Robotic SpaceX Cargo Mission Could Aid Space Settlement | 7/10/1962 | Mike Wall
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The next SpaceX mission to the International Space Station (ISS) may be uncrewed, but it could nonetheless eventually help humanity extend its footprint far beyond low Earth orbit.

The company's robotic Dragon cargo capsule is scheduled to launch toward the ISS atop a Falcon 9 rocket on July 21 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. In addition to food, water and other supplies, Dragon will be toting 2,500 lbs. (1,135 kilograms) of science gear, which will enable 47 separate experiments, NASA officials said.

Number - Payloads - Flavor - Example - BioRocks

A fair number of these payloads have a distinct space-settlement flavor. For example, the BioRocks experiment will investigate how microbes interact with rocks in a low-gravity environment, potentially paving the way for "biomining" on the moon and Mars. (Much mining here on Earth already employs microbial helpers.)

BioRocks could also help researchers learn to design more efficient life-support systems and better understand how microbes behave and grow in space, project team members said.

Experiment - Alliance - Civilization - World - Presence

The experiment will "strengthen and continue the alliance between human civilization and the microbial world in establishing a permanent human presence in space," BioRocks principal investigator Charles Cockell, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said yesterday (July 9) during a teleconference with reporters.

Meanwhile, the MVP Cell-02 experiment will culture bacteria aboard the ISS for 1,000 generations, which will take about three weeks if everything goes well. Project team members will later scour the microbes' genomes for spaceflight-induced changes — data that are generally lacking, as researchers have tended to focus on whole-body effects to date.

Changes - Level - Life - Environment - Implications

Gauging changes at the genetic level "will really help us understand how life responds to this environment, with direct implications for long-term exploration," said MVP Cell-02 principal investigator Craig Everroad, a scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. "Basically, how does evolution see this unique...
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