Published: 
Dec 16, 2021

Paving the Way to Thriving in Space

In late December, SpaceX-24 will deliver a payload to the International Space Station. Three new experiments that will help scientists better understand specific biological and physical phenomena will be on board.

“It’s really exciting when we get to conduct new investigations aboard the Space Station,” said Dr. Craig Kundrot, Director of NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division. “What these three experiments have in common is each will contribute fundamental scientific insights that will both enable our astronauts to thrive on their future long-range missions and provide tangible benefits to people on Earth.”

Weightless woman wearing white gloves uses white cloth to wipe the surface of walls in the International Space Station.
Astronaut Megan McArthur doing MT-3 sampling.

Growing plants in harsh conditions:

The Plant RNA Regulation Redux in Multi Variable Platform (MVP-Plant-01) experiment will profile and monitor a plant’s shoot and root development under microgravity conditions. The results of this experiment will help scientists better understand the molecular mechanisms and regulatory networks behind how plants sense and adapt to environmental changes. Ultimately, the findings could help scientists design plants that will be able to withstand adverse environmental conditions, both during long spaceflights and here on Earth.

Protecting crew from disease-causing bacteria and fungi:

The Quantifying Selection for Pathogenicity and Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria and Fungi is a Microbial Tracking Study (Microbial Tracking-3 or MT-3) investigation. This continues a series of experiments that focus on pathogenicity (the ability to cause disease), antibiotic resistance in potentially disease-causing bacteria, and fungi present on the Space Station. The investigation aims to identify, analyze, and characterize pathogenicity, antibiotic resistance, and genomics to augment NASA’s GeneLab. The goal is to characterize microbes associated with closed habitation and predict which ones may pose a threat to crew health.

Studying crystal growth could lead to high-powered lasers:

Growth of Ternary Compound Semiconductors (MSL SCA-GTCS) is an experiment that will start by growing zinc selenide (ZnSe) semiconductor crystals in microgravity.

ZnSe-based crystals have potential applications for high-power lasers operating in infrared wavelengths. This investigation will compare the structural quality of crystals grown on Earth to those grown in microgravity to establish how gravity-driven fluid flows contribute to the formation of various types of crystalline defects.

About BPS

NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division pioneers scientific discovery and enables exploration by using space environments to conduct investigations not possible on Earth. Studying biological and physical phenomenon under extreme conditions allows researchers to advance the fundamental scientific knowledge required to go farther and stay longer in space, while also benefitting life on Earth.