BRIC-19: Integration and Launch Schedule

Today the Gilroy Lab team awoke at 4am to get to the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) building at Kennedy Space Center (KSC). We had a 6 am Pre-Task Flight Integration meeting with the NASA team who places our experiment into the space hardware. However, we had spent all yesterday setting up our samples and had to arrive at the SSPF today a bit earlier to apply the finishing touches. Yesterday we made 40 Petri plates each freshly planted with 64 Arabidopsis seeds. Twenty plates will go into the BRIC hardware to be launched into space but we always make a duplicate set, just in case something goes wrong and we have to set the whole thing up again. Space flight means you plan for just about everything to go wrong, just to ensure it won’t.

Won-Gyu waits for integration with our samples in the sterile hood.

Won-Gyu waits for integration with our samples in the sterile hood.

The Petri dishes had been sitting under lights overnight, a treatment we use to synchronize seed germination once they are on board the International Space Station (ISS). However, it is necessary to cool them down in the fridge before they go into the BRIC spaceflight hardware. The cold prevents the plants from growing for the 4 days it takes to get to the ISS (two days till launch, and then two days in transit to the ISS). The astronauts will unload them from the Dragon capsule and allow them to warm up to room temperature and then they will germinate. In our case the room temperature just happens to be in a room orbiting about 250 miles above our heads!

Won-Gyu and the NASA team integrate our flight samples at the Space Station Processing Facility in the Kennedy Space Center.

Won-Gyu and the NASA team integrate our flight samples at the Space Station Processing Facility in the Kennedy Space Center.

The timing of integration is key because we do not want to plant too far in advance of launch or the seeds will germinate even in the cold and then our experiment will be ruined. Our BRIC-19 experiment is “late stowage” which means it will be packed into a cold bag and placed into SpaceX’s Dragon capsule as late as possible prior to launch (about a day before). That might sound simple but it’s actually a huge challenge for the NASA team to decide when to conduct integration, because more than one delay or “scrub” of the launch means that our experiment may sit around too long to guarantee no germination till it is on the ISS. With more than 2 days of delays, an entire sample set will have to be tossed and replaced with a new one that we need to have already prepared.

Assembled PDFUs holding our samples are ready to be placed inside a BRIC container.

Assembled PDFUs holding our samples are ready to be placed inside a BRIC container.

Here’s the tricky part: NASA has only so much spare hardware for our experiments and in our case it is the number of extra PDFU (Petri Dish Fixation Units), the casettes that each of our samples sits inside of, which is critical. Not only do we need enough (20) for the samples going into space but additionally, every experiment needs a control. In our case, our control will be a mirrored set of PDFUs containing plants that we will grow on Earth at 1x gravity. We will put these inside Kennedy Space Center’s ISS Environmental Simulator (ISSES), a growth chamber that controls its temperature to be identical to that of the ISS. So now we need a total 40 PDFUs (ground control and flight). That’s a lot of PDFUs.

Filling a PDFU with the fixative called RNAlater.

Filling a PDFU with the fixative called RNAlater.

We play some tricks to extend our PDFU stocks. Our samples are good for 2 consecutive days of launch attempts, that is, if the launch is cancelled on day 1 our sample is still good for the next day’s launch attempt. After 2 days we have to replace everything. So the game we play is to integrate our control samples 2 days after our flight samples. If the flight is delayed 2 days, our controls are swapped for our old flight samples and we make new controls. Therefore with a rolling window of launch attempts we will always have a new set of samples that can be turned over every 2 days for flight. That’s even more PDFUs! We have enough PDFUs for up to 3 scrubs; after that we have to get “creative” and recycle the old PDFUs.

PDFUs for the BRIC-19 GeneLAB experiment on the ISS are loaded into a BRIC canister.

PDFUs for the BRIC-19 GeneLAB experiment on the ISS are loaded into a BRIC canister.

So, a rocket launch really is rocket science and as we all know rocket science is hard. Getting everything perfect in the rocket and having acceptable weather for a launch is a huge challenge and it is amazing how regularly rockets actually go up. For CRS-4, the launch schedule has been very fluid as everyone tries to hit the magic combination of hardware readiness, weather and usable launch window. We’re currently on for 2:16 am EST on September 20th with a backup at 1:53am the following morning. So we’re all peering at the weather, and planning how to deal with every contingency. Fortunately, we know that the teams at SpaceX and at NASA are amazing and so the only reason to lose any sleep over the whole thing is the need to get up at 2:00 am on Saturday to watch the launch. But for the sake of our sanity, how about everyone reading this blog please “cross your fingers” that SpaceX’s CRS-4 WILL launch on Saturday morning!

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | 5 Comments

BRIC-19: TOAST II on SpaceX CRS-4

The Gilroy Lab has been again fortunate to secure NASA funding for a second experiment studying the growth of Arabidopsis plants in microgravity on the International Space Station (ISS). This experiment is called BRIC-19: Test Of Arabidopsis Space Transcriptome II (TOAST II) and GeneLAB. Similar to BRIC-17, we will use the BRIC (Biological Research In Canisters) hardware with our plants growing in petri plates inside PDFU (Petri Dish Fixation Units) as we did for BRIC-17. Our experiment will launch on September 19, 2014, tucked inside SpaceX’s Dragon capsule as part of the CRS-4 (cargo resupply mission #4). The Dragon will berth with the ISS two days later on September 21, 2014, at which point the astronauts will unpack our BRICs into the ISS and our experiment will begin.

The astronauts who will be on the ISS during the Gilroy Lab BRIC-19 experiment.

The astronauts who will be on the ISS during the Gilroy Lab BRIC-19 experiment, September – October 2014.

So, what exactly will we be investigating during our second foray to the ISS?

The first half of our BRIC-19 experiment is TOAST II. Just as the lack of weight on board the International Space Station causes astronauts to lose bone mass, the weightless environment causes plants to lose their supporting structures. For the plant this means they grow long and thin in space, lacking to some degree the thickened and strengthened cell walls that they use to hold themselves up on Earth. The reason the plants are stronger on Earth is that they sense the mechanical forces generated by their own weight and lay down support materials in response to these signals. In space, the signals are gone and so the plants don’t produce the support materials. As astronaut Don Pettit (who grew the famous Space Zucchini!) put it: Plants “get lazy” in space.

Part of the machinery that lets the plant sense and respond to these mechanical forces on Earth is a group of genes called the “TOUCH” genes, so named because they are switched on in response to touch. One of these genes, named TOUCH 2, or TCH2, looks to be an important hub for a lot of information processing in the plant and so we think that the product of the TCH2 gene, i.e., the TCH2 protein, is a key regulator of the plant’s ability to sense mechanical forces such as its own weight. Dr. Janet Braam’s research group in Rice University has been able to make mutant plants with forms of TCH2 that is either always “on” or always unable to trigger touch responses. Dr. Braam very generously shared these mutants with us and so we now have plants that have this master mechanical response trigger always on or off. The plan is to compare the ‘always on’ and ‘always off ‘ to a normal plant growing in space and see if activating the touch response pathway even in the mechanically “silent” world of spaceflight can help restore growth that is more like what we normally see on Earth. We will look not only at the plants’ growth but also at their transcriptomes (the expression level of every gene in the plant) to see if the growth and gene expression of have the hallmarks of being at 1 x gravity, even in the weightlessness of space.

BRIC logo

Logo for the NASA team that coordinates the hardware and science experiments for BRIC (Biological Research In Canister).

The other half of our BRIC-19 experiment is called GeneLAB, an exciting new program in NASA where data from experiments on the International Space Station is rapidly released to the entire research community to allow as many people as possible to study the dataset for insight into how spaceflight affects biology. The Gilroy Lab has the honor of sending the first GeneLAB experiment to the ISS!

The idea behind our GeneLAB work is that many plant biologists use the “lab rat” of plant research,  Arabidopsis thaliana (also known as Mouse Ear Cress), to perform their experiments in space. This is a small, extremely well studied plant which has an enormous range of tools to help dissect its functions down to the level of genes and chemicals. Arabidopsis grows naturally in many places around the world and although Arabidopsis thaliana from Poland or China is all ‘Arabidopsis’, the plants in each area have diverged a little bit from each other and so there are varieties of Arabidopsis local to each area. These varieties are called ‘ecotypes’ and each is a little different from the next. So the question we want to answer is, do the different ecotypes used by researchers respond differently to spaceflight? If they do, which ecotype you use for your experiment might be critically important! The way to test this possibility would be to grow different ecotypes on the Space Station and compare them to the same ecotypes grown under the same conditions on Earth. Our GeneLAB experiment is to investigate this idea using three commonly used ecotypes of Arabidopsis. The ecotypes are all named after where they were found and collected, so the ones we will use are named Ws (Wassilewskija, collected in Belarus), Cvi (from the Cape Verdi Islands) and Ler (Landsberg erecta, orginally from Poland). In addition we will be using the Columbia ecotype (from Columbia Missouri, USA) in our TOAST II experiment, giving us a 4-way comparison of ecotype responses. As with TOAST II, we will look at the growth of the plants and then look at the patterns of genes that are switched on and off in each ecotype in response to growing in space.

If all goes as planned, we should get our ISS-grown BRIC-19 samples for analysis following the Dragon splashdown when the capsule returns to earth from the ISS in late October, 2014.

toast2logo

Logo for TOAST II, our BRIC-19 experiment to launch on September 19!

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | 4 Comments

Root to Shoot Calcium Wave

While a major research effort in the Gilroy Lab involves studying how plants grow in microgravity on the ISS, equally huge is ongoing plant research on the ground here in our lab at UW-Madison.

Last week, Won-Gyu’s paper on calcium signaling in Arabidopsis was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). He discovered that when roots are hit locally with salt stress, a calcium wave quickly spreads from the point of stress throughout the whole plant. This calcium wave plays a role in how plants communicate within themselves to coordinate a response.

UW-Madison communications posted a write-up about our calcium research today. Feel free to ask a question or to leave a comment below. Enjoy!

tpc

Arabidopsis thaliana growing in salt water. The plant on the right has more of the protein channel TPC1, thought to be involved in calcium signaling in plants. The plant at center has less TPC1 than normal, and the one on the left is considered normal.

 

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | Leave a comment

BRIC-17 Data Analysis

In the past few months, the Gilroy Lab space biology research team has been busy analyzing data from our space-grown and Earth-grown control plants from our BRIC-17 TOAST experiment. Excitingly, we now have a full set of RNAseq data! The RNAseq is important to our analysis because it will give us insight into the differences in gene expression of plants grown in microgravity compared to ones grown on Earth and allow us to ask our big question: “Do plants grown on the ISS look like plants experiencing low oxygen stress on Earth”?

ISS_crew_ISS_2009

The International Space Station seen as it is orbiting Earth.

We presented some of our preliminary results at the American Society of Gravitational and Space Research  meeting in Orlando at the end of last year. This meeting is the primary venue for space biology researchers to report their results to the rest of the space research community, a community that includes NASA-funded researchers who work for universities or for private companies. This was a fantastic meeting that included not only physicists and biologists who conduct research in microgravity but also NASA employees who run the research programs and engineers who develop hardware for research on the ISS. Hanging out with rocket scientists is an incredible amount of fun!

American Society for Space and Gravitational Research

American Society for Space and Gravitational Research

As a reminder, here are the primary questions we wanted to investigate for our BRIC-17 TOAST experiment growing plants on the space station. For more details about rationale and preliminary data leading to this experiment, see the “Experiment” details page.

  • Do hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions develop in plants grown in microgravity aboard the ISS?
  • Does cax2, a plant lacking a protein which transports calcium, allow for improved plant growth under these conditions?

First, we wanted to quantify any size differences between the plants grown in microgravity compared to ones grown on Earth. For this, Won-Gyu lined up the seedlings from each petri plate and took digital images. With help from an image analysis program, he measured the total size of each seedling and took individual size measurements from each shoot and each root.

measurement method

Measuring root and shoot lengths of flight-grown material.

It turns out that the cax2 mutant seedlings from the Space Station do show different sizes of roots and shoots, so it looks like at least some of our ideas about low oxygen stresses in space may be correct.

Second, Won-Gyu looked at changes in the expression of specific genes, genes which we know have altered expression levels in a plant experiencing low oxygen stress thanks to other Earth-based plant research. He did this analysis by isolating RNA from our seedlings and using quantitative PCR (qPCR) to detect how much RNA was present. Looking at the amount of transcribed message (mRNA) from these specific genes will give us insight into the magnitude of hypoxia experienced by plants grown in microgravity compared to Earth-grown seedlings. Again, it turns out that the level of some, but not all, genes related to low oxygen stress on Earth are altered in spaceflight and are different in the cax2 mutants from the Station. We are now in the the most exciting aspect of research; it looks like some of our predictions are correct but the plants are telling us something extra that we need to try and understand.

These qPCR experiments investigated a few select genes already characterized to be involved in the plant hypoxic response.  However, the RNAseq data allows us to explore how spaceflight affected the levels of all 27,000 genes present in Arabidopsis. This RNAseq analysis is going to be the way we will tease apart what was going on to these plants aboard the ISS. As you can imagine, this set of data is huge (for the computer geeks out there, we have about 1 terabyte of raw data to sift through). Analyzing these results is in progress, but we hope to finish the work by the time spring arrives in Madison!

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | Leave a comment

Spacefaring Vegetables

If you are in Madison, Simon will be giving a presentation at the UW Space Place Dec 10 at 7pm. “Spacefaring Vegetables: Why Does NASA Launch so Much Lettuce?”
http://www.spaceplace.wisc.edu/#guest

Plants and microbes keep us alive on Earth; they feed us and they purify our air and water. Could they do the same for a long duration spaceflight or a colony on Mars? But how does a lack of gravity in space affect plants, microbes and humans? Prof. Gilroy will try answer what happens to biology when it is in spaceflight and whether down always needs to be down and 1x gravity is always good.

I’m told that it will be recorded by Wisconsin Public Television and posted online. I’ll let you know when the link to the video becomes available.

Image

The Space Place is located at 2300 S. Park Street in the Villager Mall, just north of the Beltline Highway.

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | 2 Comments

ASGSR Webcasts

The annual meeting of the American Society of Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR) is coming up next month, November 4th through 8th. This year, the meeting will be held in Orlando, Florida. A vast number of scientists involved in NASA-funded research (space station experiments in addition to ground-based projects) will present their most current results at this meeting.

The three of us from the Gilroy Lab involved in the BRIC-17 experiment will be attending the ASGSR meeting. In particular, Simon will be organizing a special session: “Introduction to Physical and Life Science Microgravity Research.” Because the society recently expanded to include scientists interested in both biology and physics, there was a need to present the key problems and questions of both areas in a compact way understandable by both groups of researchers. Simon will be teaming up with physicist Mike Banish from the University of Alabama at Huntsville to give the talk at this special session.

This session may also be of interest to many folks following this blog who are not attending the meeting because it will be a more general overview of microgravity research. Luckily, this session will be part of the ASGSR meeting webcast, so you too could “attend” the talk which is scheduled for 8am eastern time on Thursday November 7th.

For information about how to access the webcast, you should check the ASGSR website.

American Society for Space and Gravitational Research

American Society for Gravitational and Space Research

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | Leave a comment

BRIC-17 Deintegration

The Dragon capsule’s release from the space station in March was delayed by a day due to rough seas in the area planned for the splashdown, otherwise the release and splashdown went exactly as planned. If you are curious about seeing how Dragon leaves the ISS, here is a time-lapse video showing the process. It is pretty amazing when you remember this is all going on at 5 miles per second, 250 miles above our heads.

Following splashdown in the Pacific, the Dragon capsule was loaded onto a ship and transported to California. While en route, Dragon’s cargo was unloaded from the capsule and our samples along with other payload items were placed into a large container. This container was first removed from the docked ship, then the empty Dragon capsule was covered with a tarp and lifted off the boat. The exterior surface of the capsule looks pretty beat-up from the heat of re-entry, however the payload that is visible in the video looks pristine. The Dragon worked flawlessly for the return trip!

After being unloaded from SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, our space-grown fixed seedlings were returned frozen to Kennedy Space Center. I met with NASA specialists at the SSPF (Space Station Processing Facility) to remove our experiment from the space hardware. Our BRICs – the aluminum shoebox-sized containers holding our samples in their PDFUs (Petri Dish Fixation Units) had been placed in the fridge for a day in order to defrost so that the containers could be easily disassembled. The NASA team and myself gathered in the lab first thing in the morning to see how our seedlings fared while they were in space. This was the moment we’ve been waiting for! NASA hardware experts Susan and Michelle worked together to carefully take apart the BRIC container and then to open the PDFUs containing our samples. NASA quality control expert Jennifer observed the process, clipboard and camera in hand to document each step.

Opening the first BRIC, with five PDFUs and the HOBO datalogger visible.

Opening one of our BRICs, with five PDFUs plus the HOBO datalogger visible inside.

As the first PDFU was opened, we all leaned into the sterile hood to see the result: Success! Initial observation of our wild-type Arabidopsis plants was superb: Inside the petri dish sitting in fixative were dozens of seedlings, just as we hoped they would be. The next petri dish was identical. Fantastic! However, upon opening the third PDFU, things became more complicated. This was a PDFU with some of our mutant seedlings in it. These plants had also grown well, however, there were a couple of contaminating microbial colonies about the diameter of a pea that were growing with the seedlings, definitely not what we wanted to see.

We unpacked the rest of the space flight PDFUs and then moved on to the Earth-grown control petri plates. These samples are every bit as important as the space grown ones because it is vital to compare parallel samples grown on Earth. Given the contamination in the space-grown mutant we expected the same for the Earth-grown controls because we used the same batch of seeds and sample preparation protocols. However, all the Earth-grown petri plates (wild type and mutant) were pristine and filled with dozens of seedlings. Germination was excellent, the seedlings were well preserved, and there was plenty of plant material for analysis of gene expression.

space arabidopsis

Arabidopsis seedlings grown in microgravity.

Of course we are now working hard to define exactly how that contamination crept in to a few of our flight samples. Brian Hudelson, Director of the University of Wisconsin Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic, very kindly identified it for us and no, nothing exotic or exciting, just regular old Penicillium, probably the most common contaminant found in experiments performed anywhere on Earth. We are now chasing down leads on how a few fungal spores may have slipped in as we assembled some of our sample dishes. Solving these kinds of technical problems is just part and parcel of doing business in space and is how we get better and better at designing for our next flight experiment – and yes, the Gilroy lab is going back to the ISS for another experiment! More about this in a future post.

Fortunately, all of our wild type samples (both space grown and Earth grown controls) were perfect. These are the critical samples for our analysis of gene expression and thus we will be able to answer most of the questions we set out to address with this experiment. Won-Gyu has already measured the seedlings, separated root and shoot, and isolated high-quality RNA from both samples grown in microgravity and grown on the Earth. The next step will be to quantify the changes in the expression of specific genes, in particular we are interested in what changes there might be in the expression of genes known to be regulated by low oxygen. Then using RNAseq, we will look at the shifts in the expression of all genes in the Arabidopsis genome. This technique will allow us to see what patterns of changes occur in all expressed genes and enable the discovery of other key genes that plants rely on as they adapt to growth in microgravity.

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | Leave a comment

BRIC-17 On-Orbit

As I type this, the BRIC-17 plant biology experiments are in microgravity, orbiting the earth on the International Space Station. BRICs A and B contain plant cell cultures from the University of Florida, BRICs C and D contain our Arabidopsis seedlings for the Gilroy Lab TOAST experiment from the University of Wisconsin.

577px-ISS_Expedition_34

Mission patch for NASA’s Expedition 34, the mission running currently that includes our BRIC-17 plant biology experiment.

NASA has been fantastic about keeping us updated via email as to the astronaut’s on-orbit activities concerning our BRIC-17 experiments. A few minutes ago, we just received an email from NASA:

> I bring to you more good news.  This morning, on-orbit, Dr. Simon Gilroy’s
> Canisters C and D successfully actuated at approximately 7:57AM Eastern.
> Also, earlier Canisters A and B were transferred into MELFI 1, Dewar 3 at
> approximately 3:50AM Eastern.

This report means that the fixative solution (RNAlater) was successfully injected by astronaut Marshburn into our 10 petri plates containing our microgravity-grown seedlings. We are glad to hear that all went well with the fixative injection because a test of the BRICs a week before launch indicated there could be issues with actuation. After a day at room temperature to allow the fixative to work, our two BRICs will be placed into the MELFI (Minus Eighty-degree Laboratory Freezer for ISS) by space station commander astronaut Ford until they can be packed into a cold bag for the return trip to Earth in the SpaceX Dragon capsule (which is still docked to the space station).

MELFI1

The Minus Eighty Lab Freezer on the ISS (MELFI; image from NASA).

A minus-eighty freezer is standard equipment required for most life science research. The Gilroy Lab has an upright minus-eighty in the hallway just outside of our lab to store our bacteria stocks, concentrated solutions, some dry chemicals, and frozen samples. It is heavy, has a loud compressor, a huge footprint, and is an energy hog; all these things would cause problems on the ISS. I was curious to see what the ISS minus-eighty freezer was like. Needless to say the MELFI is a high-tech marvel of engineering, if you want to read more about it NASA has a good description of the MELFI.

MELFI3astronauts

Astronauts packing samples into the MELFI. Gloves are needed to handle samples due to the low temperature (NASA).

Our BRICs need a minimum of 4 days in the MELFI to be sure that they are completely chilled down for packing into the cold bag. When the Dragon capsule had a delay in docking just over a week ago, there was some concern that if berthing was more than a couple days late then our BRICs would not have enough time in the MELFI at the end of the experiment. This would’ve necessitated cutting our experiment by a day, which means one less day of growth in microgravity and thus smaller plants. The good thing is that even such a long delay would’ve required only minimal adaptation to our experimental design. We simply would’ve analysed smaller plants, perhaps combining shoot and root for the RNA isolation instead of separating the tissue for analysis. Luckily, docking was delayed by only a day so our plants were able to grow for 8 days in microgravity as originally planned.

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | 1 Comment

NASA Write-up of Our Experiment

Bob Granath at NASA has posted a write-up of our TOAST and the other BRIC-17 experiment. He did a great job summarizing our goals in sending Arabidopsis to the space station to study plants grown in microgravity. There are also some good pictures of the space hardware that is holding our petri plates right now inside the space station, with an identical set of BRICs in the International Space Station Environmental Simulator (ISSES) at Kennedy Space Center as the ground control.

Experiment Canisters Aid in Helping Study Plant Growth in Space

728491main_bric2_XL

A Biological Research in Canisters experiment package with five Petri dish fixation units (PDFU) installed. The PDFUs each contain a Petri dish with the biological sample to be flown in space. (NASA)

Another NASA article details the launch and berthing of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule holding our BRICs. After the successful Friday morning launch powered by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and release of the Dragon capsule in low earth orbit, a nail-biting hours long session occurred as SpaceX attempted to get Dragon’s thrusters working. The thrusters are needed to get the capsule close enough to the space station so that the capsule can be grappled by the Canada arm.

loading-space-x

The cold bag with our BRICs inside being weighed prior to stowage in the Dragon capsule. (NASA)

The BRIC-17 teams had a hastily called meeting Friday afternoon when the thruster problem became apparent.  We discussed the scientific ramifications of a delay in berthing with the space station. Potentially, the delay could have been up to 2.5 days, which would have shortened the growth time of our plants in microgravity by two days to allow enough time in the freezer before returning to earth. Luckily, SpaceX was able to get the thrusters working and Dragon successfully berthed to the space station on Sunday morning, only a day late, thus allowing our experiment to run for the originally planned span of time.

SpaceX’s live feed: “Happy Berth Day!”

The Dragon capsule is scheduled for splashdown back on Earth on March 25, with return of our space-flown BRICs on March 29. Let’s hope everything continues to go well and we can de-integrate our samples from the BRICs for analysis in April!

launch 5

Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 Launch, © SpaceX, Ben Cooper

PS. As promised, here is the footage from the NASA press conference which Simon participated in the day before the launch.

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | 1 Comment

SpaceX CRS-2 Launch!

In a few hours, the Gilroy lab BRIC-17 team will be at the OSB II (Operations Support Building 2) at KSC to watch the launch. OSB is about three and a half miles away from the launch pad, so we hope to have a good view. We’ll be bussed there from the visitor center early in the morning. Following a launch briefing we will wait for the launch at an outside viewing area, camera in hand!

SpaceX CRS-2 Logo

SpaceX CRS-2 Logo

Unfortunately, we will be enjoying the launch after pulling an all-nighter in order to integrate our ground controls into the BRICs with the help of NASA hardware experts. The timing of our experiment is such that our science has to be integrated into the space hardware from 3-5am Eastern time. Our flight BRICs were prepared early Wednesday morning; because the ground control is offset by 2 days we have to make a repeat set of BRICs now (early Friday morning).

What if the launch is cancelled? The scrub schedule is such that the next launch attempt will occur just under 24hr later. If there are two scrubs, our experiment needs to be replaced with a fresh setup. Therefore, if the launch is cancelled both Friday and Saturday, our two BRICs will be pulled from Dragon. The ground controls we set up tonight will then become the flight BRICs and loaded into the Dragon in time for the third launch attempt Sunday morning, and so Sunday morning between 3-5am Eastern time we will have to set up two more BRICs for the new ground controls.

simonwongyu

Simon and Won-Gyu in front of the NASA headquarters at KSC.

Tomorrow’s launch chance is at 80%. Everyone, please do us a huge favor and keep your fingers crossed for an on-time departure! (That means you too, Sis!)

In other news, yesterday (Thursday Feb 28) Simon participated in two news events.  The first was an interview with Jerry Hume , a reporter with the local Fox channel 13. We were told that while the transcript will be available online, the video will not because it will only be accessible to cable subscribers. It will air between 5am and noon Friday.

simoninterview

Jerry Hume interviews Simon about our BRIC-17 experiment.

The second news event was a pre-launch NASA press conference to discuss the science going up on SpaceX 2. The location of the press conference was in the NASA auditorium in the KSC press center, and for me it was a thrill to actually be sitting in a place that previously I’ve only seen on TV and online. There were five folks in front of the cameras, plus Josh the moderator:

  • Julie Robinson, program scientist, International Space Station
  • Simon Gilroy, BRIC-17 Lead Investigator,
University of Wisconsin
  • Marshall Porterfield, division director, Life and Physical Sciences
NASA Headquarters
  • Michael Johnson, Chief Technical Officer, NanoRacks
  • Michael Roberts, Research Scientist, CASIS
simonpress

Simon behind the desk at the NASA pre-launch press conference.

Simon did a great job communicating information specifically about our BRIC-17 experiment and speaking more generally about problems that living organisms have in space. He also fielded a number of questions from reporters ranging  from social media bloggers to tech reporters from the mainstream media. The video of this press conference is not yet available online, when it is I will update with a link.

Categories: Plants in Microgravity | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.