Saturday, May 31, 2014

CARA – it’s a wrap.

Yesterday we traveled to KSC to retrieve the CARA samples that were harvested to on orbit, along with their comparable ground controls. The plants were harvested by Steve Swanson to KSC Fixation Tubes (KFTs) filled with “RNALater” – a solution that preserves the plants and genetic material in the state they were in on orbit for our later study on Earth.
Steve Swanson harvests plants on orbit to Kennedy Space Center Fixation Tubes - KFTs 
 Thursday one of the Payload Integration Specialists at KSC worked with us to unload the KFTs, and we brought the precious cargo home.  Thus ends the orbital portion of the CARA experiment!
One of 10 KFTs containing plants harvested on orbit, as returned to us at KSC
What’s next for CARA? Several months of laboratory analyses – imagine analyses from LMM and standard macro-photography, and the biochemical analyses of gene expression in the returned samples.

What’s next for us in the spaceflight realm? In two weeks we start in on structured preparation for our next flight experiment: TAGES-ISA. The Science Verification Test (SVT) for TAGES-ISA begins June 11th at KSC. The upcoming SVT will run a short version of our proposed flight experiment within the ISS Environmental Simulator (the ISSES chamber) and flight-comparable hardware (the VEGGIE unit). This test will – you guessed it – verify that the science of our proposed experiment is a good match for the hardware and likely environment it will see on the ISS.  
Later in the year we may be sending our biology to the suborbital realm as well – Stay tuned!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Video: Closing down LMM imaging

On Friday Steve Swanson pulled our petri plate out of the Light Microscopy Module and re-secured the LMM. The LMM will stay in active until its next deployment.

The imaging phase of the CARA experiment is now over. On Tuesday the remainder of the CARA plates will be collected and the plants on those plates will be harvested, preserved and frozen for return when the Dragon capsule makes its way back to earth.

ISS Video US Lab during LMM teleoperations

This video is still from the US lab, but the camera that was watching the LMM operations has been relocated to a general view of the US Laboratory Module. Interestingly is allows a change in perspective with regard to what direction is "up"

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gene expression images from ISS

The LMM has transferred some excellent images of plant roots on the ISS. Here is a white-light image showing a root tip growing on the surface of the agar medium. This image gives us precise location and morphology information. Below is a GFP gene expression image, showing the precise location of the cells within the root that are expressing this gene. The larger image at the bottom is a combined image, showing both the morphological location information as well as the gene expression data.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Steve Swanson taking the plate out of the LMM

Now that this imaging session is over, astronaut Steve Swanson spent a good bit of time opening up the rack and removing our plate of plants from the LMM.

Day of ISS imaging complete

Notebook page of image captures
The first 24-hr imaging session with the LMM was completed this morning! The UF team kept track of the imaging progress with old school notebook entries that allow correlation with data streams from the ISS. ISS images are being annotated and stored in preparation for transfer and analysis. The root image here shows the kind of high resolution images coming from the LMM.

White light image from the LMM of a root section

Monday, May 5, 2014

Video - Steve Swanson with the LMM

Telescience from GRC to the ISS

We scientists have always been impressed by the people that make science work. Especially in the business of space biology, there are so many skilled people working to make our science possible. For the next few days we will be here at Glenn Research Center in the Telescience Support Center. At this point, just after the LMM is enabled on orbit, the TSC is alive with a whole group of people communicating with the ISS, commanding the LMM to begin operations, and otherwise coordinating the transfer of instructions up and data down. So now these folks from Glenn join the folks from KSC and the folks from CASIS, all making good things happen for this unique kind of science.

Petri-Plants into the LMM on orbit!

Steve Swanson prepares a plate for the LMM
At 0645 EDT Astronaut Steve Swanson began the process to install the CARA imaging plate into the Light Microscopy Module LMM. Formally this begins the imaging section of the CARA project, which is known as Petri Plants. Actually PetriPlants is also the OpNom (Operational Nomenclature) for the CARA experiment. The documentation and the calls back and forth from the ISS refer to PetriPlants for ease of identification.

The UF team is at Glenn Research Center where the LMM is controlled from the Telescience Support Center TSC.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

CARA is enabled by CASIS as part of ARK1

CARA is a payload enabled by CASIS, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, as part of their initial science increment on the ISS. CASIS launch increments are referred to as Advancing Research Knowledge, or ARK. According to CASIS, "ARK1 marks the initial voyages of CASIS and its partner researchers."

Photos - CARA plates on the ISS

The CARA plates are all nicely positioned on the wall (floor?) of the ISS in the US Laboratory module. Here they will be exposed to light and the ambient ISS environment for their growth cycle. The more tightly arranged plates on the right (in this view) will grow in the light for the 12 days of the experiment. The more scattered 10 on the left were re-wrapped in black cloth and will provide a set of dark-grown controls for the experiment. Identical Ground Control sets are now growing in the ISSES Chamber (ISS Environment Simulator) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

On the adjoining wall of the module is the MELFI freezer, which can be identified by the circular doors that cover the actual freezer components.

U.S. Laboratory module