NASA | Kate Rubins’ Space Station Science Scrapbook

As a child, Kate Rubins dreamed of being an astronaut and a scientist. During the past four months aboard the International Space Station, that dream came full circle. She became the first person to sequence DNA in space, among other research during her recent mission, adding to her already impressive experience. She holds a doctorate in molecular biology, and previously led a lab of 14 researchers studying viruses, including Ebola. Here’s a look back at Rubins in her element, conducting research aboard Earth’s only orbiting laboratory.

Kate inside Destiny, the U.S. Laboratory Module  


The U.S. laboratory module, called Destiny, is the primary research laboratory for U.S. payloads, supporting a wide range of experiments and studies contributing to health, safety, and quality of life for people all over the world. Destiny houses the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), in which Kate worked on the Heart Cells experiment.

Swabbing for Surface Samples

Microbes that can cause illness could present problems for current and future long duration space missions. Understanding what microbe communities thrive in space habitats could help researchers design antimicrobial technology. Here, Kate is sampling various surfaces of the Kibo module for the Microbe-IV investigation.

Culturing Beating Heart Cells in Space 


The Heart Cells investigation uses human skin cells that are induced to become stem cells, which can then differentiate into any type of cell. Researchers forced the stem cells to grow into human heart cells, which Rubins cultured aboard the space station for one month. Rubins described seeing the heart cells beat for the first time as “pretty amazing. First of all, there’s a few things that have made me gasp out loud up on board the [space] station. Seeing the planet was one of them, but I gotta say, getting these cells in focus and watching heart cells actually beat has been another pretty big one.”

Innovative Applied Research Experiment from Eli Lilly


The Hard to Wet Surfaces investigation from Eli Lilly, and sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), looks at liquid-solid interactions and how certain pharmaceuticals dissolve, which may lead to more potent and effective medicines in space and on Earth. Rubins set up vials into which she injected buffer solutions and then set up photography to track how tablets dissolved in the solution in microgravity.

Capturing Dragon


Rubins assisted in the capture of the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft in July. The ninth SpaceX resupply mission delivered more than two thousand pounds of science to the space station. Biological samples and additional research were returned on the Dragon spacecraft more than a month later.

Sliding Science Outside the Station


Science doesn’t just happen inside the space station. External Earth and space science hardware platforms are located at various places along the outside of the orbiting laboratory. The Japanese Experiment Module airlock can be used to access the JEM Exposed Facility. Rubins installed the JEM ORU Transfer Interface (JOTI) on the JEM airlock sliding table used to install investigations on the exterior of the orbiting laboratory.

Installing Optical Diagnostic Instrument in the MSG


Rubins installed an optical diagnostic instrument in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) as part of the Selective Optical Diagnostics Instrument (SODI-DCMIX) investigation. Molecules in fluids and gases constantly move and collide. When temperature differences cause that movement, called the Soret effect, scientists can track it by measuring changes in the temperature and movement of mass in the absence of gravity. Because the Soret effect occurs in underground oil reservoirs, the results of this investigation could help us better understand such reservoirs.

The Sequencing of DNA in Space


When Rubins’ expedition began, DNA had never been sequenced in space. Within just a few weeks, she and the Biomolecule Sequencer team had sequenced their one billionth “base” – the unit of DNA – aboard the orbiting laboratory. The Biomolecule Sequencer investigation seeks to demonstrate that DNA sequencing in microgravity is possible, and adds to the suite of genomics capabilities aboard the space station. .

Studying Fluidic Dynamics with SPHERES


The SPHERES-Slosh investigation examines the way liquids move inside containers in a microgravity environment. The phenomena and mechanics associated with such liquid movement are still not well understood and are very different than our common experiences with a cup of coffee on Earth. Rockets deliver satellites to space using liquid fuels as a power source, and this investigation plans to improve our understanding of how propellants within rockets behave in order to increase the safety and efficiency of future vehicle designs. Rubins conducted a series of SPHERES-Slosh runs during her mission.

Retrieving Science Samples for Their Return to Earth


Precious science samples like blood, urine and saliva are collected from crew members throughout their missions aboard the orbiting laboratory. They are stored in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS (MELFI) until they are ready to return to Earth aboard a Soyuz or SpaceX Dragon vehicle.

Measuring Gene Expression of Biological Specimens in Space

NASA’s WetLab-2 hardware system is bringing to the space station the technology to measure gene expression of biological specimens in space, and to transmit the results to researchers on Earth at the speed of light. Rubins ran several WetLab-2 RNA SmartCycler sessions during her mission.

Studying the First Expandable Habitat Module on the Space Station 



The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) is the first expandable habitat to be installed on the space station. It was expanded on May 28, 2016. Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room on a spacecraft, but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded. Rubins conducted several evaluations inside BEAM, including air and surface sampling.

Better Breathing in Space and Back on Earth  


Airway Monitoring, an investigation from ESA (the European Space Agency), uses the U.S. airlock as a hypobaric facility for performing science. Utilizing the U.S. airlock allows unique opportunities for the study of gravity, ambient pressure interactions, and their effect on the human body. This investigation studies the occurrence and indicators of airway inflammation in crew members, using ultra-sensitive gas analyzers to evaluate exhaled air. This could not only help in spaceflight diagnostics, but that also hold applications on earth within diagnostics of similar conditions, for example monitoring of asthma.

Hot Science with Cool Flames 


Fire behaves differently in space, where buoyant forces are removed. Studying combustion in microgravity can increase scientists’ fundamental understanding of the process, which could lead to improvement of fire detection and suppression systems in space and on Earth. Many combustion experiments are performed in the Combustion Integration Rack (CIR) aboard the space station. Rubins replaced two Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus (MDCA) Igniter Tips as part of the CIR igniter replacement operations.

Though Rubins is back on Earth, science aboard the space station continues, and innovative investigations that seek to benefit humans on Earth and further our exploration of the solar system are ongoing. Follow @ISS_Research to keep up with the science happening aboard your orbiting laboratory.




International Space Station | video – facebook

facebook – International Space Station

For 50 years, Star Trek has inspired generations of scientists, engineers, and even astronauts to reach beyond their grasp, to help create a future for humanity with limitless potential.

Warp drives, phasers, and transporters might be what you picture when you think of Star Trek. But some of the show’s other scientific concepts are actually being researched and utilized aboard humanity’s laboratory in the sky – The International Space Station.

Immagine EO della settimana Altopiano Putorana / ESA


L’immagine acquisita dal satellite Sentinel-2A ci porta sul paesaggio innevato dell’altopiano Putorana, nella parte settentrionale della Siberia Centrale.

L’area nella foto mostra parte della Riserva Naturale statale del Putorana, che è stata classificata dall’UNESCO come Patrimonio Mondiale dell’Umanità. Situato circa 100 km a nord del Circolo Polare Artico, il sito costituisce una importante tappa nella rotta migratoria delle renne – fenomeno naturale sempre più raro – ed è uno dei pochissimi centri dell’Artico con una ricchezza di specie vegetali.

Praticamente intatto all’influenza della specie umana, questo isolato sistema montuoso comprende foreste incontaminate, e laghi e sistemi fluviali di acqua fredda. I laghi sono caratterizzati da forme allungate che ricordano i fiordi, come mostra il lago Ayan nella parte centro-alta dell’immagine.

Effettuando un ingrandimento sull’area del lago, possiamo notare che esso appare in gran parte ricoperto di ghiaccio, con piccole chiazze di acqua che si affacciano lungo i corsi inferiori.

Un’altra caratteristica di quest’area sono le montagne dalle cime piatte, originate da un processo geologico – un tipo di vulcanismo – noto con il termine di ‘plume volcanism’: in pratica, un immenso corpo magmatico si è infiltrato attraverso la superficie terrestre formando una coltre di basalto di chilometri di spessore. Nel tempo, le fratture nella roccia si sono riempite d’acqua, formando, per erosione, i fiumi ed i laghi che vediamo oggi.

Source: Immagine EO della settimana Altopiano Putorana / ESA

NASA | Business Innovation Key to Commercial Crew Program’s Success


NASA spacecraft have long pushed the envelope on technological achievement, whether they carried astronauts into the vacuum of space the first time or tailored a robotic rover to explore a distant world. The Commercial Crew Program maintains those traits while helping to produce a sustainable model for spaceflight that serves NASA’s needs while including elements such as production efficiency, reusability and life-cycle costs.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program tailored requirements for a new generation of human-rated spacecraft to allow industry to create innovative design solutions, manufacturing processes, operational methods and engineering techniques. The result has been a series of components, systems and now spacecraft and rockets that will soon take astronauts to and from the International Space Station in a manner that is both cost-effective and reliable.

The work began in 2010 when NASA created initial developmental agreements with several companies to begin the design and testing of subsystems, such as life support equipment, launch abort systems and spacecraft. This was followed by a progressive series of Space Act Agreements and later contracts that became more detailed for larger and more complex spacecraft and launch vehicle systems. Today, NASA has contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to build and operate systems to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

“We set out from the start to give industry as much of a clean sheet as possible so they could use their expertise to design spacecraft and launch vehicles for both our missions and for their own spaceflight plans,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “And from the outset we received very creative ideas and original approaches to development of individual systems along with new processes used to build several spacecraft in rapid succession. The companies painted for us an exciting picture of innovation and we’ve worked together to first refine our requirements and now to ensure that they are met as the crewed vehicles are taking shape.”

The systems reflect cutting-edge use of technology, including the processes used to manufacture the hardware and for the crew to interface with the systems. Examples of this innovation include touch screens to control the spacecraft, 3-D printed spacecraft engine components, advanced thermal protection systems and pusher escape launch abort systems.

“We are extremely proud to have worked with eight aerospace companies over the years through the Commercial Crew Program. It is exciting to work with Boeing and SpaceX as they prepare to carry our astronauts to the Space Station while simultaneously collaborating with Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corporation on their human spaceflight systems,” said Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of Commercial Spaceflight Development. “In the last decade, we have seen the commercial human spaceflight marketplace mature. I believe in the next three to five years we will see multiple companies carrying people, not just NASA astronauts to and from space. This is an exciting time to be in the space business.”

At the heart of the innovation is an approach that is new to NASA’s human spaceflight programs, which calls on private industry to design, build and operate spacecraft and rockets along with all their related ground systems, control centers, and support infrastructure.



Source: Business Innovation Key to Commercial Crew Program’s Success

NASA | Prototype Capture System, Mock Asteroid Help Simulate Mission Sequence




A prototype of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) robotic capture module system is tested with a mock asteroid boulder in its clutches at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The robotic portion of ARM is targeted for launch in 2021.

Located in the center’s Robotic Operations Center, the mockup helps engineers understand the intricate operations required to collect a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid’s surface. The hardware involved here includes three space frame legs with foot pads, two seven degrees of freedom arms that have with microspine gripper “hands” to grasp onto the boulder.

NASA and students from West Virginia University built the asteroid mockup from rock, styrofoam, plywood and an aluminum endoskeleton. The mock boulder arrived in four pieces and was assembled inside the ROC to help visualize the engagement between the prototype system and a potential capture target.

Inside the ROC, engineers can use industrial robots, a motion-based platform, and customized algorithms to create simulations of space operations for robotic spacecraft. The ROC also allows engineers to simulate robotic satellite servicing operations, fine tuning systems and controllers and optimizing performance factors for future missions when a robotic spacecraft might be deployed to repair or refuel a satellite in orbit.

Source: Prototype Capture System, Mock Asteroid Help Simulate Mission Sequence

Rains of Terror on Exoplanet HD 189733b


This Halloween, take a tour with NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration site of some of the most terrifying and mind-blowing destinations in our galaxy. In this image, the nightmare world of HD 189733 b is the killer you never see coming. To the human eye, this far-off planet looks bright blue. But any space traveler confusing it with the friendly skies of Earth would be badly mistaken. The weather on this world is deadly. Its winds blow up to 5,400 mph (2 km/s) at seven times the speed of sound, whipping all would-be travelers in a sickening spiral around the planet. And getting caught in the rain on this planet is more than an inconvenience; it’s death by a thousand cuts. This scorching alien world possibly rains glass—sideways—in its howling winds. The cobalt blue color comes not from the reflection of a tropical ocean, as on Earth, but rather a hazy, blow-torched atmosphere containing high clouds laced with silicate particles.

More: Galaxy of Horrors


Source: Rains of Terror on Exoplanet HD 189733b

NASA’s SDO Catches a Lunar Transit


On Oct. 30, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced a partial solar eclipse in space when it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted one hour, between 3:56 p.m. and 4:56 p.m. EDT, with the moon covering about 59 percent of the sun at the peak of its journey across the face of the sun. The moon’s shadow obstructs SDO’s otherwise constant view of the sun, and the shadow’s edge is sharp and distinct, since the moon has no atmosphere which would distort sunlight.


From SDO’s point of view, the sun appears to be shaking slightly – but not because the solar observatory was spooked by this near-Halloween sight. Instead, the shaking results from slight adjustments in SDO’s guidance system, which normally relies upon viewing the entire sun to center the images between exposures. SDO captured these images in extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light invisible to human eyes. The imagery here is colorized in red.

Source: NASA’s SDO Catches a Lunar Transit

NASA Aircraft Arrival Technology Gets Big Test in 2017

Flight Bag
Flight Bag

Commercial airline pilots who as children played “Follow the Leader” will have no problem with a new air traffic control innovation NASA and its partners are working on that also will make passengers happier.

It’s called Flight Deck Interval Management, or FIM, and it promises to safely increase the number of airplanes that can land on the same runway at busy airports by more precisely managing the time, or interval, between each aircraft arrival.

Less time in the air also means additional savings in expensive jet fuel and reduced aircraft emissions. Even better: passengers would enjoy an increased chance their flights – connecting or otherwise – will arrive on time.

Flight Bag

Flight Bag

FIM is part of NASA’s Air Traffic Management Technology Demonstration-1– or ATD-1 – a coordinated effort involving NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and industry to develop and evaluate new technologies and procedures related to aircraft scheduling and airport arrivals.

A complex field demonstration of FIM involving NASA, the FAA and industry will be conducted in early 2017 over Washington State.

Today, current air traffic control technology and procedures can predict arrival times to within a minute or so. But FIM is expected to enable controllers and the airport to count on aircraft arriving within five to ten seconds of a predicted time.

The cockpit-based prototype FIM system combines NASA-developed software with commercially available off-the-shelf hardware and connects the system to the aircraft’s onboard information and navigation systems.

“FIM allows controllers to deliver the aircraft more precisely and more predictably, which is a huge advantage that helps the airlines and airport operators more efficiently manage air traffic to minimize delays,” said William Johnson, ATD-1 project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

Here’s how FIM is to work:

  • Relying on their experience and existing tools – some previously developed by NASA and turned over to the FAA for deployment – air traffic controllers determine the ideal goal for spacing aircraft as they approach the airport.
  • A controller then contacts the pilots of a particular aircraft, informing them of the spacing goal, the trajectory the aircraft should fly, and the ID of an aircraft ahead of them. This is where the idea of playing “follow the leader” comes into the picture.
  • The pilots then enter all of this information into the FIM system, which then computes a solution with the additional help of input from the airplane’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) unit. ADS-B is a satellite-based navigation tool that allows pilots to know where they and other ADS-B-equipped aircraft are at all times.
  • The result is a number displayed on FIM screens for the pilots to see that tells them what speed to fly so they can follow the specified aircraft a safe distance in front of them all the way down to the runway.

Air Traffic Management Technology Demonstration (ATD-1) 2017 Fli

“The FIM operation was designed to work in today’s modern commercial aircraft with minimal changes to the aircraft and flight crew procedures,” Johnson said.

At the heart of FIM is NASA software called ASTAR, or Airborne Spacing for Terminal Arrival Routes, which was successfully demonstrated in 2014 flying aboard Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator 787 aircraft.

During those “proof of concept” flight tests, ASTAR was operated on a laptop by a NASA engineer located in the main cabin of the airplane, who then radioed the speed commands to the pilots up in the cockpit.

For ATD-1 in 2017, ASTAR will be loaded into commercially available hardware, which is essentially flight hardened and certified personal tablets that will be installed on the flight deck in plain view of the pilots.

The field demonstration will take place over Seattle and encompass a fully coordinated effort involving NASA, FAA facilities, and three different aircraft: A Falcon 900 jet and Boeing 757 supplied by Honeywell, and a Boeing 737 provided by United Airlines.

The Honeywell 757 and United 737 will be equipped with the FIM system in its cockpits, where its pilots will “follow the leader” behind the Falcon.

After years of research and laboratory work, final preparations for the full airborne demonstration of FIM are well underway. Pilot orientations have already taken place and more are scheduled, while a major review of lessons learned so far will be presented to a joint NASA/FAA/industry committee during a four-day meeting beginning Oct. 31.

Source: NASA Aircraft Arrival Technology Gets Big Test in 2017

Expedition 49 Soyuz Spacecraft Landing | NASA

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 49 crew members NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016(Kazakh time). Rubins, Ivanishin, and Onishi are returning after 115 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 48 and 49 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 49 crew members NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016(Kazakh time). Rubins, Ivanishin, and Onishi are returning after 115 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 48 and 49 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 49 crew members NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, Russian cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos, and astronaut Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 (Kazakh time). Rubins, Ivanishin, and Onishi are returning after 115 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 48 and 49 crews onboard the International Space Station.

Source: Expedition 49 Soyuz Spacecraft Landing | NASA

Astronaut Kate Rubins, Crewmates Safely Return From the Space Station | NASA

NASA astronaut and Expedition 49 crew member Kate Rubins, who became the first person to sequence DNA in space, returned to Earth Saturday after a successful mission aboard the International Space Station.

Rubins and her crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, touched down in their Soyuz MS-01 at 11:58 p.m. EDT (9:58 a.m. Oct. 30, Kazakhstan time) southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan.

Rubins, who has a degree in molecular biology, contributed to several new studies taking place for the first time aboard the space station, including the Biomolecule Sequencer experiment. The ability to sequence the DNA of living organisms in space could enable astronauts to diagnose an illness, or identify microbes growing in the space station and determine whether they represent a health threat.

During her time on the orbiting complex, Rubins ventured outside the confines of the station for two spacewalks. During the first one on Aug. 19, she and NASA astronaut Jeff Williams installed the first international docking adapter. Outfitted with a host of sensors and systems, the adapter’s main purpose is to provide a port for spacecraft bringing astronauts to the station in the future. Its first users are expected to be the Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft now in development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. During her second spacewalk Sept. 1, Rubins and Williams retracted a spare thermal control radiator and installed two new high-definition cameras.

Together, the Expedition 49 crew members contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the world-class orbiting laboratory during their 115 days in space.

The trio also welcomed three cargo spacecraft delivering several tons of supplies and research experiments. Rubins was involved in the grapple of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft to the station in October, the company’s sixth contracted commercial resupply mission, and SpaceX’s Dragon ninth contracted mission in July. One Russian ISS Progress cargo spacecraft also docked to the station in July.

Rubins and Onishi have each spent a total of 115 days in space during their first mission. Ivanishin now has 280 days in space from two flights.

Expedition 50, with Shane Kimbrough of NASA in command and his crewmates Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos, will operate the station for three weeks until the arrival of three new crew members.

Peggy Whitson of NASA, Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos are scheduled to launch Nov. 17 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

Source: Astronaut Kate Rubins, Crewmates Safely Return From the Space Station | NASA