Floating Discoveries: University Researchers Find Results in Zero Gravity

Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A test tube drifting in midair and a computer tablet slowly turning are fun moments for the scientists who experience brief periods of weightlessness during parabolic flights. However, the science that’s taking place is no joke. NASA’s Flight Opportunities program makes it possible for U.S. researchers to take experiments out of their laboratories and into zero gravity for some for serious research with a bit of levity.

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Spaceflight Changes Your Brain Pathways

The International Space Station as it appears in 2018. Zarya is visible at the center of the complex, identifiable by its partially retracted solar arrays. (Credit: NASA)

by Alisson Clark
University of Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (University of Florida PR) — Brain scans of astronauts before and after spaceflight show changes to their white matter in areas that control movement and process sensory information, a University of Florida study shows.

The deterioration was the same type you’d expect to see with aging, but happened over a much shorter period of time. The findings could help explain why some astronauts have balance and coordination problems after returning to Earth, said Rachael Seidler, a professor with UF’s College of Health and Human Performance.

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New Shepard to fly 9 NASA-sponsored Payloads to Space on NS-10

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifted off July 18 carrying five NASA-supported technologies to flight test in space.

VAN HORN, Texas (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin’s next New Shepard mission (NS-10) is currently targeting liftoff tomorrow at 8:30 am CST / 14:30 UTC. This will be the 10th New Shepard mission and is dedicated to bringing nine NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.
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NASA Small Satellite Promises Big Discoveries

Dr. Reyhan Baktur, a co-investigator from Utah State University, poses with a glass component of UF-Radsat’s solar array. (Credit: Utah State University)

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — Small satellites provide a cheap, responsive alternative to larger, more expensive satellites. As demand grows, engineers must adapt these “nanosatellites” to provide greater data returns. NASA, in collaboration with educational partners, targets 2021 for the launch of an innovative CubeSat that addresses these challenges.

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University Research Teams Validate Payload Performance on ZERO-G Parabolic Flights

University of Florida students work on revolutionary approach for efficient microgravity transfer line chilldown experiment. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Several payload proposals selected from NASA’s Research Announcement: Space Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion (REDDI) 2016 solicitation flew as part of a Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) parabolic flight campaign during two weeks in March 2017.

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ZERO-G Research Flights Advance Technology for Future Deep-Space Missions


ORLANDO, Fla,
April 6, 2017 (Zero-G PR) – As part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G®) recently worked with research groups from University of Florida, Carthage College and University of Maryland to validate technology designed to further humanity’s reach into space. A collection of flights on G-FORCE ONE, ZERO-G’s specially modified Boeing 727, gave researchers the chance to run experiments and test innovative systems in the only FAA-approved, manned microgravity lab on Earth.

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NSRC Day 3 Summary

Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)
Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems’ Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference finished up today in Colorado. There were provider presentations from Masten Space Systems and Virgin Galactic. Three researchers also presented results from suborbital microgravity flights.

Below are summaries of the sessions based on Tweets.
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CASIS Releases FY 2015 Annual Report

CASIS_2015_Annual_Report_CoverMELBOURNE, Fla. (CASIS PR) — We are pleased to share with you the FY2015 CASIS Annual Report.

As the managers of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, The Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) works closely with NASA and ISS National Lab partners to maximize the impact of research and development on the ISS to directly benefit life on Earth. Inside this year’s report you will find many signals of progress, as well as, unique perspectives from diverse ISS National Lab users.

FY2015 highlights include:

  • Receiving significant outside investments in ISS National Lab programming, including an agreement from the National Science Foundation to commit $1.8 million toward an ISS National Lab sponsored program, a $550,000 grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for flight and education projects, and more than $250,000 from the Boeing Company to match a CASIS partnership with the Mass Challenge Accelerator program.
  • Growing non-traditional user demand—the ISS National Lab reached full capacity for allocated crew time for research that was both scientifically and economically reviewed for Earth benefit.  These users included organizations like Merck, National Institutes of Health (NIH),  iExpressGenes, RasLabs, Massachusetts Institutes of Technology (MIT), Novartis. Visidyne and University of Florida.
  • Conducting the first-ever mouse bone-density scans in orbit—improving the capability to study bone and muscle loss in rodent models. Studying rodent models in space has been identified by researchers as an accelerated pathway to better treatments for osteoporosis and muscle atrophy on Earth.
  • Mounting of the first commercial platform on the exterior of the ISS for commercial testing of research payloads, sensors, and electronic components in space—created and sponsored by the ISS National Lab commercial service provider NanoRacks, LLC.

Process Converts Human Waste into Rocket Fuel

Pratap Pullammanappallil poses in his lab next to an anaerobic digester, which turns human waste into rocket fuel. (Credit: University of Florida)
Pratap Pullammanappallil poses in his lab next to an anaerobic digester, which turns human waste into rocket fuel. (Credit: University of Florida)

By Brad Buck
University of Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Buck Rogers surely couldn’t have seen this one coming, but at NASA’s request, University of Florida researchers have figured out how to turn human waste — yes, that kind — into rocket fuel.

Adolescent jokes aside, the process finally makes useful something that until now has been collected to burn up on re-entry. What’s more, like so many other things developed for the space program, the process could well turn up on Earth, said Pratap Pullammanappallil, a UF associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

“It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel,” Pullammanappallil said.

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