(Highlights: Week of Aug. 29, 2016) – It was a busy week on the International Space Station with aspacewalk and the preparation for NASA astronaut Jeff Williams’ return home. Before he finished his six-month stay, Williams and other crew members performed multiple tests and sample collections on themselves as part of important research on humans that could change the way we address health issues on Earth.
Human research is an important part of the space station mission, helping determine how the body reacts to long stays in microgravity. Williams made final measurements for the investigation Defining the Relationship Between Biomarkers of Oxidative and Inflammatory Stress and the Risk for Atherosclerosis in Astronauts During and After Long-duration Spaceflight (Cardio Ox). This study will look for signs of oxidative and inflammatory stress on cardiovascular health during and after spaceflight. Williams took ultrasound images of his heart upon arrival at the station and has taken a few more just days before his scheduled departure on Sept. 6. These images will be compared to more ultrasounds taken before his flight and others that will be taken soon after his return home. The investigation will define the cardiovascular risks associated with long journeys in space, help define treatments while in space and track the health care of space travelers in the years after their return home. It could also help identify new markers for those at risk for cardiovascular disease on Earth.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins completed her third session of the Skin-B investigation. The ESA (European Space Agency) investigation will improve understanding of skin aging, which is slow on Earth but accelerated in space. It will provide insight into the aging process in other similar bodily tissues and could help scientists identify the impacts on astronauts during future long-duration missions beyond low-Earth orbit where environmental conditions are more challenging.
Rubins measured the hydration level of her skin’s outer layer, the skin barrier function and the skin surface topography of her forearm. The data will be compared to measurements performed before she began her stay on the space station and those collected during her mission on orbit. Data gathered on the station can provide insight into the mechanisms by which all organs covered with epithelial and connective tissue adapt and age over time and under the physical stress imposed by the microgravity environment. Gaining an understanding of how biological tissue can change should allow for better diagnoses of skin problems and treatment on Earth.
The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) — installed on the outside of the space station — continued successful Earth observations by capturing images of dust clouds off the coast of Africa. The CATS light detection and ranging system measures the location, composition and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, aerosols and other particulates in the atmosphere using lasers. A better understanding of cloud and aerosol coverage over a long period will help scientists create a better model of Earth’s climate system and predict climate changes more precisely.
Progress was made on other investigations and facilities this week, including Mouse Epigenetics, ISS Ham, Biomolecule Sequencer, and the Multi-Purpose Small Payload Rack.