Crew Looks at Plants and Mice for Health Insights

Astronaut Tim Peake
Astronaut Tim Peake from the European Space Agency talks to science and space journalists gathered at The Royal Institution in London, England. Credit: NASA TV

Today, the crew is observing how the lack of gravity affects plants and rodents. NASA is using the observations to improve the health of astronauts in space and humans on Earth.

The crew is stowing plant samples harvested for the Plant Gravity Sensing botany study to understand how roots sense gravity. The samples are being inserted into a science freezer for return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon next week. Results may help astronauts grow their own food while living in space.

Rodents are also being observed in a habitat designed to house them in space. The Rodent Research-3 experiment is studying how space changes the musculoskeletal system and if an antibody that prevents muscle weakening on Earth works in space.

Dragon is still being loaded with gear and science for analysis on the ground. The private space freighter will be removed from the Harmony module and released from the Canadarm2 robotic arm for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean May 11.

May Starts With Botany, Genetic Study and Dragon Packing

Commander Tim Kopra
NASA astronaut Tim Kopra, commander of Expedition 47, floats inside the Russian segment on Cosmonautics Day 2016.

The Expedition 47 crew began May exploring botany, genetic analysis and life science. SpaceX is also getting ready for the May 11 release and splashdown of its Dragon spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams harvested and fixated plants grown for the Plant Gravity Sensing study. Scientists seek to understand the chemical process that guides the direction of roots and how they sense gravity. Williams is also validating the new WetLab-2 system hardware to extract RNA from a cell sample in microgravity.

British astronaut Tim Peake swapped gear on a specialized microscope that can download imagery and video to scientists on the ground. Peake also saved data collected from an armband for the Energy study then moved on to the Rodent Research study that observes muscle and bone loss in space.

Commander Tim Kopra and Williams are packing and securing cargo inside Dragon for return to Earth next week. SpaceX engineers on a ship will retrieve the Dragon in the Pacific Ocean and return it to a port in southern California. The gear and research will be returned to NASA for analysis.