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NASA Facts Biosatellites

NASA Facts Biosatellites

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Mar 29, 2011
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1
NASA..
FACTS
An Educational Services Publication
of
theNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
0
NASA
FACTS
Vol.
II,
No.
10
BIOSATELLITES
The Biosatellites, earth-orbiting biologicalsatellites, are scheduled for a series of launchesbeginning in early
1966.
Living things, journey-ing into space, will be exposed to a great manyunusual effects. Plant and animal specimens,single cells and complex organisms, will
be
included.The mission of the Biosatellites
is
to studythe effects on living organisms of weightlessness,radiation, weightlessness corn
bi
ned with radia-tion, and the absence of the effects of the earth'srotation, such as the removal of the normal
24
hour day night cycle.The information the scientists obtain
is
ex-pected to shed light on the fundamental proc-esses of life and have vital application to thefield of manned space flight.Thus,
NASA's
Biosatellite program marksthe decisive leap of biology into full scale ex-
a
perimentation in space, to take advantage ofunique opportunities to study the basic propertiesand nature of living earth organisms with toolspreviously unava
i
I
a
b
I
e.The Biosatellite
is
essentially a very specialkind
of
biological laboratory in space.Biolo-
Biosatellite in orbit. The circular motion
is
the satellite's"free fall." Since the acceleration of the satellite in orbit
is
equal to the acceleration of gravity, it is weightless.
 
Page
2
gists can conduct experiments in living organismsin the weightless state, for example.
Then,
byrecovering the specimens and comparing theirfindings with the immense amount of data theyhave already collected on earth, where gravity
is
1
g,
they can find out just what
the
effects
of
zero gravity are.
1
g” means that a gravitational force pro-ducing an acceleration of approximately
32
feetper second
is
constantly pulling everything towardthe center of the earth.
It
is
the force of grav-ity at the earth’s surface.
All
known livingforms have evolved in
this
1
g” environment.Man
is
accustomed to
this
pull because it
is
nor-mal in
his
life.By substituting centrifugal force for accel-eration, scientists can study most
of
the
effectsof gravity on living organisms right here onearth-but only from
1
g” upward on the scale,that
is,
for forces greater than gravity at thesurface of
the
earth.
The
biologists ask: “What
if
life on earthwere to experience some other gravitational level,from
1
g”
down to zero? Would
it
have anyprofound effect on
its
development?Where canwe find out what will happen to living organisms
if
we were to remove gravity altogether?”Themeans of finding the answers
is
an orbitingsatellite.
It
is
the
free fall of the satellite that pro-vides the weightless laboratory. At the distancethe Biosatellite will be orbiting, there
is
still
95%
of the earth’s gravity, but, since the accelerationof the orbiting Biosatellite equals the accelerationof the earth’s gravity, it
is
weightless.
Ifit
doesnot tumble (move around any of
the
three axes)appreciably,
so
as to experience an accelerationany greaieverything
OW
willten-thousandth ofalso
be
‘weightless.a
BIOLOGICAL
SPACE
HAZARDS
Previous flights of men, plants and animalshave demonstrated that an absence of gravita-tional stress can be tolerated for a few dayswithout dramatic
ill
effects. But there
is
reasonto believe that more extended journeys mayraise formidable problems.There
is
evidence that the bones and musclesmay weaken because of inaction, and calcium
NASA FACTS
Vol.
II,
No.
10
loss
may result.There may
kk
some deteriora-tion in the blood-circulating system which nor-mally works against gravity. On
the
long spacejourney, the heart muscles may undergo
loss
oftone because of disuse and fail under
the
stressof re-entry. Prolonged absence of sensation inthe inner ear and weight-bearing muscles mayhave an adverse effect on maintaining normalbalance and coordination.Long periods of confinement, isolation andmonotony of the space journey may have seriouseffects on brain functioning and may weaken aperson’s ability to concentrate and makedecisions.Another vital problem in prolonged spaceflight
is
radiation. Solar or sun flares can makethe amount many times greater in local areas thanwould normally be anticipated. Although solarflares are unpredictable, their high energy par-
ticles
are a constant hazard to manned spaceflight. Therefore,
this
Biosatellite will use aradiation source which will approximate
the
radi-ation dosage range to which astronauts might be
If
these two factors, radiation and weight-lessness, are combined, the effect of their work-ing together may be “synergistic” (that
is,
muchgreater than expected from their simple addi-tion), or antagonistic.
This
combination mayexposed.
c-
Prolonged weightlessness may cause
loss
of
calcium in bonestructure, weakening
of
muscles, deterioration in the blood-circulating system. Prolonged exposure to radiation
is
ahazard which may be complicated by weightlessness.
 
NASA
FACTS
voi.
11,
NO.
io
a
Rhythms of physiological activity may be built into livingmoterials (left) or may be imposed from outside (right).
intensify
or
reduce well-known radiation effectsin two areas: the somatic
or
non-inheritableeffects and the genetic
or
hereditary effects.Another potentially troublesome area con-cerns what
is
called circadian (about-a-day)rhythms. Most physiologic activity
is
rhythmicwithin a period of
24
hours. These rhythms con-trol processes within many cells, as well as inentire organisms. Jet travellers are well awarethat sudden changes in time zone upset
the
24-
hour cycle of their bodies.Scientists are not certain whether theserhythms are built into the living material (endog-enous)
or
whether they are being imposed bysome outside forces whose own rhythms act
like
pacemakers (exogenous).The biologists intend to explore the natureof these rhythms further in the Biosatellite.
They
want to know what will happen to the “biologi-cal clocks” of living organisms when we removethem from the effects of the earth’s rotation,when instead of being subjected to a
24
hourinput, they go into a
90
minute orbit-for as longas
21
days
or
more.In order to make an all out attack on theseand many other problems, the Biosatellite pro-gram will be asking questions about
life
on everylevel of organization.Leading biologists have submitted pro-posals for experiments.
These
have been evalu-ated by biologists on NASA’s advisory commit-tees and by specialists of the National Academyof Sciences.They examine each proposed
ex-
periment to
see
if it
is
a valid scientific experi-ment which can be conducted only in space, andequally important,
if
it
is
capable of being con-ducted in a Biosatellite flight.
Page
3
SIX
FLIGHT PROGRAM
A
six
flight
program
is
planned with thefirst launch scheduled in early
1966,
followed bysuccessive launches at three month intervals.The experiments are divided into threemajor payload categories:
1.
Radiation Group,
2.
General Biology and Biorhythm Group, and
3.
Primate Group.The first flight of the Biosatellite, a
3
dayorbit, will carry experiments to study the effectsof weightlessness, and weightlessness combinedwith a known source of radiation. The speci-mens include pepper and flowering plants, wheatseedlings, amoeba, mammalian cells, frog eggs,sea urchin eggs, bread mold, fruit flies, beetles,wasps and bacteria. Proposed specimens forthe five subsequent Biosatellite flights will includeplants, rodents, human tissue culture, and for theprimate group, pigtail monkeys.
EXPERIMENT PROFILES
The recovery capsule has a structural shellwhich
is
identical for all three groups of experi-ment payloads. Supplementary rings andbrackets are provided to adapt the basic capsulefor each experimental payload.
VT
QUICK*
ACCESS
DEW
r
RECOVERY
EOUIPMENT
W
The profile arrangement for typical experi-ments in the Radiation Group
is
shown in
the
diagram “Radiation Experiments.”In order to receive different dosages fromthe on-board radiation source, specimens arelocated at various distances from the radiationsource.Other specimens will
be
shielded
so
asto receive no radiation.The former will give

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