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NASA Sends Full Roster of Experiments Aboard SpaceX's 26th Ride

From Tomatoes to Blood Tests, the ISS Resupply Will Keep 'Em Busy For a While

The latest Commercial Resupply Mission from SpaceX, slated for November 18th, is shaping up to have a full scientific manifest.

The flight will mark the 26th mission for the spacefaring contractor, delivering a few unusual research materials regarding nutrition and survival as they look to extend the food supply above. The first, an effort to grow fresh vegetables in space, has borne small yields of Red Robin Dwarf Tomatoes in the Veg-05 unit. Reportedly, they've been growing efficiently so far, paving the way for a fresh, nutritious, and palatable option aside from freeze-dried fare in the future.

“We are testing tomatoes, looking at the impacts of light spectrum on how well the crop grows, how delicious and nutritious the tomatoes are, and the microbial activity on the fruit and plants,” says Gioia Massa, NASA Life Sciences project scientist and VEG-05 principal investigator. “We also are examining the overall effect of growing, tending, and eating crops on crew behavioral health. All of this will provide valuable data for future space exploration.”

Medical nerds may remember prior projects to bolster diagnostic capability aboard the ISS, much like the upcoming Moon Microscope set for delivery later this month. The system will allow the ISS crew to use a compact microscope and sampling system in order to send hematology imagery back home for diagnosis, allowing for a higher standard of care that will be much more impossible when a return to earth is months away. During the experiment, NASA personnel will analyze stressors and immune responses in the crew to see how the system would work in an emergency. NASA stressed that the kit isn't being sent in response to any particular problem, merely what could happen in a far off future. 

“We do not have a profound clinical problem on the space station, but crew members do experience changes in their immune systems,” says NASA immunologist and principal investigator Brian Crucian. “During deep space missions, all stressors increase and our ability to care for the crew is reduced, a combination that could increase certain clinical risks. This project is designed to create a diagnostic laboratory capability that is highly miniaturized and compatible with microgravity and operational constraints. An ill crew member could perform the blood smear, imaging, and transmission of images in minutes.”



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