The space station crew studies immunology, genetic expression and space production

Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman

This image from the International Space Station as it flew over Iran 261 miles away looks southeast across the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Well-lit areas along the coast are cities located in the countries of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Credit: NASA Johnson

The seven-member crew of Expedition 64, consisting of five astronauts and two astronauts, will spend the rest of the year conducting valuable space exploration on the International Space Station.

A review of scientific research from Tuesday explored the phenomena of space biology and physics for the benefit of human health and production. The results of these microgravity studies could also encourage the commercialization of space.

The crew today looked at small organisms, including microbes and fruit flies, to gain insight into immunology and genetic expression. These experiments will return to Earth on January 11 to analyze when SpaceX The Cargo Dragon detached from the Harmony module and slammed down into the Atlantic Ocean.

Weightlessness can increase microbial virulence, and the Micro-14A study is trying to understand why. Astronauts observe the opportunistic pathogen Candida albicans in a human cell host to see how it adapts to space. The results could help doctors quantify health risks to space crews and formulate countermeasures.

The Genes in Space-7 study examines the central nervous system of fruit flies for space changes in genetic expression. The lack of a day and night cycle in space can create cognitive changes in the molecular pathways that scientists want to follow. Tracking changes in neural systems in space will help scientists understand how the biological clock adapts to long-term space missions.

Several physics studies are underway at the station to promote the production of high-quality optical fiber that only microgravity can provide. Optical fiber samples were replaced today in the Microgravity Science Glovebox for an optical fiber production study that tests commercial production at the station. A secondary experiment, Space Fibers-2, investigates a customized fiber-making method that operates autonomously in its own specialized device that can be tested on Earth.

The 2,400-pound NanoRacks Bishop research air chamber is now part of the Tranquility module in orbit in the lab and will be activated and pressurized to operate later. Bishop will increase the station’s capacity for private and public research, and will also enable the launch of larger satellites and the transfer of cargo inside and outside the station.