Research Promotes Astronaut Health for Long-Term Missions

Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Jeff Williams
Expedition 47 flight engineer Jeff Williams works on the WetLab-2 gene research hardware.

The International Space Station residents were back at work today continuing this week’s slate of life science experiments. The ongoing biomedical space research helps scientists understand how living in space long term affects astronauts. Results and observations have the potential to benefit future crews and citizens on Earth.

The new Genes in Space student experiment launched aboard the new SpaceX Dragon cargo craft began operations this week. The research is studying the link between DNA alterations and weakened immune systems caused by the lack of gravity.

The crew began WetLab-2 validation operations this week. WetLab-2 is a research platform for conducting real-time quantitative gene expression analysis aboard the space station. It will allow scientists and crew members to accelerate the pace of research aboard the orbiting laboratory while saving time and cost.

Exercise is necessary to counter the muscle and bone loss associated with long-term space missions. Doctors are exploring high intensity, low volume space exercise techniques to prevent this loss as NASA plans human journeys beyond low-Earth orbit. The Sprint study, with operations set to begin this weekend, allows doctors to observe an astronaut’s skeletomuscular and cardiovascular system during an exercise session.

Hardware and sensors are being attached to crew members this week and will give scientists insights into an astronaut’s energy usage and metabolic rate. The 10-day experiment will provide an assessment of the energy requirements necessary to support an astronaut on a mission farther out into space.

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