New crew and UK experiment head to the ISS

Posted on 22 Dec 2018 and read 661 times
New crew and UK experiment head to the ISSEarlier this month, two rockets were launched on consecutive days to replenish the International Space Station (ISS) with a new crew and cargo — including a UK scientific experiment.

The crew includes two new astronauts: Anne McClain (USA), who studied at the University of Bath and the University of Bristol; and David Saint-Jacques (Canada), who studied at Cambridge University.

They joined veteran cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and travelled on a Russian Soyuz crew ship from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 3 December.

The following day, SpaceX launched its Dragon cargo craft from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket.

On board was the first UK-led experiment to head to the ISS; this will use worms to look at muscle loss in space and could lead to new treatments for muscular conditions for people on Earth.

The research could also help boost our understanding of ageing muscle loss and even help improve treatments for diabetes.

Libby Jackson, Human Spaceflight and Microgravity programme manager at the UK Space Agency (www.gov.uk/ukspaceagency.co.uk), said: “The launch of the Soyuz means crews will continue to work on the unique science taking place on the ISS; it is also exciting to see the first of many UK-led experiments heading to the space station.

Spaceflight is an extreme environment that causes many negative health changes to the body, and astronauts can lose up to 40% of their muscle after six months in space.

“These changes are regarded as an excellent model for the ageing process in the body, and scientists can use the knowledge gained from studying changes in astronauts to better understand the ageing human body.”

Nate Szewczyk, the University of Nottingham’s professor of Space Biology, said: “We are hugely excited to be co-ordinating the first UK-led experiment on the International Space Station.

“The Molecular Muscle Experiment is the first to try to establish the precise molecular causes of neuromuscular decline in space.

“We will be using a combination of gene manipulations and drugs to pinpoint these causes.

“The microscopic worms being used in the experiment — known as C. elegans — share many biological characteristics with humans and are affected by biological changes in space, including alterations to muscle and the ability to use energy.”

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