SpaceX delivers new science experiments to ISS to explore origins of life on Earth

SpaceX delivered a fresh round of science payloads to the International Space Station that will explore topics such as how to minimize microbial contamination inside spacecraft.

SpaceX delivers new science experiments to ISS to explore origins of life on Earth
This scanning electron microscopic image shows a biofilm, colored to show cells of Staphylococcus capitis (round orange knobs), a bacteria species isolated from the International Space Station, embedded in the biofilm matrix (larger blue rod-shaped figure), part of the preflight experiments for Biofilms. (Image credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR))

A new round of scientific experimentation is set to begin in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station.

For its 27th commercial resupply mission (CRS-27), SpaceX delivered a fresh round of science and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission saw a SpaceX Cargo Dragon launch on Tuesday (March 14) at  8:30 p.m. EDT (0030 GMT on March 15) atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

CRS-27 is carrying thousands of pounds of research, maintenance supplies and crew necessities to Expedition 69 crew members aboard the ISS. The space-bound experiments include: Two tissue chip studies; a high schooler-built camera hardware demonstration; an investigation into more efficient carbon dioxide absorption; a study examining different antimicrobial surfaces; and an experiment that could potentially shed light on the origins of life on Earth. 

About the size of a large thumb drive, tissue chips contain living segments of engineered heart tissue suspended in a 3D matrix that can used to test responses to various stimuli in microgravity such as drugs, genetic changes and other stress factors. The final two tissue chips are part of an ongoing program between the National Center for Translational Sciences and the ISS National Lab and will be used in the Cardinal Heart 2.0 and Engineered Heart Tissues-2 research studies.

According to NASA, the predecessor to the first of those experiments affirmed hypotheses that microgravity can have a detrimental effect on heart tissue. Cardinal Heart 2.0 provides researchers an opportunity to test the heart tissue's response to preventative drugs in space, which will possibly be able to treat other heart conditions for people back on Earth. 

Engineered Heart Tissues-2 will also test therapies to prevent the negative effects of microgravity on the heart. This experiment looks further into the similarities between the cardiovascular system response in low Earth orbit (LEO) and terrestrial age-related heart diseases. Researchers hope these findings will lead to ways of preventing that type of decay before it starts.