Station crew investigates quality of space-faring life with studies on cabin air, food systems

Space Algae in Veggie facility.
Space Algae culture bags are pictured after installation in the Veggie Facility. Image Credit: NASA
Today, Expedition 56 crewmates balanced work on science investigations in between housekeeping duties aboard the International Space Station.

The crew retrieved samplers as part of the Aerosol Sampling Experiment that had been deployed the day before in Nodes 1 and 3. After connecting them to chargers, they were redeployed for a second round of sampling. The battery-powered samplers pull in air and collect particles through thermophoresis, a process in which different particle types exhibit different responses to the force of a temperature gradient. The collected cabin air particles are later returned to Earth so investigators can study them with powerful microscopes.

The Veggie facility amped up production with an additional six space algae culture bags installed by the astronauts for future studies. The Space Algae investigation will further NASA’s understanding of how plants respond and grow in spaceflight using state-of-the-art omics approaches. Algae may perceive microgravity as a physical stress, which can trigger the production of high-value compounds. Scientists plan to sequence whole genomes of the space-grown algal populations to identify genes related to growth in spaceflight and evaluate how their composition changes in low-Earth orbit.

In addition, the crew continued the organization, packing and loading of items slated for return on SpaceX’s Dragon early next month.

Space enthusiasts should tune in to NASA Television this week as the Saint Louis Science Center and NASA’s Stennis Space Center each host educational downlinks as part of NASA’s Year of Education on Station. The Earth-to-space call with the Saint Louis Science Center happens July 18 at 12:20 p.m. EDT and will include summer campers ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Second to 10th graders participating in ASTRO CAMPs in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas will get their turn to engage with station residents about living and working in microgravity the following day, July 19, at 11:30 a.m. with Stennis hosting. Watch the events unfold live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.

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