A shoebox-sized spacecraft launched on NASA’s Artemis 1 mission is set to begin its experiment in deep space biology after a flyby of the Moon.
NASA BioSentinel is one of 10 ride-on cubes go ahead On the Artemis 1 mission on November 16th. It aims to generate new knowledge about potential health risks posed by long-duration manned missions into deep space.
The 30-pound (13-kilogram) cube moon had jiggled a bit early on, as the initial telemetry was received from the BioSentinel on November 16, indicating that the spacecraft was faltering.
Related: Artemis 1 launch photos: Stunning debut views of NASA’s moon rocket (Gallery)
However, the problem was corrected after commands sent through the Deep Space Network resolved the anomaly, according to NASA. statement (Opens in a new tab).
The Lunar Cube then made a successful flyby of the Moon on November 22, passing within 250 miles (402 km) above the lunar surface.
BioSentinel carries two strains of yeast, with the goal of learning how the perilous radiation environment in deep space affects and damages genetic material. Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California want to use the data to find potential solutions that could help future human explorers to the moon, Mars, and possibly beyond.
Astronauts living on the International Space Station are exposed to a much harsher radiation environment than here on Earth. But they are also protected by Earth’s magnetosphere from much of the radiation passing through deep space that can damage their DNA.
Yeast was chosen because it is well-studied and repairs its DNA in a similar way to how the human body repairs its genetic material.
Two strains were chosen to ride. One is a yeast commonly found in nature, while the other was chosen because it has trouble repairing its DNA. Comparing how these two groups of microorganisms respond will provide new insights into the health risks associated with deep space travel.
BioSentinel is pointing its solar panels at the sun and recharging its batteries in preparation for the start of its experiment, which is expected to begin next month, according to NASA.
“We’re excited to see how the yeast works once the experiment starts and we receive the first data link from the spacecraft,” said Matt Napoli, BioSentinel Project Manager at NASA Ames.
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