NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 Launches To International Space Station. All About The Mission

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission launched four humans towards the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, October 5, 2022. NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and John Cassada, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina blasted off into space on Wednesday at 9:30 pm IST, for a six-month mission at the orbital laboratory.

They were launched aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Crew-5 mission is the fifth crew rotation mission with SpaceX to the ISS, and the sixth flight of Dragon spacecraft with people as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Overview of Crew-5 mission

Once Crew-5 reaches orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, will guide the passengers to the forward end of the orbital outpost’s Harmony module. Endurance will be in the position to rendezvous and dock with the space station after its orbit is raised through manoeuvres. While the spacecraft is designed to dock autonomously, the crew can take control and pilot manually, if need be.

After Crew-5 docks into the space station, the seven-member crew of Expedition 68 will welcome the four new members. Several days after Crew-5’s arrival, the astronauts of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission will undock from the orbital laboratory and splash down off the coast of Florida.

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What experiments will Crew-5 perform?

Crew-5 will conduct interesting scientific research in areas including cardiac health, in order to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth, NASA says on its website.

The experiments include studies on printing human organs in space, better understanding heart disease, and understanding fuel systems operating on the Moon. Over 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations will be conducted during their mission. 

Some of the most interesting experiments include the BioFabrication Facility (BFF), the Liquid Behaviour investigation, and Project EAGLE.

BioFabrication Facility 

According to NASA, the BioFabrication Facility (BFF) is a crossroad in the long-term plan to manufacture whole human organs in space. The BFF arrived at the space station in 2019, and has successfully printed a partial human knee meniscus and a large volume of human heart cells. 

In 2020, the facility returned to Earth for maintenance and upgrades, one of them being new temperature-controlled printheads that will allow the use of bioink formulations that were not possible in the previous configuration. 

The BFF is returning to the space station as part of the Crew-5 mission. The facility will continue testing in-orbit manufacture of cardiac and orthopaedic tissue and start a new programme aimed at testing the manufacturing of vasculature (blood vessels and their arrangement in a particular organ) in space.

Liquid Behaviour Investigation 

It is important to understand and be able to predict how liquids behave in low-gravity environments in order to build lunar rovers, life support systems and fuel tanks to support future exploration missions. According to NASA, the Liquid Behaviour investigation will study the movement of liquids in a container in simulated lunar gravity to generate data that can be used to improve the designs of lunar rovers.

Project EAGLE

The primary cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Heart stem cells should be preserved because they could provide a sustainable source of cells to treat heart disease, and also act as a cell source for drug discovery and safety testing on Earth. 

In microgravity, one may conduct experiments to see how stem cell production can be increased, cell viability can be improved, and the maturation of heart stem cells can be accelerated. The purpose of the Project EAGLE investigation is to study how spaceflight affects properties of heart muscle cells derived from stem cells. This will help establish a functional heart tissue model that mimics heart disease and can be used to test new drugs.

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