collins led the effort to map the human genome here on Earth, and he recently spoke with Kate Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space, as she floated aboard Earth’s only orbiting laboratory. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, connected with Rubins in a downlink that was live-streamed on the International Space Station’s Facebook page, and the pair of scientists discussed advances in microgravity research. Here are some of the highlights from their conversation, and a link to a video of the entire event below.
Rubins is a microbiologist with a vast background in virology and research, so it wasn’t surprising to learn that some of the personal items she brought were extra tools to help her conduct science in her spare time.
A few weeks ago I talked about an innovative applied research experiment being done aboard the International Space Station for Eli Lilly. They are interested in the process by which tablets dissolve, since this can be a problem for helping patients get the dose of medicine they need. Because microgravity allows study of diffusion without buoyancy or density-driven convection, these processes can be slower, allowing for better visualization and mathematical modeling.
The PIs of this experiment have allowed us to share the early visual results from their ISS experiment. In the image above, you can see an example of a significant gel interface that formed between the tablet and the solution which was not observed to the same extent on Earth. The ground controls are pending, but based on preliminary results, the rate of dissolution was significantly longer in the microgravity experiment, an unexpected and interesting result.
In chemistry, wetting refers to spreading of a liquid over a solid material’s surface, and is a key aspect of the material’s ability to dissolve. This investigation studies how certain materials used in the pharmaceutical industry dissolve in water while in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help improve the design of tablets that dissolve in the body to deliver drugs, thereby improving drug design for medicines used in space and on Earth.
When NASA astronaut Kate Rubins’ expedition began, zero base pairs of DNA had been sequenced in space. Within just a few weeks, she and the Biomolecule Sequencer team had sequenced their one billionth base of DNA aboard the orbiting laboratory.
“I [have a] genomics background, [so] I get really excited about that kind of stuff,” Rubins said in a downlink shortly after reaching the one billion base pairs sequenced goal.
The Biomolecule Sequencer investigation seeks to demonstrate that DNA sequencing in microgravity is possible, and adds to the suite of genomics capabilities aboard the space station. Facilities like WetLab-2, miniPCR and Biomolecule Sequencer will expand opportunities for scientists to utilize the space station for cutting edge molecular research.
Aaron Burton, NASA planetary scientist and principal investigator, put into context the one billionth “base” mark.
“For reference, the genome of the virus DNA we sent up is 48,000 bases, the genome of the E. Coli DNA we sent up is 4.6 million bases, and the length of the human genome is 3.2 billion bases,” Burton said. “So if all of the bases we sequenced were from the same organism, in principle, we have collected enough data to sequence the virus genome 20,000 times over, the bacterial genome about 200 times over, and about a quarter of the mouse genome.”
Aside from proving the capabilities of the device, data from the sequencing experiments will also be deposited in NASA’s GeneLab database, making them available for study by any researcher to re-analyze and potentially make new discoveries.
Three dramatically different experiments on the International Space Station last week show what an amazing and diverse platform we have for technology demonstrations, improving health on Earth and helping us understand our place in the universe.
Last Friday the first operations of a technology demonstration experiment called the Long Duration Sorbent Testbed (LDST) began on the orbiting laboratory. This project is an example of the way we are making the space station a place to quickly test new technologies that are important for future space exploration. It exposes desiccants and CO2 sorbents to the station atmosphere for about a year before returning them to Earth to be analyzed. The effort was completed under an engineering process we call 1E that allows streamlined certifications and rules that keep the station and crew safe, but reduce paperwork, turnaround time and costs. These are a model for ways to better do new experiments and fly new kinds of hardware.
Kate Rubins and Takuya Onishi completed an ambient environment session of the ESA Airway Monitoring (Airway Monitoring) experiment. This experiment studies airway inflammation which can be caused by being in a closed environment, and could be much worse someday on future missions to the moon or Mars. A special small monitor measures the nitrous oxide (NO) that is exhaled by each crew member. The European technology built for this experiment is also being used in asthma centers back here on Earth in a device called NIOX MINO™ which helps to measure the level of airway inflammation in patients here on earth.
Word has also come to us from the Meteor project team that they have captured their first observation of a meteor re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. The Meteor instrument currently on the space station is the third unit built, as the first two were lost on Orb-3 Cygnus and Space X-7. The first images of re-entering meteors were captured in late July. The METEOR camera has a special filter that allows determining the atomic emission lines of the major elements so not only does it see the flash of light when a meteor re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it can tell scientists what the meteor is made of. Iron, calcium, magnesium or sodium elements can all be detected. Southwest Research Institute collaboratied with the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan to fly the instrument, and we are currently working with the investigators on a English-language press release. See more images at the Japanese image gallery online.
The Packed Bed Reactor Experiment (PBRE) was installed in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) this week, and is the largest, most complex experiment installed in the MSG to date. When the gas-control module did not power up properly, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra helped to quickly identify the problem, which involved a foam piece imbedded in a connector. Kopra also helped trouble-shoot a video camera for the gas-liquid separator. After two days of setup, all systems in the PBRE are now operating as expected.
During subsequent testing, PBRE found that the gas flow provided by the MSG was not as high as desired. The team is still evaluating if the test matrix will need to be modified. Initial testing this week includes some preliminary flows to flood the column with water and then introduce low gas flows to observe viscous fingering within the porous media (similar to water injected into oil wells to enhance flows).
Next week, PBRE will begin a series of tests to determine minimum flows to remove bubbles from the reactor bed. This is a serious concern encountered by most reactor beds in microgravity, since gravity is not available to drive the bubbles to the top of the reactor. Our results will provide guidelines to design and operating beds to prevent bubble accumulation.
In space, water-recovery systems, fuel cells and other equipment use packed bed reactors, but currently none are designed to handle both liquid and gas at the same time. With improved understanding of how packed bed two-phase flow works in microgravity, scientists are be able to design more efficient, lightweight thermal management and life support systems that use less energy, benefiting the Space Station as well as future lunar and Mars missions.
On Earth, design rules for gas-liquid flows through packed columns are well developed, but lacking for reduced or zero gravity. PBRE seeks to fill this knowledge gap by studying the hydrodynamics of gas-liquid flows in zero gravity through packed columns. By understanding how gravity affects gas-liquid flows through packed columns (or packed beds, as they are known in the industry) better, more predictive correlations for pressure drops and flow regime maps can be developed with the proper gravity-dependent terms included.
Lead Expedition Scientist Yuri Guinart-Ramirez presented the following research highlights at the 45 Soyuz Return/47 Soyuz Launch And Dock Stage Operations Readiness Review held on June 2.
We know human spaceflight is entrenched with dangers and risk to our astronauts, from their vision and eye health, to their musculoskeletal system and immune system, among many other risks. Did you know that out of 36 long-duration crew members, there were 15 clinical cases detected with issues related to vision? In other words, 41.6% of long-duration crew members developed vision issues with various degrees of symptoms. That is a high percentage. Understanding these and the many other effects that microgravity has on the body is key for us to continue to venture beyond low-Earth orbit and be more successful on long-duration spaceflight. We want to go further into space, and so we must answer these fundamental medical issues and continue develop more effective countermeasures.
The good news is that we are getting a little closer.
The upcoming return of 45S will mark the completion of the in-flight portion for four NASA investigations in the Human Research category – Ocular Health, Cognition, Salivary Markers and Microbiome; and that is big milestone. Once the post-flight baseline data collection takes place, we will have completed the required number of subjects for these four investigations. It takes a long time to complete the number of subjects required for Human Research investigations – it’s usually years in the making – so this is a big milestone.
Cognition will help us understand how the physical changes related to spaceflight such as microgravity, stress, and lack of sleep can affect cognitive performance. The results can lead to more effective ways of measuring the effect on cognitive ability during long-duration spaceflight.
Salivary Markers and Microbiome are both searching for a better understanding of the effect of microgravity on the immune system. Salivary Markers – as the name hints, focuses on saliva. But why saliva? Because our saliva is amazing! Our saliva has antimicrobial enzymes and antibacterial properties that kill some bacteria, and that helps us remain healthy. Immune system dysregulation has been documented during and after spaceflight, but it is not known if these changes increase infection susceptibility or pose a significant health risk to crew members. Salivary Markers is helping us understand that. Microbiome is assessing the immune system by studying the collection of microbes in the body and gut area that also help us stay healthy, and its interaction with its environment. Understanding that micro-universe of microbes, its balance needed to keep us healthy, and its interaction with the space station environment will also help us develop more effective countermeasures.
Of course, these four investigations have a good variety of applications for medical and health issues we face here on Earth. As we prepare to celebrate the safe return of the 45S crew, let us also celebrate the completion of these four Human Research investigations as another stepping stone on our journey beyond low-Earth orbit and healthier long-duration spaceflight.