Learn about the science experiments launched on SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronaut mission

Smart shirts and artificial retinas will blast off into space alongside SpaceX’s Crew 4 mission to the International Space Station no earlier than April 26.

The four astronauts plan to perform more than 200 experiments during their month-long missions, as is typical for such missions, NASA said in a statement describing the research.

The crew’s research will extend to areas such as health technologies, plant science and materials science. Some of the experiments will be packed into the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which, if all goes well, will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:15 a.m. EDT (0815 GMT) on Tuesday (April 26).

Here’s a look at some of the science launches into orbit.

Live updates: SpaceX’s astronaut missions for NASA

The Smart-Tex T-shirt. (Image credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0))
  • The protein-based artificial retina manufacturing experience should help patients with degenerative retinal diseases, such as macular degeneration. The technology “tests the fabrication of artificial retinas or retinal implants in microgravity, where it is expected that their production can be optimized,” according to NASA.
  • The Wireless Compose-2 is the latest “smart shirt” to fly in space. This version of the Smart-Tex shirt, from the German Space Agency (DLR), will monitor blood pressure, heart contractions and other health parameters. “These types of wearable technologies could be used to monitor health throughout a long-duration space exploration mission and could lead to more flexible implementation of this technology in health monitoring equipment on Earth. “, said NASA.
  • Microgravity as a model of immunological senescence and its impact on tissue stem cells will examine biological aging in space. The experiment aims to examine “the effects of microgravity on cells involved in tissue regeneration and whether recovery occurs after flight,” according to the experiment’s webpage.
  • Biopolymer Research for In-Situ Capabilities will test creating an alternative to concrete. This alternative could be created with an organic compound as well as silica, a common component of lunar and Martian dust.

Space station experiments typically transmit data from space for researchers on Earth to examine the raw data. If samples need to be brought back to Earth, the crew will likely pack them into a SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle that will crash near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for quick transport to local facilities.

Experiences that do not require a return to Earth will instead be packed aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo vehicle. Cygnus capsules are not reusable, which is why astronauts fill these vehicles with junk and abandoned experiments to burn up completely in Earth’s atmosphere upon reentry.

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