Houston company axiom space has planned a huge scientific transport for its debut mission, including robots and filters that could help with future space exploration on the Moon or Mars.
Axiom plans to launch Ax-1, the first all-private crewed mission to the International Space Station, on April 8 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon. Four people, including three paying customers, will spend 10 days in space, including eight aboard the orbit complex, but officials have stressed this will not be a space tourism excursion.
“This crew is really dedicated to research,” said Christian Maender, Axiom’s director of space manufacturing and research, during a livestreamed press conference Feb. 28. Axiom-1’s science includes 25 research experiments designed for microgravity and up to a dozen pre-flight and post-flight experiments, he noted.
“This collection of life science and tech demos,” added Maender, “is a very broad spectrum of research, covering everything from human health considerations both in space and on the ground and the knowledge, infrastructure and design for the future.” Home will inform from the earth.”
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Ax-1 is commanded by Axiom employee and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who is accompanied by three paying clients: real estate entrepreneur Larry Connor, Canadian investment CEO Mark Pathy, and Israeli investor Eytan Stibbe, each of whom are said to be paid $55 million for a seat.
“Because of the interest of this crew, many different experiments came into play in each of these projects,” said Maender. “At the beginning of the mission design process, they brought us a portfolio of work. They said, ‘We really want to do some of these things in orbit.’ It’s been a pleasure working with them and with NASA and the National Lab to really make these things happen for the crew.”
Ax-1 will include studies in human research, technology demonstrations, Earth observation and science (life and physics), the company said in a November 2021 press release.
The crew plans a total of more than 100 hours in space to work on the experiments, which is more than a tenth of their total hours in orbit (960, assuming approximately 240 hours out of 10 days in space for each of the four people .)
Connor will work with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic, building on research he has funded mostly at those institutions over the past 10 years. For Mayo, Connor will examine senescent cells (cells that no longer divide) and their relationship to heart health. At the Cleveland Clinic, he schedules pre- and post-mission MRIs to see how space travel affects back and brain tissue.
“This is a ground-level attempt to determine what impact spaceflight will have on civilians of all ages,” said Thomas E. Mroz, director of the Center for Spine Health and director of spine research for the Cleveland Clinic Axiom statement. “There is so much to learn. How long can humans stay in space? Or what do they need for their health?”
Pathy will work on several research projects on behalf of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the Group of Canadian Research Universities and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (along with various universities and startups).
Pathy will test a bi-directional “holoportation” system that will allow users to communicate remotely using two 3D projections as a hologram. He will conduct research on chronic pain and sleep disorders for the Children’s Hospital, as well as other research projects for other institutions, such as visual changes associated with space travel. Pathy will also conduct Earth Observation activities to better understand the impact of global warming and urbanization on our planet.
“The unique perspectives Mark will bring from space will help build an enduring legacy of learning connected to the protection and preservation of our Canadian ecosystem – long after his mission is complete,” said John Geiger, CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society the Axiom statement.
Stibbe, a friend of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, plans to work at Israel’s Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology on behalf of the Ramon Foundation and in partnership with the Israel Space Agency.
“The experiments are innovative and groundbreaking, drawn from diverse disciplines – astrophysics, agriculture, optics, communications, biology, healthcare, neurology and ophthalmology – and were selected for their potential impact on research and innovative approach,” says Inbal Kreiss, Chair from The Scientific and Technological Committee and head of the Innovation of Systems Missiles and Space Group at Israel Aerospace Industries said in the statement.
“They are expected to result in technological, scientific and medical breakthroughs that will impact the quality of human life on Earth and the future of humanity’s long-term missions beyond Earth,” Kreiss added.
On March 17, Axiom released brief details about other experiments the crew plans to conduct on the space station, particularly those related to technology.
TESSERAE (Tessellated Electromagnetic Space Structures for the Exploration of Reconfigurable, Adaptive Environments): This project will test technology that forms swarms of self-assembling robots that can be used for a variety of constructions, including additional space station modules. The work is done in collaboration with the Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Aurelia Institute.
Modeling of tumor organoids in low earth orbit: Using human cancer stem cells and a cancer stem cell reporter system, this project will assess early cancer-induced organ effects due to accelerated aging in microgravity. Cooperation partners include the University of California, San Diego and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine.
Japan Manned Space Systems Corporation (JAMSS) photocatalyst: An air purification device called a photocatalyst is used for a technical demonstration to evaluate its performance. The device will use light to convert air gases into water and carbon dioxide. The cooperation partners include JAMSS, the Tokyo University of Science and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.
Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH): The consortium will collect a range of data on passengers, including conducting physical and cognitive tests and measuring balance and vision. TRISH plans to create a research database from the information to learn more about human health implications, particularly on long-term missions to the moon and possibly Mars. The consortium includes Baylor College of Medicine, the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
https://www.space.com/axiom-1-space-station-science-work The science behind the private SpaceX mission includes self-assembling robots and light-powered air filters