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The Best of Both Worlds: Current Interdisciplinary Space Research

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

A large part of our role in space is designing, building, and testing machinery to expand our exploratory horizon. Several of these missions not only have the goal of discovering novel workings of planets and the universe, but also traversing how we can enhance our presence on Earth and possibly even learn about unexplained natural phenomena. Though inaugurating a space mission is the first of many steps of a project, NASA and similar corporations utilize current resources in space–whether they be the natural conditions or those inhabiting the International Space Station (ISS)–to perform critical research that can be applied in critical Earthly settings. Moreover, the diversity of individual backgrounds on the ISS, from wet-lab and data scientists to medical professionals, encourages the exploration of various topics in an extraterrestrial setting. Contemporary research surrounding biology, health, and technology is crucial in space–and truly encompasses any field one can imagine.

Health is a critical component of spatial research, primarily for those on the ISS due to their distance from Earth. Much of this research can be coupled to Earth-related prognoses, from understanding bodily development to treating diseases such as breast cancer and heart failure. Astronauts are particularly useful in sparking new innovations utilized for Earthly purposes: g-suits, typically used to eliminate fatigue (due to bodily fluids rising in low-gravity conditions) in space, can be used to treat postpartum hemorrhages, or uncontrollable bleeding; heart pumps, used to prevent artery degradation in space, can prevent costly and high-risk heart transplants on Earth; and skeletal scanning can assess bone damage in both low-gravity and Earthly settings. Similar research performed on protein crystals has aimed to quantify protein composition (and how this differs) in individuals with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy without gravity being a factor in protein decomposition. In addition, Truly, space is greatly diverse in both a medical and biological perspective and will continue to pose new developments for Earthly benefits.

Technology has been a prime factor of astronauts being able to perform research, repair, and daily tasks aboard the ISS, in addition to their several biomedical developments. The Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) is built to constantly provide clean air and water to those in the ISS, which certainly does not seem like an easy feat to maintain. Through the regenerative nature of this machine, however, those on the ISS can pertain to other repair tasks without the concern of ECLSS repairs. Moreover, the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) allows astronaut-researchers to perform personalized experiments and studies in microgravity conditions, complete with vacuums and specialized tools. The MSG therefore encourages a plethora of research from biology to physics to be performed regardless of internal conditions. Other studies perforating throughout the ISS seek to understand novel methods of agriculture through viewing plant growth in low-gravity, low-light conditions and implementing methods of nutrient cycling and LED exposure. These components show that space isn’t limited to aeronautics and engineering; ultimately, with an interdisciplinary and novel approach, anything is possible in space.

In this episode of “Let’s Go to Space: BLUESKY Learning,” Episode 89: Producing Space with PBS’s Kate Tobin, we’re joined with scientific journalist Kate Tobin, who provides insight into her journey from producing at the CNN Science and Technology Unit to currently contributing to the PBS NewsHour. Not only has Ms. Tobin shared information about her recent projects, but she also epitomizes the importance of learning throughout one’s profession–going from producing media to then independently learning how to edit stories as new technology has arisen. Truly, Ms. Tobin shows the importance of effectively portraying research of any kind. Interested in a hands-on approach to space instead? Head to Episode 90: An Interdisciplinary Approach: Industry to Research, where we discuss the convergence of computer science, research, and beyond with Michele Jamrozik, a doctoral graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology and current research associate in the SnT computer vision coup CVi2. Dr. Jamrozik has certainly made a mark during her time researching in Luxembourg, completing the Interdisciplinary Space Master at the University of Luxembourg, also showing the importance of learning about contemporary research. Certainly, these women are critical in current spatial discussions, from the programming to production perspective. Learn more about Kate Tobin, Michele Jamrozik, or visit our other weekly podcasts to hear from other speakers, by clicking the link above. Also make sure to check out our website to learn more about becoming a member of the Aerospace and Innovation Academy, where you can join us in our quest to go to space.

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