An aircraft approaches the International Space Station.
(photo credit: NASA)
A space lab developed by the Space Pharma Company in Israel and carrying four experiments in the field of life sciences arrived on Tuesday at the International Space Station after a successful launch. The lab, whose development is supported by the Israel Space Agency in the Science and Technology Ministry, is unique in that it will function without direct human contact but instead will be controlled by researchers from earth.
Two of the experiments were developed by US researchers, one by a Swiss scientist and another by an Israeli pharmaceutical company.
The experiments on live biological cells are innovative and have not yet been carried out in space. The first experiment is expected to begin tomorrow.
According to Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis: “We are proud to see how Israeli entrepreneurs in a new and developing field of space start-ups are succeeding in breaching boundaries and registering achievements in space.”
The Nexus space laboratory, which was launched on Sunday, arrived along with three tons of supplies for astronauts living in the space station. The four experiments take up a space of only 10 cm. by 10 cm.
by 20 cm. and weigh just 2.3 kg., thus minimizing the cost of the launch. The package includes a camera-microscope that takes samples according to the researchers’ instructions, unique in its technological ability to maintain a temperature similar to the human body of 37 degrees Celsius.
Allowing control of experiments by researchers from anywhere on earth, it will be run via a Web site through a computer or mobile phone application. The researchers will be able to intervene in the experiment, manage it, extract microscopic images and receive real-time data on radiation, temperature and more, without the involvement of an astronaut. Space provides an optimal experimental environment for testing the effects of sub-gravity conditions on chemical and biological materials to, for example, test their resistance to drugs.
According to the company’s founder, Yossi Yamin: “Meeting NASA ’s tough standards is a significant milestone for the company. Work with the Americans was demanding, and we cannot take for granted the fact that the system was accepted.”
The lab is to be received at the space station by Italian astronaut Paolo Despoli who visited during Israel Space Week four years ago.
He will connect it to the space station’s electrical system. The experiments will be completed within three weeks, and for the first time the laboratory will be returned to earth only a few months later for analysis by the researchers to speed up their investigation.
One of the experiments to be carried out is that of Dr. Sarah Walsh, whose study deals with the bacteria that cause infections, especially among people whose immune system is weak. Her experiment examines the effect of microgravity conditions on a molecule that causes bacteria to change.