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SpaceX's Dragon Cargo Ship Brings To Earth Science Experiments From Space Station

21 March 2017, 8:08 pm EDT By Allan Adamson Tech Times
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The Dragon spacecraft brought back to Earth science experiments and devices that were tested on the International Space Station. What are the potential applications of these studies and equipment?  ( Alexander Gerst/ESA | Getty Images )

A SpaceX spacecraft is back on Earth carrying more than 5,400 pounds of cargo from the International Space Station.

The Dragon cargo ship, which parachuted into the Pacific Ocean on March 19, brought back science experiments from the ISS.

Orbiting Laboratory

The unique conditions of the space station make it a good place for conducting science studies. Earlier experiments that were conducted onboard the orbiting laboratory have shed light on how microgravity and space conditions impact how fire behaves and how plants grow.

Studies that can potentially improve life back on Earth such as those aimed at developing better medicines have also been conducted on the space station. The space station also provides a good venue to prepare for planned manned missions to the red planet. ISS astronauts, for instance, are already conducting studies on how to grow food in space

With its return to Earth, the Dragon spacecraft brought with it another set of science experiments and equipment from space. Among these was a stem cell study that can provide scientists and doctors with more insights about human cancers.

Stem Cell Study

For the Microgravity Expanded Stem Cells investigation, astronauts who are stationed at the ISS observed cell characteristics such as growth in zero-gravity to better understand how cancers start and spread after exposure to microgravity.

The findings may help in the development of preventive measures and treatment plans for cancer as well as offer a new way to boost stem cell production for therapies. The results may also aid in the development of treatments for diseases and injuries in space.

"What is unique about this investigation is that we are not only looking at the biology of the cells and how they grow, but focusing on application, how we can use them to treat patients," said Abba Zubair from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville in Florida, who is also the principal investigator for the study.

Tissue Regeneration And Bone Defect Study

The cargo spacecraft also brought samples from the Tissue Regeneration-Bone Defect study, which aims to determine how weightlessness impacts the regrowth of lost tissue and bone from wounds.

The study involved investigation on what prevents vertebrates, which include humans, to regrow lost bone and tissues. It also probed on how microgravity influences this process.

The study may shed more light on the biological reasons why humans are unable to grow lost limbs at wound sites. It may also possibly pave way for new treatment options for patients who do not respond to currently available treatments for chronic non-healing wounds.

Experimental Devices With Potential Uses For Space Missions

The spacecraft also brought home a robotic refueling technology experiment, a prototype of a laser communication service device called Optical PAyload for Lasercomm Science or OPALS that can boost data transmission, and a prototype for a space radiation-proof computer that can be used for long space missions.

"The Materials on International Space Station Experiment tested the radiation tolerance of a computer built from radiation-tolerant material to simulate work for a future long-term space mission," NASA said.

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