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What Science is Launching to Space?

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The tenth SpaceX cargo
resupply mission is targeted to launch to the International Space Station on Feb. 18, and it will carry science ranging from protein crystal growth studies
to Earth science payloads. Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights heading
to the orbiting laboratory.

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The CASIS
PCG 5
investigation will crystallize a human monoclonal antibody,
developed by Merck Research Labs, that is currently undergoing clinical trials
for the treatment of immunological disease. Results from this investigation
have the potential to improve the way monoclonal antibody treatments are
administered on Earth.

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Without proteins, the human
body would be unable to repair, regulate or protect itself. Crystallizing
proteins provides better views of their structure, which helps scientists to
better understand how they function. Often times, proteins crystallized in microgravity
are of higher quality than those crystallized on Earth. LMM
Biophysics 1
 explores that phenomena by examining the movement of
single protein molecules in microgravity. Once scientists understand how these
proteins function, they can be used to design new drugs that interact with the
protein in specific ways and fight disease.

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Much like LMM Biophysics
1, LMM
Biophysics 3
 aims to use crystallography to examine molecules that
are too small to be seen under a microscope, in order to best predict what
types of drugs will interact best with certain kinds of proteins. LMM
Biophysics 3 will look specifically into which types of crystals thrive and
benefit from growth in microgravity, where Earth’s gravity won’t interfere with
their formation. Currently, the success rate is poor for crystals grown even in
the best of laboratories. High quality, space-grown crystals could improve
research for a wide range of diseases, as well as microgravity-related problems
such as radiation damage, bone loss and muscle atrophy.

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Nanobiosym Predictive
Pathogen Mutation Study (Nanobiosym
Genes
) will analyze two strains of bacterial mutations aboard the
station, providing data that may be helpful in refining models of drug
resistance and support the development of better medicines to counteract the
resistant strains.

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During the Microgravity
Expanded Stem Cells
 investigation, crew members will observe cell
growth and morphological characteristics in microgravity and analyze gene
expression profiles of cells grown on the station. This information will
provide insight into how human cancers start and spread, which aids in the
development of prevention and treatment plans. Results from this investigation
could lead to the treatment of disease and injury in space, as well as provide
a way to improve stem cell production for human therapy on Earth.

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The Lightning Imaging Sensor
will measure the amount, rate and energy of lightning as it
strikes around the world. Understanding the processes that cause lightning and
the connections between lightning and subsequent severe weather events is a key
to improving weather predictions and saving life and property. 

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From the vantage
of the station, the LIS instrument will sample lightning over a wider
geographical area than any previous sensor.

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Future robotic spacecraft
will need advanced autopilot systems to help them safely navigate and
rendezvous with other objects, as they will be operating thousands of miles
from Earth. 

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The Raven (STP-H5
Raven
) studies a real-time spacecraft navigation system that provides
the eyes and intelligence to see a target and steer toward it safely. Research
from Raven can be applied toward unmanned vehicles both on Earth and in space,
including potential use for systems in NASA’s future human deep space
exploration.

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SAGE
III
 will measure stratospheric ozone, aerosols, and other
trace gases by locking onto the sun or moon and scanning a thin profile of Earth’s atmosphere.

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These
measurements will allow national and international leaders to make informed
policy decisions regarding the protection and preservation of Earth’s ozone
layer. Ozone in the atmosphere protects Earth’s inhabitants, including humans,
plants and animals, from harmful radiation from the sun, which can cause
long-term problems such as cataracts, cancer and reduced crop yield.

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Tissue Regeneration-Bone
Defect (Rodent
Research-4
) a U.S. National Laboratory investigation sponsored by the
Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) and the U.S. Army
Medical Research and Materiel Command, studies what prevents other vertebrates
such as rodents and humans from re-growing lost bone and tissue, and how
microgravity conditions impact the process. 

Results will provide a new
understanding of the biological reasons behind a human’s inability to grow a
lost limb at the wound site, and could lead to new treatment options for the
more than 30% of the patient.

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Source: NASA

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What Science is Launching to Space?

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