NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station have a rocket full of interesting supplies headed their way.
As NASA wrote on Instagram, the Cygnus is delivering all the normal supplies—like food and body care products—that the six ISS inhabitants need to survive. But it is also taking “materials supporting over 250 current and future science investigations” to the orbital lab.
NASA Will Investigate Ways to Make Life More Sustainable Both on Earth and in the Cosmos
So what are these “science investigations” the administration is writing about?
One is a “Colgate Skin Aging” test that will “study cellular and molecular changes in engineered human skin cells in microgravity.”
Microgravity is the weak gravity that astronauts experience while living on the ISS. The state can cause changes in their bodies that are similar to aging but “happen much more quickly.”
So because the process is accelerated in space, it can be more easily studied there than on Earth.
The “MicroQuin 3D Tumor” project is also shooting into space. The NASA scientists will use it to “examine effects of a therapeutic on breast and prostate cancer cells.”
Apparently, microgravity allows cancer cells to grow in a “more natural 3D model.” Because of that, scientists can get a better understanding of their cellular characteristics. And they can also better see the effects that certain drugs have on those cells.
And thanks to the Cygnus, NASA will also test its XROOTS system. XROOTS will use “hydroponic (water-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques to grow plants, reducing overall system mass.”
Currently, astronauts use soil or another “growth medium” for their space farming. But the traditional method does not bode well on the space station because of size, maintenance, and sanitation issues.
“This approach is much more mass efficient for future large-scale plant growth systems in space,” says principal investigator John Wetzel of Sierra Nevada Corporation.
For those of you who are interested, you can also watch the Cygnus spacecraft dock on the International Space Station.
When the delivery finally arrives, NASA astronaut Raja Chari will lead a team as they use the station’s robotic arm to grab and park the rocket.
The spacecraft should get to the ISS on Monday, Feb 21st at 4:35 am ET. If you’re an early bird, you can watch the process on nasa.gov/live.