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Living and Working Aboard Station

Living and Working Aboard Station

 Join us on Facebook Live for a conversation with astronaut Kate Rubins and the director of the National Institutes for Health on Tuesday, October 18 at 11:15 a.m. ET.

Astronaut Kate Rubins
has conducted out of this world research
aboard Earth’s only orbiting laboratory. During her time aboard the International
Space Station, she became the first
person to sequence DNA in space. On Tuesday, she’ll be live on
Facebook with National Institute of Health director Francis Collins, who led
the effort to map the human genome. You can submit questions for Kate using the
hashtag #SpaceChat on Twitter, or during the live event. Here’s a primer on the
science this PhD astronaut has been conducting to help inspire your questions: 


Kate has a background in genomics (a branch of molecular genetics that deals with the study of genomes,specifically the identification and sequencing of their constituent genes and the application of this knowledge in medicine, pharmacy,agriculture, and other fields). When she began her tenure on the station, zero base pairs of DNA had been sequenced in space. Within just a few weeks, she and the Biomolecule Sequencer team had sequenced their one billionth base of DNA aboard the orbital platform.

“I [have a] genomics background, [so] I get really excited about that kind of stuff,” Rubins said in a downlink shortly after reaching the one billion base pairs sequenced goal.

Learn more about this achievement:

DNA Sequencing in Space a Game Changer

in Short: One Billion Base Pairs Sequenced

Why is DNA Sequencing in Space a Big Deal?

A space-based DNA sequencer could identify microbes, diagnose diseases and understand crew member health, and potentially help detect DNA-based life elsewhere in the solar system.

Sequencing DNA in Space is a Big Deal 

Miss the Reddit AMA on the subject? Here’s a transcript:

AMA: We just sequenced DNA in space for the first time. Ask us anything! 

NASA and Its Partnerships


We’re not doing this alone.

like the DNA sequencing was a collaborative project with industry, so is the
Eli Lilly Hard to Wet Surfaces investigation, which is a partnership
between CASIS and Eli Lilly Co. In this experiment aboard the station, astronauts will study how certain materials used in the pharmaceutical industry dissolve in water while in microgravity. Results from this investigation could help improve the design of tablets that dissolve in the body to deliver drugs, thereby improving drug design for medicines used in space and on Earth. Learn more about what we and our partners are doing:

Lilly Hard to Wet Surfaces – been happening the
last week and a half or so

to Test How Solids Dissolve in Space to Design Better Tablets and Pills on

With our colleagues at the Stanford University School of Medicine, we’re also investigating the effects of spaceflight on stem cell-derived heart cells, specifically how heart muscle tissue, contracts, grows and changes  in microgravity and how those changes vary between subjects. Understanding how heart muscle cells change in space improves efforts for studying disease, screening drugs and conducting cell replacement therapy for future space missions. Learn more:


+Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist for Aug. 18, 2016 

It’s Not Just Medicine


Kate and her crew mates have also worked on the combustion experiments.

Kate has also worked on the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), an experimental expandable capsule that docks with the station. As we work on our Journey to Mars, future space habitats  are a necessity. BEAM, designed for Mars or other destinations, is a lightweight and relatively simple to construct solution. Kate has recently examined BEAM, currently attached to the station, to take
measurements and install sensors.


Kate recently performed a harvest of the Plant RNA
Regulation experiment, by removing seed cassettes and stowing them in cold


The Plant RNA Regulation investigation studies the first
steps of gene expression involved in development of roots and shoots.
Scientists expect to find new molecules that play a role in how plants adapt
and respond to the microgravity environment of space, which provides new
insight into growing plants for food and oxygen supplies on long-duration
missions. Read more about the experiment:

+Plant RNA Harvest

Astronaut Kate Rubins is participating in several investigations examining
changes in her body as a result of living in space. Some of these changes are
similar to issues experienced by our elderly on Earth; for example, bone loss
(osteoporosis), cardiovascular deconditioning, immune dysfunction, and muscle
atrophy. Understanding these changes and how to prevent them in astronauts off
the Earth may help improve health for all of us on the Earth.

In additional, the crew aboard station is also working on more generalized studies of aging.

+ Study of the effects of aging on C. elegans, a model organism for a range of biological studies.

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