What We Learned from the Space Station this Past Year


As the International Space Station enters its third decade of continuous human presence, the impact of microgravity research conducted there keeps growing. The months between Nov. 2020 and Nov. 2021 saw publication of more than 400 scientific papers based on studies aboard the orbiting lab.

Here are some highlights of recent results from groundbreaking space station science:

More stem-ness in stem cells

moving image of an astronaut working with an experiment

Former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson conducts operations for the Cardiac Stem Cells investigation.Credits: NASA

Spaceflight can affect cardiac function and structure, and scientists know that cardiovascular stem cells respond to these changes but do not clearly understand the biological basis for this response. NASA’s Cardiac Stem Cells investigation delved into how microgravity affects cardiac stem cells and the physical and molecular changes that govern their activity.

On Earth, cardiovascular stem cells, also known as cardiovascular progenitor cells or CPCs, can continually divide to produce more of the same type of cells or develop into other specialized cell types. In newborns, these cells develop into a greater variety of types of cardiovascular cells and produce greater numbers of cells than the same cells in the adult heart. That capability suggests that newborn or neonatal heart cells have the potential to be used to repair and replace worn out or damaged heart tissues.

According to a research study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, this investigation revealed that space flight gives both adult and neonatal cells more “stemness,” which may improve their regeneration, survival, and proliferation. Understanding how to trigger this return to an earlier developmental state could have immense benefit in the field of regenerative medicine. This growing field uses stem cells and tissue engineering to regrow, repair, or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs, and tissues. Long-duration microgravity, a unique research variable offered by the space station, could provide a tool to activate stemness in adult CPCs.

Reducing radiation exposure

image of experiment hardware

This image shows the ExHAM facility attached to the Japanese Experiment Module Airlock (JEMAL) slide table, which isused to move the facility to the exterior of the space station. Material samples are visible attached to the facility’s sides.Credits: NASA

ExHAM-Radiation Shielding, an investigation from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), evaluates how the space environment affects materials that could be used to shield future spacecraft from cosmic rays and other types of ionizing radiation.

Researchers discovered that adding the mineral colemanite (a type of borax that forms when alkaline waters evaporate) to a polymer reduced the amount of radiation the material absorbed. Samples exposed to space radiation showed no significant difference from those that were not subjected to these harsh conditions. The compound could provide better radiation protection for satellite technology, low-Earth orbit stations, and high-altitude planes. These materials have potential applications in harsh environments on Earth as well.

Mighty miniature miners

image of microbe cells

This preflight image shows a biofilm of a microbe, Spingomonas desiccabilis, growing over and into the surface of basaltfor the Biorock experiment, which examined the effects of altered gravity on the interactions of rock, microbes, and liquid.Results suggest that biomining can work in microgravity and may be even more effective than it is on Earth.Credits: ESA

The electronics and alloy production industries use microorganisms to mine economically important elements from rocks. Results of an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency) suggest that this technique, known as biomining, could be as or even more effective on the Moon and Mars as on Earth.

Biorock demonstrated that microbes can extract rare Earth elements from basalt (a common rock on the Moon and Mars) in space. The team revealed in a recent paper that microbes may perform even better in microgravity, reporting an increase of as much as 283% in vanadium biomining on the space station. That means we could use biomining to extract elements needed to sustain humans independently of Earth.

Mining with microbes reduces the need for chemicals that can be damaging to the environment, uses very little energy, and is compact, an important consideration for deep space exploration and its limits on the materials that can be brought from Earth.

A closer look at cement

image of two astronauts working on an experiment

NASA astronauts Anne McClain and Serena Auñón-Chancellor during operations for the MICS experiment, which examinedsolidification of cement in microgravity.Credits: NASA

Humans who go to the Moon or Mars to stay need to be able to construct safe places in which to live and work. Concrete, the most widely used building material on Earth, is strong and durable enough to provide protection from cosmic radiation and meteorites, and it might even be possible to make it using materials available on these celestial bodies. The MICS investigation mixed cement powders with various additives and amounts of water to examine the chemistry and microscopic structures involved in the solidification process and determine whether changes in gravity might affect it.

paper in the journal Construction and Building Materials reports results from some of those tests. In mixtures of tricalcium aluminate and gypsum, microgravity caused unique microstructures, including striations or lines in the gypsum. These striated microstructures were highly porous and trapped air, which could affect the strength of the material. Samples mixed on Earth showed more developed microstructure with a higher degree of hydration. These findings could contribute to the development of new materials for the construction of extraterrestrial habitats and improved materials on Earth.

Another investigation currently under way on station, Redwire Regolith Print, also works toward that goal. That experiment tests using a material that simulates regolith, or the loose rock and soil found on the Moon and Mars, to create objects via 3D printing with the station’s Made In Space Additive Manufacturing Facility.

Getting a leg up on cardiovascular issues

image of experiment of hardware

Roscosmos Plethysmograph Unit used for the Cardio-ODNT investigation of leg vein health. Plethysmography measureschanges in volume in specific areas of the body, including the blood vessels.Credits: NASA

Cardio-ODNT, an investigation from the Russian space agency Roscosmos, examined leg vein health in crew members on two 6-month spaceflight missions. Previous studies have demonstrated that vein structure can change shortly after arrival to the space station, primarily from the hips down.

Published results show that participating in two missions did not worsen leg vein health so long as the crew members had substantial time between flights and good muscular health in their lower extremities, which supports vein structure and function. The findings suggest that physical exercise could provide an effective countermeasure for space-related cardiovascular issues.

Earth’s atmosphere at night

image of experiment telescope

The Mini-EUSO telescope during assembly.Credits: JEM-EUSO

Roscosmos-ASI Mini-EUSO is generating data with potential applications for responding to climate effects, marine pollution, geomagnetic disturbances, space debris, and meteors. A multipurpose telescope designed to operate at night, Mini-EUSO is part of JEM-EUSO, a larger program involving about 300 scientists from 16 countries working to enhance the observation of cosmic rays. The telescope observes atmospheric phenomena such as lightning-like Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), meteors, Strange Quark Matter (SQM), and cosmic ray showers. It could be a first step toward mapping space debris for potential removal via laser and supports creation of a dynamic map of nocturnal ultraviolet emissions from Earth.

paper published in The Astrophysical Journal reports that six months of operation indicate that Mini-EUSO operates as expected, measuring variations in airglow and ultraviolet emissions from Earth and tracking space debris and ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays. 

Predicting and preventing bone loss

image of an astronaut being examined

This image shows preflight collection of baseline bone density data from Canadian Space Agency(CSA) astronaut David Saint-Jacques for the TBone study, which assessed the effect of space flighton bone quality using high-tech measurements of bone density and structure.Credits: NASA

Long-duration spaceflight poses a risk to the health of crew members’ bones, particularly the weight-bearing ones. Researchers for NASA’s Biochem Profile and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) TBone investigations examined changes in microarchitecture, density, and strength of bones in the lower leg and arm during spaceflight and the relationships among mission duration, biochemical markers associated with bone resorption and formation, and exercise.

Their findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggest that bone loss in some astronauts could be predicted by elevation of certain biomarkers preflight and that bone biomarkers and exercise history can help identify astronauts at greater risk for bone loss. Crew members who increased their resistance training during flight were more likely to preserve bone strength, but whether current in-flight exercise regimes are sufficient warrants further examination. These findings also have relevance for understanding how exercise affects bone loss on Earth such as that caused by reduced mechanical loading due to injury, disuse, or disease.

Characterizing sooty flames in space

image of a round flame

A flame ignited as part of Flame Design, which investigates the amount of soot that is produced in different conditions.The yellow spots are soot clusters that glow yellow when hot. These clusters grow larger in microgravity than on Earthbecause the soot remains within the flame longer.Credits: NASA

Flame Design, part of the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) project, studies the production and control of soot. Because soot can adversely affect the efficiency and emissions from flames and equipment lifetime, results could lead to more efficient and cleaner burner designs. The experiment is conducted with spherical flames of gaseous fuels in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR).

Researchers reported a number of observations in a paper published in Combustion and Flame Journal, including rate of growth in flames, coupling of burner heating and flame radius, oscillations as flames start to go out, relationship between fuel flow rates and flame temperature, and irradiance in flames with increasing or nearly constant peak gas temperature. These observations enhance the understanding of fire behavior and could help keep people safer in spacecraft and on Earth.

Blue jets, blue bangs, and better atmospheric models

image of a glowing blue column

A blue jet reaching 30 km upwards into the stratospherecaptured by ASIM’s instruments on the space station.Credits: DTU Space, ESA, NASA

ESA’s ASIM, an observation facility on the outside of the space station, is used to study severe thunderstorms and their role in Earth’s atmosphere and climate. The work has revealed the mechanism behind the creation of the bright flashes we call lightning and helped researchers to determine the sequence of events that produces high-energy terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs.

Recently published results add to our understanding of the physical properties of another atmospheric phenomenon – blue jets, or the electric discharges generated by disturbances of positively and negatively charged regions in the upper levels of the clouds. ASIM measurements show that blue jets may originate with a “blue bang” in a cloud top. The study also shows that the explosive onset and the jet itself both are made primarily of streamer ionization waves, with only faint signatures of leader activity that would be expected for normal lightning. By helping scientists better understand how thunderstorms affect Earth’s atmosphere, ASIM contributes to better atmospheric models and meteorological and climatological predictions.

Check out what we learned from the space station in 2020. Keep up with current research by following @ISS_ResearchSpace Station Research and Technology News or our Facebook.

Melissa Gaskill
International Space Station Program Research Office
Johnson Space Center

Last Updated: Dec 27, 2021

Editor: Ana Guzman

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Adrian Mann
December 29, 2021 2:15 am

That pic at the top of the ISS is pretty old – there’s much more recent ones showing how it actually looks – https://www.space.com/international-space-station-photos-crew-dragon-astronauts

Ron Long
December 29, 2021 2:53 am

Good report and good astronauts working on the Space Station. The other thing we “learned” was that President Obama cancelling the Space Shuttle, and transferring the funding elsewhere, was a bad idea, but one typical of the liberals.

Reply to  Ron Long
December 29, 2021 7:28 am

It was Bush that cancelled the Space Shuttle. Obama did the muslim outreach thing.

Ron Long
Reply to  guest
December 29, 2021 11:37 am

You’re correct. Sorry for my faulty impression.

Reply to  Ron Long
December 29, 2021 8:38 pm

You might be thinking of Soetoro killing the Orion Project.

Reply to  Ron Long
December 29, 2021 8:39 pm

The Space Shuttle Program was rightfully cancelled. It’s a miracle only two blew up.

Zig Zag Wanderer
December 29, 2021 3:44 am

Just imagine trying to maintain the ISS without fossil fuels. Then try and imagine building it without fossil fuels.

Go on, stick a windmill on the front. She’ll be jake!

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
December 29, 2021 5:45 am

and the rockets to get them there- with only clean and green energy?

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 29, 2021 10:26 am

Yep, for the most part they burn LOX and LH2, but usually that’s reserved for upper stages where mass is more critical. LOX ad CH4 (methane) are preferred for booster stages where mass is less important than upper stages. A good bit of the mass of the booster is used during the initial seconds just to get the beastie moving in the right direction.
Furthermore most stages burn LOX rich as there is more mass getting squirted out the back end. These are big impulse rockets. They throw mass out the … backside as fast as they can. Just the same as any water rocket. Only difference they use burning propellant to power the pumps and get even more trust from combustion in the nozzle. Most people don’t realize the enormity of the power of those pumps that can drain an Olympic sized pool in seconds.

So… LOX/LH2 makes steam and rain, and LOX/CH4 makes steam, rain and CO2.

Not too many nasty hypergaulics used anymore. They were chosen for long self life and non-cryogenic in ICBM’s. They sometimes get used for satellites for the same reasons in their orbital correction motors.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
December 29, 2021 8:43 am

Well, the currently-active Delta IV launch vehicle (both the Medium and Heavy versions) use only liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants for the first stage(s) and upper stage.

I can imagine building all of the parts needing for a Delta IV-class of vehicle, as well as the equivalent of the ISS itself, using electrical energy produced by nuclear power plants and chemical energy produced by combustion of hydrogen with oxygen. I’m not saying that such would be easy.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
December 29, 2021 11:55 am

Good imagination. What materials? Bakelite?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
December 29, 2021 12:59 pm

No, ZZW, just all the standard ones, like steels, superalloys, aluminum alloys, copper wires and copper combustion chamber liners, glasses, plastics, printed circuit boards, semiconductors and ICs and other electrical/electronic parts, insulation materials (thermal and electrical), etc . . . you know all those things that are needed.

Guess what, there are even synthetic lubricating oils that are not derived from fossil fuels.

Bottom line: there is not a single part or fluid needed to build/operate a LOX/LH2 rocket launch vehicle that cannot be manufactured without needing to use fossil fuels, including going all the way back to extracting minerals/chemicals from the ground.

It’s just that because using fossil fuels to do such has resulted in all the current necessary infrastructure that is in place to do such . . . it’s just so much more convenient and less expensive.

You see, sometimes you have to use your imagination to think “outside the box.”

December 29, 2021 3:56 am

Two (2) experiments that were performed that I am particularly interested in but the links only offered a very brief summary are in a paper published in Combustion and Flame Journal and the other one being Observation of the onset of a blue jet into the stratosphere. Both are pay walled so I guess results of taxpayer funded research is secret or only for the academic elite and not us common plebes.

Reply to  eyesonu
December 29, 2021 4:22 am

The diffusion flame paper isn’t on Scihub yet. Anyway, I’m worried that candles might not work on ISS when its lights go out.

Reply to  Scissor
December 29, 2021 11:14 am

You can stop worrying, they won’t.
Candle flames rely on convection currents to supply oxygen for combustion (hence the shape). In 0g, thermal expansion causes expansion of the surrounding air, but there is no gravity acting on the expanded gasses surrounding the flame so it will be spherical. With no density gradient caused flow, the surrounding air quickly depletes its oxygen and goes out. Interestingly it will continue to burn ONLY if you continue blow on it. Pressurized jets and mixed flows is another situation all together.

Reply to  eyesonu
December 29, 2021 5:35 am

In addition to my comment above, I would also like to see the full report/paper of the same combustion and flame related results of any testing done here (on Earth) in a gravity field. That had to be done to develop such a well thought out test aboard the Space Station.

Inquiring minds want to know and should not be restricted by a pay-wall.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  eyesonu
December 29, 2021 5:47 am

wow, I knew there are countless journals, but “Combustion and Flame”— amazing

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 29, 2021 9:56 am

Sorry JZ that I didn’t write it exactly correct as I was quoting from the link. But even more concerned that you didn’t understand. I’lll be much more careful in the future to help you along.

Reply to  eyesonu
December 29, 2021 9:58 am

JZ, please note that I misspelled I’ll above. That’s just for you.

December 29, 2021 4:36 am

dear nasa,
what i find notable is the one acre of the pv array needed to keep a half dozen humans alive and in relative comfort. scale that up to say 5 billion humans here on earth and get back to me on the viability of solar. also note no mention in the article of an experiment about the magic molecule.


Reply to  joe
December 29, 2021 7:32 am

And that is only to just keep them alive. Industrial production and transportation needs are not included.

December 29, 2021 4:47 am


“BEIJING, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Chinese citizens lashed out online against billionaire Tesla (TSLA.O) founder Elon Musk’s space ambitions on Monday after China complained that its space station was forced to take evasive action to avoid collision with satellites launched by Musk’s Starlink programme.”

Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 29, 2021 5:11 am

And it looks like Starlink is too slow. Is this a train-wreck?

Reply to  bonbon
December 29, 2021 7:39 am

Musk said that the current satellites are not up to the task and that the new satellites can only be launched by getting the Starship/Super Heavy on a two week launch schedule by the end of next year. This seems doubtful as there have been environmental objections raised to SpaceX activities at Boca Chica. S/SH has not even had a suborbital test. SpaceX requires a revenue stream from Starlink or will face bankruptcy.

Then there is the Tesla shareholder lawsuit concerning the acquisition of insolvent SolarCity.

So Musk has a lot of “challenges” ahead of him in 2022.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 29, 2021 5:52 am

The chinese complainers should appreciate that Musk is making EVs in their country.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Krishna Gans
December 29, 2021 9:11 am

The Chinese Communist Party sees Starlink as a threat to its control over Internet access and content in China. They will seek to demonize Starlink and will press the U.N. for an international convention that requires Starlink to shut off its service over sovereign territory.

Tom Abbott
December 29, 2021 4:57 am

They talk about leg vein problems and bone loss due to living in microgravity, and they offer a few solutions or say the leg vein problem didn’t get worse, but they are missing the main point, which is that humans are not suited to live for long periods of time in microgravity.

Recent findings show brain damage to astronauts who have spent a lot of time in microgravity. There’s no exercise that will cure this.

What will prevent the brain damage, and the bone loss, and the leg vein problems is to have the astronauts live in a one-Earth-gravity environment in space. This can be accomplished using space habitats that rotate sufficiently to produce centrifugal force inside the habitat equivalent to the gravity on the surface of the Earth.

There is a private company that intends to put a space habitat in orbit in a couple of years that will use this technique. Think: 2001: A Space Odyssey”, and the rotating wagon wheel-shaped space station.

The private company’s space habitat won’t be as large as the one in the movie, and probably won’t be supplying a full Earth gravity. The movie space station was a mile in diameter, and was rotated at one revolution per minute, and this produced artificial gravity inside the space station equivalent to the gravity on the Earth’s surface.

Rotating habitats are the future for humans living in space safely.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 29, 2021 5:21 am

There is another more serious problem – the refusal to accept we must bring a biosphere with us, and that means the Schumann Resonance – numerous reports exist on brain and cellular effects.
This resonance is low frequency EMF, a part of our biosphere at least since the O2 transition (lightning).
For example :
The effect of low-frequency electromagnetic field on human bone marrow stem/progenitor cell differentiation

Reply to  bonbon
December 29, 2021 7:42 am

Biosphere II was never able to work successfully on Earth.

Reply to  guest
December 29, 2021 9:17 pm

I dunno, Bud & Doyle were able to turn it around.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 29, 2021 5:59 am

“Think: 2001: A Space Odyssey”, and the rotating wagon wheel-shaped space station.”

Ah, yes, which I watched at a drive in theater back in ’69 on my first acid trip- from which I never came down. :-}

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
December 30, 2021 4:56 am

That’s where I saw it the first time, too, the local Drive-In Movie place.

I think we were drinking scotch at the time. 🙂

Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 29, 2021 7:41 am

If you are thinking about that proposal from The Gateway Foundation, forget it. It is a scam. YouTuber CommonSenseSkeptic has skewered it.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  guest
December 30, 2021 4:57 am

I don’t remember exactly which company is proposing the artificial gravity space station, so I can’t comment one way or the other.

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 29, 2021 11:56 am

Never understood why, in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the flight attendants bothered with the sticky shoes. You’d think that people routinely spending days in microgravity would just swoop and fly around the ship with the grace of acrobats.

Of course, the reason for it in the movie is that it would have been very expensive to film that way, unless they had room in the budged for a few days on the Vomit Comet.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  James Schrumpf
December 30, 2021 4:58 am

I think you answered your own question. 🙂

old engineer
Reply to  Tom Abbott
December 30, 2021 12:18 am

The rotating wagon wheel was standard fare in the science fiction of the 1950’s.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  old engineer
December 30, 2021 4:59 am

Yes, it was.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  old engineer
December 30, 2021 5:16 am

Of course, we don’t need a wagon wheel space station to generate artificial gavity.

All we really need are a couple of habitat modules, and a strong cable one mile long. We put one module on each end of the cable, and then we rotate the modules around the common center at one revolution per minute, and this will generate the equivalent of one Earth gravity inside the two habitat modules.

My formula for this is: 1+1=1. One mile in diameter, plus one revolution per minute, equals one Earth gravity equivalent (my too cute formula doesn’t work using meters :).

Plus, various planetary gravities could be simulated using a rotating habitat setup like this. At the center of the cable, it would be microgravity like on the Internationsl Space Station, and as you move farther away from the center, the artificial gravity increases, and you can simulate the gravity of the Moon and Mars depending on where you position yourself along the cable. Any gravity can be simulated from microgravity to one Earth gravity.

December 29, 2021 5:03 am

No mention of AMS-02?
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Hits Ten Years of Space Station Research

AMS-02 was intended to find Dark Matter, an incredible Cosmic Ray instrument.
It sure looks like they found no evidence, and it is being re-purposed as a tool for studying space weather and its impact on satellite communications.

Danley Wolfe
December 29, 2021 5:35 am

Is there any way to filter blogs forwarded to us. WUWT is turning into a reforwarder of other blogs second hand often not on the subject of climate change / global warming. I read Judith Curry and others so it becomes mailbox clutter.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Danley Wolfe
December 29, 2021 8:50 am

To answer your question directly: yes, there is!

When you read a WUWT blog that appears to your brain to be identical to a blog you read somewhere else, stop reading.

I have no issues whatsoever with the articles WUWT chooses to publish . . . original or forwarded.

Reply to  Danley Wolfe
December 29, 2021 11:44 am

Well Danley, can’t you find something worthwhile to bitch about. Maybe you can find it in my spelling or punctuation. Did you spell your name correctly?

Reply to  Danley Wolfe
December 29, 2021 12:12 pm

The blog name isn’t good enough for you?

Watts Up With That?

December 29, 2021 5:44 am

That I still don’t care about it.

Mark - Helsinki
December 29, 2021 6:21 am

Good read

The first one though on “Stemness”, uch made up words, “which may improve their regeneration”.

“which may improve their regeneration” after reading the paper, is nothing but a dreamy wishful outcome. I wish they would stop doing this, the paper shows no such evidence

Peta of Newark
December 29, 2021 7:41 am

Well that’s a damn near complete waste of time and money.
Is there any point to that thing apart from profligate expense, virtue signalling and willy waving
Admit peeps, even the normally gushasious science commentatrs here at wwwt are struggling.

Apart from, what are those poor little microbes clinging to their precious (and it is -unimaginably so) piece of rock as though their lives depended on it

Yes they do = all our lives depend on the little green shit clinging to gently dismantling Basalt rock

That green slime basalt should be in a layer at least 2″ thick covering everywhere on This Earth that might by any chance called = A Desert
then we’ll see some Climate Change – Holy Cow – we will blown away by the change.

Adrian Mann
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 29, 2021 10:43 am

Want to see a total and complete waste of time and money? Visit your local place of worship. Why not have a pop at chewing gum, cosmetics and cosmetic surgery? Pornography? 99% of popular culture? Guns? That’s what real waste of time and money looks like. As for the money spent on space, all of it stays here on Earth. It pays the salaries of engineers and scientists, construction workers, technicians and all the countless suppliers, supporting families and communities. Dollar bills are not shovelled into capsules and shot off into space.
Just because you don’t find it interesting or useful doesn’t mean it isn’t – that’s just your opinion, which I am informed you are are entitled to. Your opinion, is, however, wrong.

Thomas Gasloli
Reply to  Adrian Mann
December 29, 2021 1:32 pm

Your list of wastes were personal voluntary expenditures. The space station is coerced government waste.

Reply to  Adrian Mann
December 29, 2021 9:21 pm

Guns? That’s what real waste of time and money looks like.

Ok, continue believing that. Commie.

Oh and you attack places of worship. Definitely a Commie.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 29, 2021 11:23 am

The meek shall inherit the earth.
The brave shall inherit the stars!

BTW a wimp can best 2 meeks.

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Peta of Newark
December 29, 2021 12:03 pm

Come on, just admit it. We all want to know what sex in space is like.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  James Schrumpf
December 29, 2021 1:59 pm

We all want to know what sex in space is like

Probably very cold and very short-lived.

Now, sex in zero g, that’s another story. I imagine pretty much the same, with more need for grabbing on to each other, and less strain on knees and elbows.

Gordon A. Dressler
December 29, 2021 8:33 am

I am all for doing fundamental scientific research, and the ISS is an appropriate platform for performing such in the near-Earth, microgravity (more or less) environment. So, first off, I applaud the world for helping to put up the space station and keeping it healthy for some 30 years of operation.

However, this anniversary also brings back memories of the numerous promises by NASA for the “Commercialization of Space” that was to follow directly (and supposedly rather quickly) once the ISS became manned on a continuous basis. We were assured back then that numerous new super-drugs and marvelous new materials—enabled by, for instance, growing crystals/solidifying material in microgravity environments—would follow and soon appear in wonderful new technology on Earth.

Among many things promised, I specifically remember the promotion that metal balls for ball bearings produced by solidification of molten metal in the ISS microgravity environment would eventually “rule the day” because they would be so “perfectly spherical.” Hah!

In fact, in the early years of manned ISS operations, NASA was so sure that industries would be stampeding to do experiments/manufacturing aboard ISS that they established an outrageously expensive, in hindsight, series of separate charges for volume, energy, telemetry and astronaut-attendance of commercial experimental payloads put into ISS. Industrial demand for experiments aboard ISS quickly evaporated thereafter.

AFIK, there has not been any major technology development, generally benefitting the planet’s population, that is traceable to research conducted aboard ISS. You know, something along the lines of Teflon that is attributed (erroneously) as being a direct outcome of America’s race to the Moon.

Oh, and this last comment: note the confusion engendered in the paragraph immediately above the subsection titled “Mighty miniature miners” in the above article. It states:
“Researchers discovered that adding the mineral colemanite (a type of borax that forms when alkaline waters evaporate) to a polymer reduced the amount of radiation the material absorbed . . . The compound could provide better radiation protection for satellite technology, low-Earth orbit stations, and high-altitude planes. These materials have potential applications in harsh environments on Earth as well.”
I cannot reason any possible way that reducing the amount of radiation a given material absorbs can lead to better radiation protection for satellite technology, low-Earth orbit stations, and high-altitude planes. Did the NASA author(s) of the article just mean to say that colemanite is a much better radiation absorber than “a polymer” it is added to? Stop the presses!

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
December 29, 2021 10:37 am

Um, reducing the radiation a material absorbs is just a fancy way of saying they’ve increased its reflectivity (I assume in specific wavelengths). Perhaps stating it this way might spark your mind as to why reflectivity might be an advantage against radiation exposure.

All too often the general public forgets what everyday life was like before the space program.
When was the last time you saw a waxed coated potato chip bag?

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 29, 2021 12:05 pm

Whither Tang?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  James Schrumpf
December 29, 2021 1:30 pm
Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 29, 2021 1:28 pm

Hey, reflecting cosmic rays! . . . why the heck didn’t I think of that?

“Cosmic radiation is one of the greatest dangers for people travelling into space. Cosmic ray particles are charged particles that are highly energetic. They are a form of ionizing radiation. This type of radiation is dangerous to people and machines in space. When these particles collide with the particles of other objects, they can split their molecules. This can result in the formation of secondary particles, such as neutrons and other subatomic particles.”—source: https://letstalkscience.ca/educational-resources/stem-in-context/radiation-and-human-space-exploration

Aluminized multi-layer Insulation (MLI), as commonly used on spacecraft to reflect >99% visible-IR radiation from the Sun (and even from Earth) has, ahem, not been shown to be at all effective in reflecting cosmic radiation.

And I have no reason whatsoever to believe colemanite would be more capable of reflecting cosmic radiation than any other material.

Stating it this way has not “sparked my mind” to retract any of my previous comments on the subject.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 29, 2021 1:34 pm

Oh my god yeah. Where would we be without plastic junk food packaging? Untold lives saved right there.

Anton Eagle
Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 30, 2021 11:05 am

As far as I know, you can’t “reflect” high energy radiation. Once something gets up into the ionization range (~ 1 eV or higher) reflecting simply isn’t happening. At kV and MV ranges, shielding is done completely by absorption not reflection. That said, the absorption of high energy photons, electrons, or ions will then often produce secondary and tertiary emissions that can propagate back towards the source or lateral to the source, and that might look a little like reflection… but it’s not.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
December 30, 2021 11:31 pm

I don’t buy that reasoning. Fill a container with mass and measure absorbtion and reflection. Then you decrease the amount of mass in the same container until it contains vacuum and measure absorption and reflection. What would the mechanism be causing the vacuum structure to have a higher reflection?

I think there simply is an error in the article probably caused by an unfinished edit of the sentence.

Boron is known to be a very good neutron absorber. I don’t know if it also absorbs other types of cosmic particle radiation.

Gary Pearse
December 29, 2021 1:26 pm

“this investigation revealed that space flight gives both adult and neonatal cells more “stemness,” which may improve their regeneration, survival, and proliferation.”

Does this mean we may have been “designed” to undertake long space journeys? This change in cellular characteristics must have been latently available to human progenitors! Woo, that gives me the willies!

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 29, 2021 4:50 pm

Gary asked: “Does this mean we may have been ‘designed’ to undertake long space journeys?”

Larry Niven nailed the answer: you can thank the Pak (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pak_Protector )

Thomas Gasloli
December 29, 2021 1:28 pm

Sorry, but this seems like A LOT OF MONEY TO LEARN NOTHING. Man space exploration makes no sense. Anything that can be learned by men in space can be learned without the excessive cost of men in space.

It really is time for space sciences to be science instead of sci-fi.

Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
December 29, 2021 8:03 pm

What the Mars observer has “learned” in in entire life time on Mars could be accomplished by a competent geologist (areologist?) in1 month.
That sad old saw regarding not needing humans in space has been toted about for as long as we’ve had humans in space and astronomers weren’t receiving as much funding.

I designed and built systems for both. I was on the team that convinced NASA to give up wings in space and return to capsules. I was also on the team that assembled and tested JWST.
Why exactly are we looking into space for if not to go there? Eventually we have to leave the library.

December 29, 2021 3:10 pm

Sidestepping from space station to space telescope …

The Webb telescope will study infrared light from celestial objects with much greater clarity than ever before.

Yay – an IR space telescope to look at stars and things far, far away. They must emit a lot of IR radiation to allow us to detect them by IR all the way across the universe.

But wait a minute – in our global warming catechism we were taught that suns like ours don’t emit IR. They emit only in the visible range corresponding with their surface temperature. That’s why IR is not blocked on its way in – there isn’t any – only blocked on the way out from earth surface thermal emissions. Thus the “heat trapping” by deadly CO2.

So the Webb telescope won’t see anything, right? Since stars don’t emit IR.

But if stars do emit IR, it means that CO2 in the atmosphere will expel incoming solar IR, meaning that CO2 decreases incident TSI (total solar irradiation) – that means a cooling effect.

Huh! That wasn’t in the catechism.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
December 29, 2021 8:08 pm

For quite some time, neither was heliocentrism.

The first thing we should wonder at as we peer towards the stars is how little we know.

December 30, 2021 10:34 am

I really think the whole thing would be a lot safer of someone with basic understanding of best practice in aerospace electrical wiring installation went up there are tidied up and secured the wirong. That mess of knitting would never pass the most basic of safety inspections. Take a look at the picture of it. Accident waiting to happen? Perhaps the mission critical stuff is better secured…. hope so.

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