Sent Into Space: CASIS Research Aboard CRS-5, and a Reality Series Too

As astronauts aboard the International Space Station begin unloading the SpaceX CRS-5 Dragon supply ship which berthed yesterday, here is a press release from CASIS detailing experiments which were carried aboard.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL. (January 10, 2015) – The most recent series of payloads sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) were successfully launched to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) Dragon capsule. CASIS is tasked with managing and promoting research onboard the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. Research onboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule includes a range of experiments sponsored by CASIS from the life sciences and education fields.

Below is an overview of the major payloads sponsored by CASIS:

Flatworm Regeneration: Dr. Mahendra Jain, Kentucky Space

Dr. Mahendra Jain, principal investigator for Kentucky Space, has proposed an experiment to study regeneration in planarians, which are flatworms capable of rebuilding body organs and nervous systems after damage. In partnership with Dr. Michael Levin of Tufts University, Dr. Jain will examine the effects of the space environment on these enhanced healing abilities. Gravity, and the lack thereof, influences the way cells behave and their ability to rebuild tissue. Studying planarians in space may reveal new aspects of how cells rebuild tissue, which could lead to breakthroughs in medical treatments for humans. For example, regenerative medicine has the potential to treat conditions like Parkinson’s, heart disease, or lost limbs.

T-Cell Activation in Aging:

Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford, San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, NCIRE.

Recently it has been discovered that there is altered miRNA expression in spaceflight and Dr. Hughes-Fulford and team hypothesize that altered miRNAs expression may provide new pharmaceutical targets for treatment of immune disease. Their goal is to elucidate the molecular basis of suppression of T-cell activation in microgravity, including identification of regulatory miRNA expression (with gene targets) which cause immunosuppression in astronauts and the elderly. This is a project also funded by both the National Institutes of Health and NASA.

Additionally, CASIS is a national sponsor of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program and is directly responsible for funding nine of the student payloads.Many of these payloads were originally lost on the Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, which suffered an anomaly during launch in October.

“Congratulations to our launch partner, SpaceX, on a successful launch to the ISS,” said CASIS Director of Operations and Education Ken Shields. “The research sent to the station today outlines the role and responsibility of CASIS to send impactful research capable of benefiting life on Earth, as well as providing access to student researchers and fostering a new era of scientists and engineers.”

Note: There is little doubt that CASIS has gotten off to a very slow start, as its own people readily admit. Indeed, most Americans have probably never heard of the organization or have any idea what it does. A bit of change may be in the works in the form of a new reality series by Znak&Jones. Unlike other more problematic, and far more expensive proposals which would see people sent into orbit (or even to Mars) in some form of the inescapable “reality” television format, this series has more practical ambitions. Called Sent Into Space, and being developed with CASIS, it would focus on testing ideas and inventions instead.

“Znak&Jones and CASIS already have developed the first show under their collaboration — competition format Sent Into Space. It features modern-day inventors vying for their cutting-edge creations to be tested in space on the ISS. Hopefuls will make their sell to a panel of experts comprised of top flight specialists and ex-astronauts, showing what benefits the tests of their gadgets might have for mankind. “For the very first time, this format will give ordinary Americans the once in a lifetime opportunity to pitch their wildly imaginative and over-the-top inventions to some of the most prestigious experts in the world,” Znak said. “It’s essentially Shark Tank in space!”

The full story is here.

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