SpaceX-3 mission to return Dragon's share of Space Station science

June 5, 2011 – 08:44 am
SpaceX-3 mission to return Dragon's share of Space Station scienceAstronaut Rick Mastracchio works on the Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space-1 (AES-1) investigation during Expedition 38 aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

April launches bring May research returns. While the splashdown of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on May 18 will conclude the company's third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station, it also serves as a high point for the scientists who have investigations returning to Earth who are eager to complete their analyses.

When the Dragon spacecraft splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, it will carry with it more than 1, 600 pounds of scientific supplies. These supplies include samples from biology, biotechnology and physical science investigations, as well as human research.

SpaceX-3 mission to return Dragon's share of Space Station science"While some of this data can be obtained by on orbit analysis, many analysis techniques have not been miniaturized or modified to allow them to be performed on orbit, which means sample return is the only way to obtain this data, " said Marybeth Edeen, space station research integration office deputy manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

One of many studies returning examines drug-resistant bacteria to determine gene expression patterns and changes in microgravity. The Antibiotic Effectiveness in Space (AES-1) investigation uses E. coli to better understand the decreased effectiveness of antibiotics during spaceflight. The study is set on the premise derived from previous investigations that suggest bacteria are able to grow in space even in an antibiotic concentration that would normally deter growth.

"We intend to further corroborate these early findings and conduct more in depth genetic assays of the returned samples to get a better understanding of what might be responsible for this outcome, " said AES-1 principal investigator David Klaus, Ph.D., of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

As bacteria grow more resistant to antibiotics, there are less effective pharmaceutical treatment options for people with bacterial infections. The findings from AES-1 may help improve antibiotic development on Earth. Advancing the efficacy of antibiotics and reducing their resistance to bacteria is a priority for health care professionals.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide conducts an oxygen uptake measurement for the ENERGY study during Expedition 33 aboard the International Space Station. Credit: NASA


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