Key science returns to Earth from ISS aboard spacecraft

Carrying over 3,700 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the International Space Station (ISS), a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Thursday morning (India time).

The Dragon spacecraft was taken by ship to Long Beach where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA and then prepared for shipment to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing, the US space agency said in a statement.

A number of technology and biology studies conducted in the unique microgravity environment of the space station returned aboard the spacecraft, including research in the burgeoning field of nanotechnology.

The “Microchannel Diffusion” study, for example, examined how microparticles interact with each other and their delivery channel in the absence of gravitational forces.

In this one-of-a-kind laboratory, researchers were able to observe nanoscale behaviours at slightly larger scales – knowledge which may have implications for advancements in particle filtration, space exploration and drug delivery technologies.

“CASIS Protein Crystal Growth 4” experiment also has applications in medicine – specifically, drug design and development.

Growing protein crystals in microgravity can avoid some of the obstacles inherent to protein crystallisation on Earth such as sedimentation.

This will enable scientists to use “designer” compounds to chemically target and inhibit an important human biological pathway thought to be responsible for several types of cancer.

The spacecraft also returned to Earth the final batch of human research samples from former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s historic one-year mission.

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