5 experiments aboard the International Space Station

The International Space Station is an orbiting laboratory that has hosted astronaut-scientists for 20 years. To date, researchers from around the world have conducted some 3,000 experiments aboard the station. Today’s crew will run 250 experiments by the time its six-month voyage ends October 16.

The results have the potential to aid future space exploration and improve life on Earth. Take a closer look at five experiments the crew is working on now, taking advantage of the space station’s microgravity environment.

Number 1 Diffusion flames are the basis for most combustion engines. Through the Cool Flames Investigation with Gases experiment, scientists monitor the chemical reactions of cool diffusion flames to better understand combustion and fires on Earth. These flames burn at extremely low temperatures, are easily created in microgravity and practically impossible to replicate in Earth’s gravity. This investigation could lead to cleaner, more efficient internal combustion engines.

Number 2 How humans grip and manipulate objects is based on several cues, including an object’s weight and concepts such as up and down. With that in mind, astronauts are studying how weight changes and different cues (due to microgravity) affect a person’s grip and movements. Results could point to hazards astronauts might face when moving between environments with different levels of gravity. Results might also impact the design of touch-based interfaces, including ones used for remote control on space voyages.

Number 3 The GRASP investigation looks into how the central nervous system integrates information from the senses to coordinate hand movement and visual input. This will help determine whether gravity acts as a frame of reference to control movement.

Upside-down astronaut performing experiment on International Space Station (NASA)
An astronaut experiments with sensory motor performance in a microgravity situation. (NASA)

Number 4 Astronauts in long-duration spaceflight endure confinement, partial gravity, isolation and the disruption of the normal daylight cycle. The Behavioral Core Measures investigation seeks to detect and quantify how such stressors affect their mental well-being.

Number 5 The Four Bed CO2 Scrubber experiment may show that space agencies can improve a process to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere aboard spacecraft. If so, the health of astronauts could improve, ensuring mission success.

Go here to learn more about the experiments aboard the International Space Station and how they benefit humanity. And if you have a project or experiment idea, NASA wants to hear from you and can answer questions about funding, capabilities and access.