The astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) have had a very eventful week behind them. Apart from mobilizing a small air leak detected on the Russian side of the laboratory in orbit, as recently reported by the Inquisitr, the crew of Expedition 56 has been engaged in pioneering scientific experiments.
All their hard work has paid off in a great way, since NASA was happy to report that the crew had a great breakthrough this past week.
One of the scientific experiments currently carried out on board the ISS is the Biomolecule Extraction and Sequencing Technology (BEST), a project aimed at studying how life in gravity affects the unseen microbes that reside in the space station.
The experiment took place on 24 May on board the orbital outpost via the Cygnus supply vehicle that was launched by Orbital ATK, now Northrop Grumman. The aim of this research is to investigate how microbes react to zero gravity and whether space flights affect the way they mutate, the Inquisitr reported prior to the launch of the spacecraft.
According to the space agency, BEST sees the use of a special sequencing technique to identify unknown microbes that live onboard the ISS and that can not be detected using current methods.
The experiment also attempts to detect possible microbial mutations that are activated as a result of space flight and to perform direct sequencing of RNA – an essential molecule that executes the instructions encoded in DNA, NASA explained in a Facebook message.
The latter has just been reached earlier this week, when American astronaut Ricky Arnold successfully sequenced RNA in space for the very first time.
"This week, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold was the first person to follow RNA in space, another molecular milestone aboard the laboratory in orbit around the earth," officials of the space agency announced on August 31.
Science highlights space station: week of August 27, 2018. #station #iss https://t.co/vQuCsVdvQM NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold became the first person to follow RNA in space this week, another molecular milestone aboard the laboratory in orbit around the earth.
– SciTech FliX (@SciTechFliX) August 31, 2018
Although the successful sequencing of DNA was carried out aboard the space station in August 2016, this is the first time anyone has performed the same operation on RNA.
"Within the first few minutes, more than 15,000 RNA molecules were sequenced, corresponding to and surpassing many of the soil sequencing runs, the run lasted 48 hours," detailed NASA officials.
This important achievement has been described as a "historical milestone" by NASA Senior Communications Specialist Isidro Reyna, who noted that the BEST experiment "has the potential to become a game changer for research on the health of the crew and gain insight in how organisms respond to space flights. "
In the video below Reyna explains that the BEST project can help researchers understand how all kinds of organisms, from microbes to plants to astronauts living and working in space, adapt to the living conditions on board the ISS.
As Reyna points out, this research can "provide a better insight" into the type of technologies that we need to develop for future human explorations, both in the orbital laboratory and elsewhere in the solar system.