SpaceX Dragon docks with the International Space Station.REUTERS/NASA
- On Sunday morning, a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit.
- The spacecraft’s re-supply mission carried up 5,700 pounds of gear to the ISS, including equipment for 38 different science experiments and a new robotic companion.
- Once of those experiments involves observing how genetically engineered “mighty mice” with twice the normal muscle mass respond to living in space.
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A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 5:05 a.m. Eastern time Sunday morning.
It delivered 5,700 pounds of supplies for the ISS crew, as well as gear for 38 different science experiments taking place in the orbiting space station. This is SpaceX’s 19th resupply mission, aptly named CRS-19, under the company’s current contract with NASA that extends through 2024.
The cargo is also packed with Christmas presents for the station’s 6-person crew, according to the Associated Press.
One piece of the CRS-19 cargo was a cadre of 40 genetically enhanced “mighty mice” with two times the normal amount of muscle mass. For the next 30 days, these mice will be used to help researchers from the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine (JAX-GM) assess how to minimize muscle and bone loss in astronauts during spaceflight.
“This is a project that I’ve been trying to get off the ground, so to speak, for many, many years. To see it all come together now is nothing short of amazing,” lead researcher from the JAX-GM lab, Se-Jin Lee, said in a press release.
A view of the International Space Station in orbit.NASA
In addition to helping scientists understand how living in space changes astronauts’ bodies, discoveries from this mighty mouse experiment may help researchers address serious health conditions that impact humans’ muscle and bone strength on Earth.
“The knowledge we gain about microgravity’s effects on muscles and bones will help us to enhance the health of astronauts — both in space and on Earth, and also better understand the promise that myostatin inhibitors hold for the elderly, people who are bedridden, and for people experiencing muscle-wasting related to diseases like AIDS, ALS, cancer, and so many others,” Lee added.
A robotic companion
Another part of the SpaceX Dragon cargo was the next generation of the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, or CIMON-2.
The companion is an artificial intelligence program housed in a round, soccer ball-sized robot with a digital face.
CIMON is programmed to interact astronauts on the International Space Station.IBM
CIMON-2 is designed as an autonomous companion that can sense astronauts’ emotions, interact with them, and help with tasks on the ISS.
Last, CIMON-2’s predecessor, the first generation of CIMON, joined the space station’s crew.
This SpaceX Dragon mission is scheduled to end on January 6, 2020, when CRS-19 will return to Earth with 1,800 pounds of scientific samples and gear.