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L.Srikumar Pai
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Sunita Williams 240 experiments

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AHMEDABAD: The space travel by Sunita Williams has generated a lot of interest among Indians, particularly

among Gujaratis. But only a few know that the second woman astronaut of Indian origin, after Kalpana Chawla, also shoulders responsibility of expanding horizons of science as we know it.

Talking about the expedition, the scientists in the state said that the three astronauts from the US, Russia and Japan - identified as Expedition 33 crew - will be joining three Russian astronauts in orbit since May. The group will work together for two months after which the latter are scheduled to be back in September. The group led by Williams is scheduled to come back in mid-November.

The new crew members are expected to conduct over 30 scientific missions with about 240 experiments during their stay aboard the ISS.

What the expedition means for science

Space exploration: Robotic arm developed by Japan will be launched for technology development and demonstration for air, water, and surface monitoring. Aquatic habitat will be established for fish in zero gravity to learn more about bone and muscle atrophy (medical issues for the aging population) and radiation impact. Communication delay study will be carried out with new equipments to assist scientists understand relay and response time of a signal from mars and other objects in solar system. Spectrometer aboard ISS collects 1.2 billion particles per month and collects valuable data about space.

Humans in space: NASA's light microscope will provide better understanding of crystallization and ageing in food and other products. It will help scientists prepare food with much longer shelf life for space exploration. The astronauts will further research on effects of long-duration spaceflight on human body including disturbance in sleep pattern and circadian rhythm.

Healthcare: Miniaturized flow cytometer, Microflow1, developed by Canada, uses laser to analyze individual cells for cell counting and sorting, biomarker (disease signatures) detecting, and protein engineering. The equipment will be tested for early disease identification. Vaccine for salmonella will be tested for prevention of infection on earth and in microgravity. Salmonella is the most common cause for food poisoning and death in children.

Nanotechnology: NanoRacks, micro plates containing nano particles of plant and animal tissues, will be carried to the ISS to study impact of zero gravity situations on them. It will expand our understanding of life science and probable life forms in the space.

Earth science: ISS SERVIR Environmental Research and Visualization System (ISERV) will lead to the development of enhanced capabilities that will provide useful images to support disaster and other events' monitoring and assessment, and environmental decision making when needed.

Chemistry: Facility for Absorption and Surface Tension (FASTER) will be flown for the first time on the space station. It will conduct research on physical chemistry properties and emulsion stability of droplet interfaces. Its outcome can help industries make emulsion of two generally separate liquids such as water and oil.

( Courtesy: )


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