Space Stations

NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 December, 2020 – Exploring Heart Cells, Muscles

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
December 17, 2020
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NASA Space Station On-Orbit Status 16 December, 2020 – Exploring Heart Cells, Muscles
Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Kate Rubins conducts heart research.

Space biology was the dominant research theme aboard the International Space Station today.
The Expedition 64 crew explored heart cells, muscles and more to understand how microgravity impacts the human body.

The Cardinal Heart study has been under way all week with the crew observing engineered heart tissue samples through a microscope in Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The samples are being processed inside the Life Sciences Glovebox to help researchers understand and treat abnormal heart cells and tissues that can lead to disease both on Earth and in space.

The lack of gravity aboard the space station means astronauts exert less energy when moving around the orbiting lab resulting in muscle atrophy. Daily exercise offsets this loss and keeps crew members healthy and strong during long term missions and prepares them for the return to Earth after months of living in space.

The Myotones study taking place today seeks to understand the biochemical properties of muscles exposed to weightlessness. Analysis of ultrasound scans and blood samples taken from crew members could give scientists insights into muscle conditions caused by lack of movement and aging.

Organ transplants are critical on Earth especially with demand exceeding supply. Doctors are exploring generating cell growth in three dimensions and creating artificial organs in space since Earth’s gravity limits this growth. The new Space Organogenesis study ongoing this month uses the space station to enable 3D cell growth to promote regenerative technology and someday support patients on Earth who need transplants.

On-Orbit Status Report


Cardinal Heart: The crew continued the Cardinal Heart experiment with additional tissue chamber microscopy. One of the goals was to find beating cells within the cell culture wells of interest and take short videos of them. Effect of Microgravity on Drug Responses Using Engineered Heart Tissues (Cardinal Heart) studies the effects of change in gravitational force on cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue level using engineered heart tissues (EHTs). Microgravity significantly affects heart tissues that perform work and exert an opposite force to gravity and is known to cause molecular and structural abnormalities in cells and tissues that can lead to disease. The investigation could provide new understanding of similar heart issues on Earth and help identify new treatments.

Fiber Optic Production (FOP): The crew exchanged a processed sample assembly with a new one. The FOP investigation creates optical fibers with high commercial value aboard the ISS using a blend of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum called ZBLAN. It operates in the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG). Extensive theoretical studies along with a limited number of experimental studies suggest that ZBLAN optical fibers produced in microgravity should exhibit far superior qualities to those produced on Earth. The resulting optical fiber from FOP is expected to help verify these studies and guide further engineering efforts to manufacture high value optical fiber in large volume aboard the ISS.

Myotones: The crew gathered blood samples in support of the Myotones investigation. The Myotones investigation observes the biochemical properties of muscles during long-term exposure to the spaceflight environment. Results from this investigation are expected to provide insight into principles of human resting muscle tone, which could lead to the development of new strategies for alternative treatments for rehabilitation both on Earth and for future space missions.

Rodent Research (RR): The crew performed the activities necessary to restock RR Habitats 1, 2, 6, and 8. The habitats are currently being used to support Rodent Research-10 and Rodent Research-23. RR-10 is a study looking at tissue degeneration/regeneration in microgravity, specifically the CDKN1a/p21 pathway and its role in tissue regeneration. RR-23 looks at changes to the eye which occur as a result of microgravity. At least 40 percent of astronauts experience vision impairment known as Spaceflight-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS) on long-duration spaceflights

Space Organogenesis: The crew performed the ops necessary to close out the microscope used for the Space Organogenesis experiment. The Development of Advanced 3D Organ Culture System Utilizing the Microgravity Environment (Space Organogenesis) investigation demonstrates growth of organ buds from human stem cells in three-dimensional (3D) cultures in microgravity. Researchers plan to use these cultures to observe growth of the organ buds and analyze changes in gene expression. This experiment represents an important first step toward growing artificial organs.


Critical Bus Loss: On Saturday 4B Channel experienced a critical bus loss. Ground controllers cross-tied Channel 4B to 4A and repowered DDCU S14B and DDCU S04B. Critical system loads were recovered including CMG 4, KU Band A/G 2 and AMS control computer. Teams met to discuss cause and determined that the anomaly was caused by a Fault Detection Isolation & Recovery (FDIR) that is intended to protect the Lithium Ion batteries from overcharging in the event of a BCDU failure. On Tuesday, Channel 4 BCDU 4B3 and 4B2 were successfully activated. BCDU 4B1 was activated today and the system is back in nominal configuration.

Extravehicular Activity Mobility Unit (EMU) Swap: The crew swapped EMU 3004 to the forward EMU Don/Doff Assembly (EDDA) and moved EMU 3015 to the aft EDDA. They also removed a Service and Cooling Umbilical (SCU) from the Umbilical Interface Assembly (UIA) and packed the unit for return to ground.

Completed Task List Activities:

Microscope reposition
ISS Experience hardware stow
Today’s Ground Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

EVA SCU removal/pack for return
Payloads ops support
Look Ahead Plan

Thursday, 12/17 (GMT 352)

Astrobee, Bio-Monitor remove, Cardinal Heart, Food Acceptability, ISS Experience, Monoclonal Antibodies, MSRR/MSL SCA exchange, Myotones, Nanoracks Platform 2, Repository, Rodent Research, Standard Measures, UWMS, Vascular Aging

OBT Sidekick
EVA SCU activation/checkout
Friday, 12/18 (GMT 353)

FIR/LMM/ACE module config, Astrorad Vest, Bio Monitor stow, Fiber Optic Production, Food Acceptability, Food Physiology, ISS Experience hardware stow, J-HDTV cover remove and J-SOISS install, JEM Microbe, Micro-14A, Myotones, Standard Measures

EVA Airlock restow
Saturday, 12/19 (GMT 354)

Cardinal Heart, Micro-14A, MVP2-Cell-06 replace, Rotifer-B2

Sunday, 12/20 (GMT 355)

Cardinal Heart, Plant Habitat-02 leaf sample, Micro-14A inoculation/reservation

Dragon cargo transfer ops, Node 3 Port CBCS installation/removal
Today’s Planned Activities:
All activities are complete unless otherwise noted.

Astrobee OBT review
HRF Generic Saliva Collection 10 Minutes
HRF Generic MELFI Sample Retrieval And Insertion Operations
Myotones Blood Tube Centrifugation
Rodent Research Habitat Restock
Myotones Centrifuge Spin Conclude
Myotones Sample MELFI Insertion
XF305 Camcorder Setup
JEM Airlock Slide Table (ST) Extension to JPM Side
Myotones Blood Collection Conclude And Stow
IMS Audit of 3.0 ??? Huggies No.4014 (b/c 00154061J) (b /c 00154061J)
JEM AL Passive Capture Mechanism P045A Cable Routing Correction
EFU Adapter Earth Camera Removal
Weekly c/o of RS video recording equipment
HRF Generic Urine Collection Male
HRF Generic MELFI Sample Insertion Operations
Bio-Monitor Wearables Change Out
Rodent Research Habitat Restock
CARDIOVECTOR. Experiment Ops Tagup with specialists
JEM Airlock Slide Table (ST) Retraction from JPM Side
Node 3 AC Inverter Secure [Deferred]
CARDIOVECTOR. Photography to assess relative position of special markings on the subject’s belt
LAB AC Inverter Secure
Standard Measures Cognition Testing
Bio-Monitor Data Unit Battery Replacement And Synchronization Using Bio-Monitor App
Food Acceptability Survey
Powered Ascent Utility Locker Card Cube Removal
SREDA-ISS. Start Video Recording
Powered Ascent Utility Locker Iceberg Sample Insert #1
CARDIOVECTOR. Photography to assess relative position of special markings on the subject’s belt
Microscope Reposition Preparation
XF305 Camcorder Setup
Space Organogenesis Microscope Lens Removal
Cardinal Heart Tissue Chamber Microscopy
HRF Generic Urine Collection Male
Bio-Monitor Wearables Stow
Space Organogenesis Microscope Closeout
Fiber Optic Production Sample Exchange
HRF Generic MELFI Sample Retrieval And Insertion Operations
Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Servicing and Cooling Umbillical (SCU) Unpack
Fiber Optic Production 1.5 Desiccant Installation
Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Servicing and Cooling Umbillical (SCU) Install
Service and Cooling Umbilical Installation Assist
Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Servicing and Cooling Umbillical (SCU) Check
Cardinal Heart Tissue Chamber Microscopy
Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Servicing and Cooling Umbillical (SCU) Stow
Node 2 Zenith Sensor Test for Orion RelNav Risk Mitigation (STORRM) Reflective Elements Installation
Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Servicing and Cooling Umbillical (SCU) Activation Gather
Space Organogenesis Compact Flash Memory Card 64GB Data Deletion
HRF Generic Urine Collection Male
Countermeasures System (CMS) Treadmill 2 System (T2) Monthly Inspection
Extravehicular Activity (EVA) Retractable Equipment Tether (RET) Large Hook Remove & Replace
Microscope Reposition Post Ops
Health Maintenance System (HMS) Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Inspection
HRF Generic MELFI Sample Retrieval And Insertion Operations
Cardinal Heart SABL Thumb Drive Install
STP-H5 ICE Experiment Photos
HRF Generic Frozen Blood Collection Hardware Setup
HRF Generic Urine Collection Male
HRF Generic MELFI Sample Retrieval And Insertion Operations

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