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NASA Space Science

Huge ISS Science Report Released 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the see-guys-we-don't-need-the-moon-really dept.
Earthquake Retrofit writes "NASA has released an extensive report (PDF) on science results from over 100 experiments performed at the International Space Station. From the summary: 'One of the most compelling results reported is the confirmation that the ability of common germs to cause disease increases during spaceflight, but that changing the growth environment of the bacteria can control this virulence. The Effect of Spaceflight on Microbial Gene Expression and Virulence experiment identified increased virulence of space-flown Salmonella typhimurium, a leading cause of food poisoning. New research on subsequent station missions will target development of a vaccine for this widespread malady." I can't tell if this is good news, bad, or both. Also from a quick look at the report, I see that soybeans grow bigger in space with no harmful effect."
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Huge ISS Science Report Released

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  • by FST777 (913657) <frans-janNO@SPAMvan-steenbeek.net> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:30AM (#29626733) Homepage
    Just wait for the "concerned" special interest groups to claim that it's unnatural and that selling the resulting product should be banned.
    • by shentino (1139071)

      Jesus christ...

      You can't escape politics no matter where you go. It's in science, it's in web standards, it's in government, it's everywhere!

      Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if that happened. Just like I wasn't surprised when a bunch of web browser companies refused to come up with a common codec for HTML5, most likely due to vested interests in keeping things proprietary.

  • by Targon (17348) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:33AM (#29626755)

    When it comes down to it, if food products are larger but do not provide additional "food value" to go with the size, the only benefit would be for those trying to lose weight, since there is less food "value" for a given mass. 1000 calories of something grown in space may take up more room, but it is still only 1000 calories worth of food. Now, if you take a plant that on Earth provides 1000 calories and when grown in space it provides 1500 calories, THEN that would be worth looking at.

    • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:12AM (#29627075)

      When it comes down to it, if food products are larger but do not provide additional "food value" to go with the size, the only benefit would be for those trying to lose weight, since there is less food "value" for a given mass. 1000 calories of something grown in space may take up more room, but it is still only 1000 calories worth of food. Now, if you take a plant that on Earth provides 1000 calories and when grown in space it provides 1500 calories, THEN that would be worth looking at.

      A reciprocal argument can be made about mass-farmed food on Earth. Generally the calorie content is higher in industrially farmed foods while the nutrient content is lower. Therefore it's a problem for those looking to lose weight because getting the required calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, etc. are diluted relative to the calories that come along with them. Furthermore, since grains (the source ofproblematic omega-6 fatty acids) replace leaves (the source of important omega-3 fatty acids) in industrial meat farming, some important nutrients [wikipedia.org] are very difficult to consume regardless of the amount of calories consumed. Supplemental nutrients are often added to make up for these deficiencies, but considering that nutritionists have only vague ideas of which nutrients matter, whether quantity or ratio matter, or whether seemingly unimportant chemicals are necessary to properly utilize the nutrients that we know are important, this doesn't have a reliable effect.

      • but considering that nutritionists have only vague ideas of which nutrients matter

        To paraphrase Dara Ó Briain [wikipedia.org]:

        If anyone describes themselves as a nutritionist, just be slightly weary, alright? What they're saying might be perfectly true, but nutritionist isn't a protected term. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Dietician is the legally protected term. A dietician is like dentist, and nutritionist is like "toothiologist".

        • by bhiestand (157373)

          but considering that nutritionists have only vague ideas of which nutrients matter

          To paraphrase Dara Ó Briain [wikipedia.org]:

          If anyone describes themselves as a nutritionist, just be slightly weary, alright? What they're saying might be perfectly true, but nutritionist isn't a protected term. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Dietician is the legally protected term. A dietician is like dentist, and nutritionist is like "toothiologist".

          To add to that, I don't think dietician is all that telling, either. It's still a very immature science, and difficult to really call a science. Dieticians don't seem to have any actual, verifiable answers that aren't directly tied to the laws of thermodynamics.

        • by Zey (592528)

          Says MartinSchou:

          If anyone describes themselves as a nutritionist, just be slightly weary, alright?

          I'm a little tired of this argument.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Garrett Fox (970174)
      An easy way to taste this fact is to compare apples or strawberries of different sizes. (But presumably not comparing apples to strawberries.) Same total amount of sugar per fruit, usually, so the big ones are less sweet.
      • by Velocir (851555)
        Um, no. Size is a factor, but it's not the only factor by any means, nor even the main one. Sun exposure, proximity to the trunk/main stem, number of other fruit on the same plant, and water available also have major effects on the the amount of sugar in each individual fruit.
    • And don't even start about the vitamins & co that you actually need to not become sick from processing those 4186.8 Joule*.

      __
      * Welcome to the 20th (!) century! ;)

    • by yiantsbro (550957)

      I would think that if that is the case then it is worth looking at for that reason alone. The obesity problems we have and all of the associated issues that come along with it are huge. Letting someone continue eating the same volume of food with reduced calories would be beneficial.

    • If something has more mass and that extra mass is digestable, it would follow that there's more sustenance of some sort in there.

      But the economical value of growing food in such an environment and importing it back to earth, to be redistributed to the hungry in poor countries, is laughably poor.

  • ISSv2? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AndGodSed (968378) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:38AM (#29626801) Homepage Journal

    I wonder if there is an "ISS v2" on the cards or if they will only keep expanding this one?

    • Re:ISSv2? (Score:5, Informative)

      by FST777 (913657) <frans-janNO@SPAMvan-steenbeek.net> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:55AM (#29626929) Homepage
      The Russians are thinking about a 2.0: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Piloted_Assembly_and_Experiment_Complex [wikipedia.org]
      • The Russians have, in the last twenty years, produced hundreds of gigabytes of powerpoints detailing advanced and ambitious schemes in space. Precisely none of which have amounted to anything beyond consuming untold kilowatts of electricity to store and view.

        • by FST777 (913657)
          That's a bit unfair...

          After the fall of the USSR, the Russians had to rethink their future in space along with ginormous budget cuts. What they came up with was a program that centred around commercializing space. As the first and biggest provider of trips to space for tourist, it is no wonder that a new space station is on their minds for the time after the ISS has made its last burning trip. Besides that, OPSEK isn't that ambitious.

          They seek to consolidate their position as a cheap and reliable laun
          • That's a bit unfair...

            Fair or not, it's the truth.

            Besides that, OPSEK isn't that ambitious.

            It's twice the size of what they've managed to build for ISS (half of which the US paid for). Of the balance of what they originally intended to build for ISS, half has been cancelled, the remainder repeatedly delayed. So yes, compared to what they have accomplished or claimed they would do, it's extremely ambitious.

            They seek to consolidate their position as a cheap and reliable launc

            • They seek to consolidate their position as a cheap and reliable launcher of commercial satellites in the same way, with the advent of the Angara rocket family.

              An ambitious and much delayed chunk of vaporware. With their record to date, don't hold your breath.

              Dnepr [wikipedia.org] has been highly successful, IMHO.

      • The original Reagan-era vision for the space station was to spend $8 billion to build a design that included hangars in which large interplanetary spacecraft would be assembled. (Those facilities were eliminated in one of the several Congressionally-mandated "money-saving" redesigns.) Too bad we have to wait at least 40 years to see that vision realized.

    • by JDOHERTY (323140)

      Well, seeing as the most exciting or at least slashdot worthy scientific result posted here was about microbes being possibly more virulent in space my guess is ISSv2 isn't exactly a high priority. See this month's Scientific American magazine. Couldn't the money be given to orphans or Google or someone instead?

  • At a price tag of $100 billion (at least) for the ISS, these experiments average over $1 billion each. Worth it? Nope.
    • by amilo100 (1345883)
      The ISS was never about science.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Garrett Fox (970174)
        As much as I respect him, I kind of blame Carl Sagan for the ISS. He argued that we should use a space station for international brotherhood, and it seems like that goal detracted from the goal of actually accomplishing something tangible.
        • International Brotherhood isn't tangible? I rather doubt it's possible, but if you could defuse the human instinct to stomp on each other constantly, you would do more to raise the standard of living amongst a significant fraction of the earth's population than pretty much anything else. What we really need are some insectiod aliens with space ships.
        • I, on the other hand, have never had much respect for Carl Sagan. He mixed too much politics with his science promotions, and far too little engineering. In many ways, he was the liberal's equivalent of Rush Limbaugh.

          So I find it sort of remarkable that I do agree with parent post in putting some of the blame for the ISS on Sagan's thin shoulders.

          Caution: this post might be a troll. Danger! or maybe not...

    • The ISS is not only about zero-gravity research. It is also about spaceflight. And politics.
    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:11AM (#29627071) Homepage

      As we all know, there is no spinoffs. Ever, all data is useless. How ignorant.

      • by vuo (156163)
        There should be some connection to real uses or real science. The space program, for instance, received its impetus from military use (GPS, communication and spy satellites, ballistic missiles, etc.). This science seems to be going nowhere. I work as a scientist, and it's a huge problem to get anything over 5000 funded. If only I could spend 0.69 billion to observe that plants grow bigger in absence of gravity. People should learn to think in terms of opportunity cost. $100 billion spent to unmanned missio
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:18AM (#29627137)

      Yeah! I mean, really, who uses vaccines? And there is plenty of food on earth for everyone forevermore why are they wasting there time with enhanced growing techniques? And I see they are working on a targeted cancer treatment. Hah! Cancer is so 90s. New solar cells? What?!!!1!1 I've seen the commercial, America has "LOTS of oil." These experiments are such a waste of time. Why don't they just find a spot of microgravity on earth and do the experiments there? Why do they have to go all the way up to space? I don't understand any of this, obviously, that means this is all worthless.

  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:00AM (#29626965) Homepage
    The main result of ISS is to demonstrate that the engineering is sound to built a habitat in space that can be permanently occupied for (so far) a period of ten years. This is straightforward, but nevertheless is a critically important step for the long-term expansion of humanity into the universe.

    It's a necessary building block that has, now, been demonstrated. After that, everything else is of secondary importance (but I do think that demonstrating VASMIR [seedmagazine.com] will be cool.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by demachina (71715)

      "engineering is sound to built a habitat in space"

      The Russians already proved that for a LOT less money with Mir.

      If the pinnacle of achievement of the ISS is a study on bacteria in zero G we pretty much squandered $150 billion dollars on nothing. Though hey... we squander that much in Iraq in a couple months so many its all relative. Still NASA should have been put that money to a lot better use building launch capability that doesn't suck, more robotic, science and observatories or getting to Mars. Inste

      • by demachina (71715)

        ... or the U.S. could have spent 10 billion and finished the super conducting supercollider and not squandered its leadership position in nuclear physics to the EU.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)

        The Russians already proved that for a LOT less money with Mir.

        BZZZT. Wrong. Or at least, not yet correct. The Russians started out and created a lot of groundwork (ignore the pun). We still are not at the stage at which fixing things in orbit is 'routine'. Every EVA, every repair, takes months of planning and practice. We need to do much better before we get our asses out of LEO. And the only way to do it is practice, practice, practice. Which means the ISS or something like it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        "engineering is sound to built a habitat in space"

        The Russians already proved that for a LOT less money with Mir.

        If a baby learns to take one step, do you think there's no point in its taking a two steps; it can just go right on from there to climb Mount Everest?

        Mir was a step. 350 m2, 120 tons.

        • by demachina (71715)

          Don't think tonnage is a particularly good way to judge the effectiveness of how you spent hundreds of billions of dollars. Since the Russians built the core of ISS using Mir as the proof of concept its not like ISS was breaking much ground in a lot of areas. I'll credit NASA with their efforts on gyros for attitude control, for the massive power systems and the Canadians for their work on robotics, but those were all incremental acheivements, nothing groundbreaking. All in all ISS is just a colossal fai

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpmorgan (517966)
      Absolutely. The most important thing we've learned from the ISS is how to build a complex habitation in space and operate it autonomously. If you're going to Mars or anywhere else more than a few days from earth, even simple things like a toilet failing could have dire consequences (hygiene problems, running out of water without recycling, etc...) if you're halfway to Mars. If your oxygen generator has an unexpected and unplanned failure mode, it's much better to learn about that in orbit of earth than it i
  • Not worth it... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SaberCat (1391411)
    Once again, besides Velcro and Tang, what have we gotten from manned space flight?
    • Hubble.
      • by El Torico (732160)

        There is that. Besides Velcro, Tang, and the Hubble telescope what has manned space flight ever done for us?

    • Re:Not worth it... (Score:4, Informative)

      by RJFerret (1279530) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:14PM (#29627633) Homepage

      Saving lives and reducing injuries: energy absorbing car bumpers derived from needing the lunar lander to touch down (go from fast to stopped) while keeping the occupants alive. Now you know where that honeycomb design came from.

      However, Tang was formulated by William A. Mitchell for General Foods Corporation in 1957 and first marketed in 1959. (Sales were poor until they advertised NASA's use of it in 1965.)

      Velcro similarly, was invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer, George de Mestral, who got the idea from burrs on his hunting dog. He put some under a microscope and saw, wait for it...hooks! The name is a portmanteau of the two French words velours and crochet, or 'hook'.

      • Saving lives and reducing injuries: energy absorbing car bumpers derived from needing the lunar lander to touch down (go from fast to stopped) while keeping the occupants alive. Now you know where that honeycomb design came from.

        I shouldn't have to point out that crushable energy absorption was a proven technology long before the LEM was designed - to the point that the honeycomb material used in the LEM landing gear came from a company in North Carolina whose sole business was manufacturing honeycomb mater

      • by SaberCat (1391411)
        Humm... seems like those inventions could have been designed without the expense of going to the moon. Nice info on Tang and Velcro though... I just used them to make a point. Thanks...
    • by Covalent (1001277)

      Once again, besides Velcro and Tang, what have we gotten from manned space flight?

      Increased knowledge of how to evacuate Earth in case of catastrophe?

      • by SaberCat (1391411)
        I assume you are kidding... ...funds would be better spent on saving Earth. The manned space station is a project without a purpose. So far as I know it has yielded no substantial science. NASA is offering free time on it in a desperate attempt to find a use for the thing!
    • by Trogre (513942)

      Dude, they *&%#@ing walked on the mother^@*$ing moon.

      Is it a clear night in your timezone? Go look out your window at that big white thing in the sky. Some blokes went and *!#$ing walked on that.

      What more benefits to we need than that?

  • It's nice that NASA has been able to do some science experiments in space. It's also nice that their robotic probes have gathered information about the planets and the rest of the universe.

    Ultimately, though, I don't care about the raw science. This research does little to get us closer to actually bringing life to other planets. A few weeks back, NASA released a report saying that they can't keep running the ISS, the Shuttle, and their other experiments while also gearing up for a return to the Moon or a
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This research does little to get us closer to actually bringing life to other planets. A few weeks back, NASA released a report saying that they can't keep running the ISS, the Shuttle, and their other experiments while also gearing up for a return to the Moon or a mission to Mars.

      More specifically, the Augustine commission said that a commitment to going to the moon or Mars would require actually budgeting money to do so-- exploration is not going to happen unless money is allocated to do it. And, in fact, despite great words about exploration, the trend has been for NASA's budget to be cut, not increased, with more and bigger cuts projected in the future. NASA's budget was five percent of the federal budget during the Apollo years. It's recently dropped to a little less than half

  • Makes sense to me. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In zero gravity every microbe is a potential airborne contagion.

    Think about it. A germ that usually causes symptoms like the common cold could be far more lethal when infecting the lungs instead of being limited by gravity to contact based exposure.

  • "I see that soybeans grow bigger in space with no harmful effect."

    Great... that's precisely what we need: mutant tofu to go with our irradiated mercury-soaked sushi.

  • One of the most important facts to come out of these missions is that higher life forms, such as mammals, cannot effectively reproduce in micro gravity. That basically means very large radii spin simulated gravity space colonies will be needed to have self sustaining extraterrestrial human populations in case catastrophe strikes earth. These types of stations and infrastructures will require a large percentage of the Human race working together in a more social manner for the betterment of all mankind. The
    • by demachina (71715)

      "The reduced gravity of the planet mars probably means that it is unsuitable for human reproduction and child rearing"

      And exactly what actual science do you have to leap to this conclusion, URL please....

      Until you actually try to reproduce and raise children in 1/3 G you simply wont know for sure, and even more so you will need to test with humans who have been living in and have acclimated to 1/3 G for an extended period. Experiments on small mammals in centrifuges on ISS or on humans in 0G for brief peri

      • by Torino10 (1369453)

        Unfortunately experiments in reduced gravity are lacking, but to ignore what little data we do have would be very foolish as well. The fact that we do have data that implies very strongly that gravity plays a very important role in fertilization embryonic development and cell wall implantation.

        While there are many URLs that do show the effects of microgravity and the few centrifuge experiments conducted on Mir, the best paper I have read so far was a document that came up on a google search entitled "Repro

    • by skine (1524819)

      How exactly does microgravity effect reproduction?

  • There are few disciplines that have gleaned as much from exceptions to the norm as have biology and it's attendant practise medicine. Genetics and Morgan's studies of fruit flies by subjecting them to stresses, brain lesions and cognitive science, the list goes on and gives more than adequate support that biology experiments in space will pay dividends. The classic idea of a ceteris paribus experiment at 1 atmosphere, 20 degress C (? 25), done at sea level should make anyone want to jump on a chance to do e

    • ok, so while the first cup of coffee kicks in, i'll guess my statements 1 atm and at sea level are equivalent. sorry 'bout that.
  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:21PM (#29628631) Journal

    It's particularly worth noting that what's been done so far science-wise is only the beginning of science results from the ISS, as most of the effort so far has been in construction. The crew size was also just doubled this year, allowing for even more time to be spent devoted to science:

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/6628585.html [chron.com]

    After 15 years of construction, narrow congressional votes, delays and, yes, cost overruns, the $100 billion international space station finally appears ready for prime time. ... In May the space station doubled its crew from three to six astronauts, and this summer two space shuttle missions delivered a new laboratory and critical scientific equipment.
    Then, earlier this month, a panel appointed by President Barack Obama to study the future of human spaceflight gave the station high marks, recommending its life be extended until at least 2020 and full funding to reach its potential.
    The station is now beginning to do just that, as astronauts use the ISS for its intended purpose as an outpost for scientific research in a weightless environment, and learning to live for long periods in space. ...

    Until now, crew efforts have focused on assembling disparate modules built by Russia, the United States, Japan and Europe into a cohesive whole. Since habitation began in 2000, therefore, astronauts have devoted only about 12,000 hours to scientific research.
    Now with the crew expansion, and likely completion of the station by early 2011 allowing astronauts to swap their hard hats for test tubes, NASA estimates that total to increase by a factor of eight by 2015, to about 90,000 hours.

    "We're just beginning to scratch the surface," said Julie Robinson, who oversees the ISS science program.

  • Well, let's see what NASA is claiming this time.

    • Materials experiment - tests how materials withstand space conditions. Been there, done that [wikipedia.org] with the Long Duration Exposure Facility in 1984-1990.
    • Capillary flow in microgravity - OK, but why?
    • Magnetorheologic fluids in microgravity - cute, but magnetic particle clutches were used in IBM printers back to the 1960s.
    • Interferometer for ambient air - may be useful, but didn't need to be developed in space.
    • Crystal growth - lots of crystal growth work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sunspot42 (455706)

      The ISS has cost well north of $100 billion so far. It hasn't come close to producing $100 billion worth of research. Or even $1 billion worth.

      Imagine if we'd taken the $100 billion wasted on the ISS and spent it developing carbon nanotubes, or spent it on high-speed rail networks, or spent it researching wind or solar power. Or, for that matter, spent it on interplanetary probes. $100 billion would pay for a lot of Europa orbiters, landers and even a probe that could melt thru the surface and explore E

      • by zero0ne (1309517)

        Imagine what SpaceX could do with $100 billion

    • I'll just mention for the materials science, they just got a serious freezer and a serious furnace on board so they'll be doing tons of materials research with those. Lots of people and companies are interested in using those and some cool stuff can come out of that research.

  • oblivious to any actual data on this i'm still fully convinced that prolonged life cycles outside of the atmosphere will result in really interesting mutations due to the cosmic rays and whatnot.
  • Ants *can* sort tiny screws in space!

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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