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European Space Agency cargo ship carries research and technology investigations to International Space Station

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(Mar. 23, 2012) — When the European Space Agency's third Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo ship arrives at the International Space Station on March 28, it will be packed with more than seven tons of supplies, including a mix of international partner research ranging from biology to education to physical science.

A Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency investigation aims to explain the mechanism for the perfect growth of crystals in microgravity. In-situ Observation of Growth Mechanisms of Protein Crystals and Their Perfection Under Microgravity (NanoStep) will attempt to identify the precise mechanism responsible for the development of such perfect crystals from a fundamental point of view.

Japan also has many educational activities going to the station. Astronauts will demonstrate activities and artistic performances inside the Kibo Japanese laboratory through Education Payload Observation 9. These activities are expected to enlighten the general public about the wonders of microgravity phenomena and human spaceflight.

And more LEGO kits are headed to the station as part of the LEGO® Bricks investigation. Far from being playtime for the astronauts, the LEGO kits are assembled in orbit and used to demonstrate scientific concepts and share those concepts with students in an engaging way. Some previous models include satellites, a space shuttle orbiter and a scale model of the International Space Station.

Students at various high schools around the country also will be participating in investigations using the NanoRacks Facility -- a multipurpose, commercially-funded research facility providing power and data transfer capability to the experiments as part of the station's U.S. National Laboratory research. These investigations include comparing the strength and structure of concrete mixed by two different methods in microgravity with similar ground-mixed concrete; studying the effects of microgravity on remotely controlled robot mechanisms and mechanical devices; and studying the growth of E. coli bacteria in microgravity and the bacteria's resistance to an antibiotic. Another NanoRack investigation, NanoRacks-Valley Christian High School-Plant Growth (NanoRacks-VCHS-Plant Growth), will study the growth and growth rate of marigold and thyme seeds in microgravity.

New components for an Italian Space Agency technology investigation will refine assessments of the radiation environment inside the space station. Anomalous Long Term Effects in Astronauts' Central Nervous System -- Shield (ALTEA-Shield) will measure the particle flow in the Destiny Laboratory on the station to better understand the interaction between cosmic rays and brain function. Radiation exposure represents one of the greatest risks to humans traveling on exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit due to its effects on the central nervous system.

Several human research activities will arrive with the cargo ship, including Astronaut's Energy Requirements for Long-Term Space Flight(Energy). This investigation will measure changes in energy balance in astronauts following long-term spaceflight. And the Integrated Resistance and Aerobic Training Study (Sprint) will evaluate the use of high-intensity, low-volume exercise to minimize loss of muscle, bone and cardiovascular function during long-duration missions.

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The above story is reprinted from materials provided by NASA. The original article was written by Lori Meggs, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.

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