Browse Publications Technical Papers 2004-01-2281
2004-07-19

Life Sciences Experiments Beyond Low Earth Orbit 2004-01-2281

Exploring worlds beyond Earth will require terrestrial life to survive and ultimately flourish in environments fundamentally different to those in which it has evolved. The effects of deep space and conditions on the surface of other worlds must be studied and compared to the Earth, to understand and reduce the risks to explorers, and to make full use of the broad research opportunities and scientific benefits offered by such unique environments. We are only beginning to learn about adaptations to the space environment -- key changes in terrestrial life may only be revealed over complete life cycles and across multiple generations beyond Earth. The demands and potential risks of exploring and inhabiting other worlds necessitate a detailed understanding of these changes at all levels of biological organization, from the smallest genetic alteration to impacts on critical elements of reproduction, development and aging. Results from experiments conducted beyond low Earth orbit will contribute to the safety of space exploration, drive numerous social and economic benefits by extending our basic understanding of life on Earth, and address fundamental questions of life’s potential beyond its planet of origin. Core research will use model organisms and human cell cultures to establish biological reference standards for each new space environment. These standards will enable comparisons across environments and form the foundation of efforts to predict, assess, and minimize biological risks to humans. Research campaigns could include innovative, Principal Investigator-driven investigations. Multiple flight platforms -- including the ISS, free flyers, and planetary bases -- will be implemented to support a range of manned and unmanned mission opportunities.

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