Science on board the International Spatial Station (ISS)

Since the arrival of the first crew in 2000, the ISS has been converted into a scientific investigation orbital centre of global scale in different disciplines. The investigations that have been carried out in the ISS have allowed us to understand and progress in many scientific aspects. The investigations in the space have been very useful to us.

The discoveries in the biomedicine field have had applications on humans. The investigation in the science of materials amplified our knowledge of the effects of microgravity on the properties of some elements. Thanks to the analyses of the physiological changes experienced by the crews of the ISS during their stay in space, a better comprehension of the human body has been acquired. Finally, the ISS has served as a spatial scientific investigation platform for the study of the origin and the evolution of the Sun and the planets.

Maybe the more important investigation realised onboard the ISS has consisted in figuring out the reaction of the human body to micro-gravity.

The weightlessness on the human body

Nowadays we know that weightlessness affects the lungs, the heart, the bones and the immune and nervous system. Many of the physiological alterations observed on the astronauts are similar to changes normally associated with ageing. For example, it seems that, in microgravity environments, the bones and the muscles don’t only lose mass, but they don’t heal themselves as well as on the Earth. The stays in the space provoke the dissociation between biological and physical age. Using the study of the physiological alterations of the crew members, the investigations in the ISS has played a fundamental role in the development of a model of the ageing process in space.

Development in biotechnological aspects

Moreover, the investigators of the ISS have discovered that micro-gravity provides us new tools to deal with two essential biotechnological aspects: the formation of proteic crystals of high quality and of bigger size, and the cultivation of tridimensional fabrics.

On the Earth, gravity disrupts and limits the size of the crystalline structures, and the fabric samples don’t acquire their complete tridimensional structures, for which they result more complicated to study. The investigation realised onboard the ISS with a bioreactor (a device designed for the development of biologically active organisms) has been very productive as advanced technology about the function of the lymphatic fabric that has been essential for the study of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Scientifics from all around the world have profited from the ISS to realise different investigations in space, as the relatives to the effects of the microgravity on the production and the processing of diverse materials. This investigation produced as a result telluric cadmium-zinc crystals (a material that is used in a big variety of electronic applications) fifty times purer than in the Earth. Furthermore, the experiences in the environments of low gravity have contributed to improving the production of telluric cadmium-zinc on the Earth.

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