NASA Is Launching Yeast Into Deep Space

  • In Science
  • 2019-05-21 22:15:00Z
  • By Popular Mechanics

From Popular Mechanics

NASA will be sending yeast cells where no man has gone before. After years of prep work, the agency is planning to relaunch its biology studies with BioSentinel, a project that will carry yeast cells into orbit around the sun.

One of the basic questions about space is if people can actually live there. We already know to some extent that we can, thanks to the continued existence of the International Space Station. As companies from SpaceX to Blue Origin begin to discuss grandiose plans of building new worlds, NASA is taking the steps to see the effects that extended living in deep space would have on life.

To study these fundamental questions, NASA uses what are called "model organisms," or non-human species that scientists understand clearly. In this case, they decided upon yeast cells-"the very same yeast that makes bread rise and beer brew," NASA says in an explainer.

This wasn't a random choice. Yeast cells, like ours, are comprised of entwined strands of DNA that carry genetic information. The powerful energy radiation found in deep space can cause those strands to break down.

When the cereal box-size CubeSat carries the yeast cells, known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, past Earth's protective magnetic field, NASA will trigger the growth of two strains of S. cerevisiae. One strain is a common strain that can normally rebuild damaged DNA, just like human cells. The other has more difficulty with the rebuilding process.

From Earth, the CubeSat will fly past the moon toward the direction of the sun. Samples will be activated at different times during the 6- to 12-month mission.

With any luck, the CubeSat will be ready to fly by October. Once complete, it has a voyage booked on Artemis 1, NASA's first unmanned flight with its shiny new Space Launch System.

Two more BioSentinel experiments will be running simultaneously, NASA says.

"One will run on the space station, in microgravity that is similar to deep space, but with comparatively less radiation. Another experiment will take place on the ground, for comparison with Earth's gravity and radiation levels," reads NASA's explainer. "These additional versions will show scientists how to compare Earth and space station-based science experiments-which can be conducted much more readily-to the fierce radiation that future astronauts will encounter in space."

Taken together, the BioSentinel data should offer crucial insight into the effects of space radiation exposure. That, in turn, could lower the risks associated with long-term human exploration. And that could make it easier for humans to roam the stars.

So it's a long scientific journey. Artemis 2, which will be manned, is planned for 2023 and will hopefully take humans to the Lunar Gateway-not quite the deep space for which BioSentinel is testing. But if and when humans make it out past the moon, further than anywhere in human history, they'll have some measly yeast cells to thank.

Source: Space

('You Might Also Like',)


More Related News

Will humans really be back on the moon by 2024? A Q&A with space experts
Will humans really be back on the moon by 2024? A Q&A with space experts

What can we gain from going back to the moon? We hosted a live chat on Reddit with space industry experts about the new race to the moon.

NASA's asteroid probe snapped its closest photo yet of space rock Bennu

NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid probe is giving scientists an even better look at the surface of the space rock known as Bennu now that it's moved even closer to the object. A new photo posted by the partnership between NASA and the University of Arizona gives us what might be our most detailed glimpse yet at the rock.The spacecraft has been hanging around Bennu for several months now, and will continue to do so for several more. Its new orbit, which its handlers call the Orbital B phase, brings it within a half mile of Bennu's surface, and this new photo shows us exactly what it sees as it orbits.The photo, which was posted to NASA's OSIRIS-REx web portal, comes with the following...

NASA says there
NASA says there's 'no doubt' SpaceX Crew Dragon explosion has pushed back crewed flights

NASA desperately needs a way to get its astronauts into space without paying for pricey seats aboard Russian rockets, but the agency's two best hopes -- SpaceX and Boeing -- are stumbling a bit at the finish line. Boeing's Starliner has been plagued by delays nearly from the start, and SpaceX is now dealing with its own list of problems.In remarks to reporters at the Paris Airshow, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine admitted that the recent destruction of a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule during static testing is a major setback for NASA's crewed flight schedule. The race to be the first to deliver a suitable solution for NASA's needs now appears to be anyone's game."There is no doubt the...

NASA's Mars 2020 rover finally has its head

NASA's Mars 2020 mission will be its most ambitious trip to the Red Planet yet. The Mars 2020 rover is absolutely packed with the latest high-tech instruments, and while the mission isn't scheduled to begin until next summer, excitement is already building in a big way.Recently, NASA began hosting a live stream where viewers can watch its engineers slowly testing and assembling the components that will be shot skyward. As NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory boasts in a new blog post, the rover just got a huge addition in the form of its mast, which is the iconic "face" of any rover.The mast of the Mars 2020 rover is equipped with lenses and various sensors that will provide...

Daring maneuver brings NASA
Daring maneuver brings NASA's orbiter closer to an asteroid than ever before

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been orbiting the space rock known as Bennu since the start of the year. It caught up with the asteroid in late December of 2018 and successfully inserted itself into orbit around the object around New Year's day. There have been several "firsts" along the way, but its latest maneuver is the most daring yet, and it allowed the spacecraft to break yet another record.A recent tweak to its orbit has brought the probe to an orbit of just 680 meters, or around 2,230 feet from the asteroid's surface. This is now the closest that any manmade spacecraft has orbited any planetary body.It's a stellar achievement for NASA, but it's worth noting that the...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Science

Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.