SpaceX is targeting June 29 as the launch date for its next cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. At 5:41 a.m. EST (0941 GMT), a previously used Dragon cargo ship will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, ferrying a fresh batch of research experiments and supplies to the orbital outpost.
This flight will mark the 12th launch this year for SpaceX and its 15th overall cargo resupply mission. In a media teleconference on June 11, NASA provided a preview of the research payloads expected to be delivered to the station later this month.
The research presented here today represents but a few of the hundreds of experiments that will be supported by this cargo resupply mission," David Brady, assistant program scientist for the International Space Station Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said during the teleconference.
Here's a look at some of the weird science aboard the Dragon spacecraft, which includes a new cancer-fighting drug, a rodent research investigation and a look at how algae and bacteria react to the space environment.
On the ground, the therapy has proven to be incredibly effective in mice. The drug not only targets tumors but also the blood vessels that support them. Much like healthy cells in cases of heart attack or stroke, when the blood vessels connected to a tumor die, the tumor dies along with it.
Previous work has shown that endothelial cells do not grow very well in space. So, this experiment will further explore how endothelial cells grow in a microgravity environment and measure how those cells respond to the treatment.
Adapting to space flight
As part of the CRS-15 mission, a crew of 20 brave astronauts will fly to the space station to help researchers better understand the brain-gut connection. Researchers know that the population of bacteria in your gut has an impact on your overall health.
As missions become longer and humanity ventures farther out into space, it's essential that we understand how spaceflight affects humans' microbiome. This is the longest spaceflight experiment for rodents to date, allowing researchers to look at what the long-term changes are in response to spaceflight. But they're not just looking at the gastrointestinal tract's microbiome.
Future space food
As missions become longer, and we venture farther out into space, crews are going to need to be able to grow their food. Doing so would cut down on the supplies they would have to bring, and it also has health benefits.
With the addition of the Veggie plant growth chambers on the space station, NASA has a way to ensure that crews have access to fresh foods, which so far has consisted predominantly of lettuce.
More effective waste treatment
Microbial fuel cells are an excellent way to treat wastewater. They can offset power needs by simultaneously producing electricity while processing waste. As humans embark on future long-duration missions, they will need a higher degree of self-sustainability. Microbial-assisted processes can help provide that, the researchers said.