People on Earth will benefit from numerous microgravity experiments conducted during Sen. John Glenn’s historic return to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in October 1998.
After a year’s analysis of data collected during the STS-95 flight, scientists reported the mission’s microgravity experiments are contributing information to such diverse fields as medicine, agriculture and manufacturing. The investigations were managed by NASA’s Lead Center for Microgravity Research – the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
During the mission, Glenn -- the subject of various life science experiments on the aging process -- worked as a payload specialist, or scientist in orbit. In microgravity -- the near-weightlessness of space -- he and other crew members activated and monitored experiments aimed at improving life on Earth.
Glenn worked with several experiments that may help improve treatments for life-threatening diseases. One result: treating solid tumors may become more effectiveusing drugs enclosed in liquid-filled microcapsules that can be injected into arteries leading directly to the tumor. A new microencapsulation electrostatic processing system using microballoons was tested in space, and results are being used to refine the manufacturing process on Earth.
STS-95 results from another commercial experiment are being evaluated by a biopharmaceutical company that is testing advanced cell separation technologies. These technologies could be used to produce hemoglobin products to replace whole human blood in transfusions.
High-quality protein crystals were produced during the closely watched flight, and scientists obtained the best data ever collected on human recombinant insulin crystals. Using the crystal data, scientists can model the structure of this type of insulin more accurately, and pharmaceutical companies may be able to use the structural data to improve insulin treatments used to control diabetes. Other protein crystals grown during the mission could help pharmaceutical companies learn more about how to treat AIDS and Chagas’ disease -- a deadly parasitic disease that primarily attacks cardiac muscle.
A portion of the microgravity experiments flown on STS-95 were funded and developed by commercial companies under NASA’s Space Product Development Program, which encourages industry to investigate the commercial potential of space. Several research efforts involved independent, commercial firms. A number of other experiments were developed and flown through NASA’s Commercial Space Centers – located in regions across the United States. These centers partner with companies to develop products using insight gained from space research.
Investigators reported results from both life and microgravity experiments Jan. 27-28 at the Symposium on the STS-95 Research Results, sponsored by NASA Headquarters’ Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications and the National Institute on Aging.
More detailed descriptions of the results presented on microgravity experiments can be found at:
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