Science 3 min read

Weird Technologies and Experiments NASA is Sending to the ISS

Cygnus, Orbital ATK liftoff | NASA

Cygnus, Orbital ATK liftoff | NASA

NASA will be sending a cargo spacecraft to the ISS, bringing with it some weird technologies for the scientists to work onboard the Earth-orbiting space laboratory.

Tomorrow, November 15th, the Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo shuttle will launch into space placed aboard an Antares rocket from the NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The cargo ship is carrying around 7,500 pounds of supplies for the astronauts like food and clothing. Also onboard the ship is scientific equipment and weird technologies for the crew of the Internation Space Station.

The launch will mark Northrop Grumman‘s 10th commercial resupply service mission under NASA’s contract.

“As part of this mission, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus vehicle will ferry more than 400 kilograms of research and hardware facilities to the orbiting laboratory under the ISS National Laboratory flight allocation,” NASA wrote in a statement.

“There are presently 12 payloads included on this mission that is sponsored by the ISS National Lab. The research investigations that are part of the ISS National Lab flight manifest represent a diverse group of payloads intended to benefit life on Earth.”

Read More: China Unveils the Tiangong Space Station as Replacement of the ISS

NASA’s Weird Technologies and Experiments

Among the strange technologies and experiments that NASA will be sending to the ISS are an integrated 3D printer and recycler, a virtual reality system, and a Michael J. Fox Foundation experiment.

The first integrated 3D printer and recycler, called the Refabricator, will be part of the In-Space Manufacturing Refabricator project. The device can reportedly turn plastic into a filament that could help improve 3D printing use aboard the ISS. Researchers plan on using the filament to repair damages in the space station.

The second experiment involves using a virtual reality system. Scientists aboard the ISS will further investigate the effects of the microgravity environment they experience onboard. The test will mainly focus on their ability to visually interpret motion, distance, and orientation. The experiment is part of the on-going Effect of Long Duration Hypogravity on the Perception of Self-Motion study.

The experiment, involving a VR system, will produce computer-generated visual clues, recreating artificial gravity with the aid of visual acceleration. After going through the simulation, the astronauts will have to report how “they perceive that they moved, how far away things were from them, etc.”

The final experiment involves the Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2 investigation. This investigation is an experiment developed in collaboration with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. It will enable scientists to grow protein crystals in space that may lead to a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

ISS scientists will also test and synthesize tiny membranes composed of calcium-silicate particles. The layers of the material are as thin as a human hair, with pores 100 nanometers across or even smaller.

What other weird technologies and science experiments do you believe NASA has or is conducting on the ISS?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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