One of the main functions of the International Space Station (ISS) is to provide a venue for scientific research on a multitude of subjects that benefit from investigation in a microgravity environment. To ring in the New Year, NASA released a roundup of some of the biggest scientific discoveries made on the ISS in 2021.
Much of the research done on the ISS focuses on health issues that affect both astronauts and people on the ground. Some of the experiments performed in human health included studying bone loss, which is a problem for astronauts who stay in space long-term and do not have the effects of gravity on their bearing bones. Bone loss is also a problem for people on Earth with various medical conditions, especially the elderly. A to study Using data from the ISS has predicted bone loss based on biomarkers and exercise history, which may help identify astronauts particularly at risk for bone loss. In the long run, it could also help create better exercise programs for astronauts.
Another health to study of the Russian space agency Roscosmos looked at cardiovascular health, in particular the evolution of the structure of the veins of the legs in microgravity. He found that being on two separate space missions didn’t make this problem worse if there was enough time in between and if they had good muscle health, which means astronauts can protect themselves. cardiovascular problems in space while exercising.
Further stem cell investigation looked at how microgravity affects cardiovascular stem cells and found that being in microgravity brought cells back to a state of previous development, potentially improving the cells’ ability to regenerate and survive. If researchers can figure out how to trigger this effect on Earth, it could be invaluable in treating a wide range of conditions and replacing damaged cells or tissues.
Other work on the space station looked for ways to help astronauts survive on long-term space missions, such as future missions to Mars. A big problem in such missions is that astronauts and electronics are outside the Earth’s magnetosphere and are therefore exposed to ionizing radiation. This radiation is dangerous for health and also interferes with electronics. A experience of the Japanese space agency JAXA studied materials for radiation shielding and found that adding a mineral called colemanite to a polymer helps reduce the absorption of radiation by the polymer. This could help build better radiation shielding for use both in space and in harsh environments on Earth.
For even more examples of the scientific work being done on the ISS this year, visit the NASA website.