NASA develops light microscope for International Space Station

Mar 07, 2011
Mouse tissue slide. Credit: Courtesy NASA

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA began testing a new multi-capability microscope this week on the International Space Station. It will help scientists study the effects of the space environment on physics and biology aboard the orbiting laboratory. The microscope is isolated from vibrations on the station, allowing it to obtain clear, high-resolution images. Using high-resolution magnification, scientists can examine microorganisms and individual cells of plants and animals, including humans.

The microscope will allow real-time study of the effects of the without the need to return samples to Earth. Any living specimens returned to Earth must endure the effects of re-entry through the atmosphere. The ability to use the Module (LMM) on station will enable scientists to study data unaffected by re-entry.

"We really need to maximize life science investigations conducted on the International Space Station," said Jacob Cohen, principal investigator of the technology demonstration and a researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "It's really amazing to be able to remotely manage, optimize and troubleshoot experiments observed with a microscope in space without the need to return the samples back to Earth. This microscope is helping fulfill the vision of a true laboratory in space."

The biological samples for the LMM launched on space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 mission on Feb. 24. They include eight fixed slides containing yeast; bacteria; a leaf; a fly; a butterfly wing; tissue sections and blood; six containers of live C. elegans worms, an organism biologists commonly study; a typed letter "r" and a piece of fluorescent plastic. The wing is from a previous study, Butterflies in Space, involving students from around the country, and flown on STS-129 in 2009. Some of the worms are descendants of those that survived the space shuttle Columbia (STS-107) accident; and others are modified to fluoresce. Scientists commonly attach green, yellow and red florescent proteins to study gene expression.

"Operating the LMM on the space station has been a goal of NASA's Life and Physical Sciences Program for many years," said Ron Sicker, LMM project manager at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. "Scientists and engineers at Glenn modified the commercial microscope in the LMM with 23 micro motors and cameras to allow remote control operations."

Cohen and Sicker expect the LMM to perform the same as a microscope on Earth. In the future, the could be used to assist in maintenance of station crew health, advance our knowledge of the effects of space on biology and contribute to the development of applications for space exploration and on Earth. This technology demonstration was developed by Ames and Glenn, which developed and manages the LMM. The Advanced Capabilities Division in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, funds the project.

"This is a facility to support research in both physical and life sciences by NASA-funded and National Laboratory users," said Julie Robinson, Program scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "It gives us a capability not available before that allows more types of research to be done."

Explore further: NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Discovery Launch Date to be Finalized Today

May 19, 2008

Top NASA officials are gathered today at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida to assess preparations for space shuttle Discovery's STS-124 mission to the International Space Station. Known as the Flight ...

New NASA Software Monitors Space Station Gyroscopes

Aug 14, 2007

NASA has added a new computer program to help monitor the four gyroscopes that keep the International Space Station properly oriented without the use of rocket fuel. During a spacewalk on Monday, two astronauts from the space ...

Space Station video now live on Internet -- mostly

Mar 11, 2009

(AP) -- NASA has started beaming live video from just outside the International Space Station, but there's a catch: The online feeds are available only when the station's crew is asleep or off duty.

Space shuttle mission Web coverage offered

Oct 18, 2007

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said it will provide a TV webcast and podcasts of the STS-120 mission to the International Space Station.

Space Shuttle Discovery Set to Land Saturday

Mar 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The space shuttle Discovery's crew is expected to complete its mission to the International Space Station with a landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1:43 p.m. EDT on Saturday, March 28. The ...

Recommended for you

NASA's Webb Telescope mirror tripod in action (Video)

5 hours ago

Setting up NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's secondary mirror in space will require special arms that resemble a tripod. NASA recently demonstrated that test in a NASA cleanroom and it was documented in ...

Iridium flares captured in real time by astrophotographer

13 hours ago

There are so many fun sights to see in the sky that are pure astronomical magic. And then there are the spectacular human-created sights. One of those sights is watching satellites from the Iridium constellation ...

Is Phobos doomed?

14 hours ago

"All these worlds are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there."

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.