Japan in July

This entry was originally posted on July 11, 2010 by Astronaut Ron Garan on www.FragileOasis.org

Another successful training trip is over. Just returned from a quick week trip to Japan. Scott Kelly and I spent a week with the Japanese Space Agency in Tsukuba Japan (about 2 hours NE of Tokyo ) During the week we trained on the systems of the Japanese “Kibo” Laboratory (Kibo means Hope in Japanese),  the systems, rendezvous and robotic docking procedures of the Japanese cargo ship called the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)  and spent the majority of the time learning about the various scientific experiments we will be conducting onboard on behalf of the Japanese Space Agency.


Several  of the experiments involve Protein Crystallization Research. Protein crystals are grown in order to establish models that can be used to develop things like new medicines. On Earth these crystals are limited in their size and shape by the presence of gravity. These same experiments in space, in an environment of weightlessness, produce crystals that are much more useful for researchers. It is the hope that a direct result of this research will be the development of more effective medicines to combat illness on Earth.

Another experiment called Hydro-Tropi seeks to determine the effective of gravity and moisture on the growth  behavior of plant roots. Hopefully, this research will lead to designing crops that require less water. This is an area that is I am very interested in due to the severe lack of clean water in many parts of the world.

Spiral Top Light Traces

I consider Spiral Top an experiment where science and art meet.  “The spiral phenomena that exists in space (e.g. galaxies), on Earth (e.g. typhoons, growth of plants, etc.),  and in the human body (e.g. DNA) have a mysteriousness that charms many people. We assume that a new world of beauty will be created by modeling 3-dimensional luminous spiral movements that humans have never seen before…JAXA”http://iss.jaxa.jp/utiliz/pdf/epo_pamphlet_e.pdf

All in all it was a very productive trip. I’m back in Houston for a few weeks of training at JSC before heading out to Germany, Russia, then on to Kazakhstan for Scott Kelly’s launch for  Expedition 25 (I’m his backup).