Rodent Research Hardware and Operations Validation (Rodent Research-1) - 08.12.14
ISS Science for Everyone
Science Objectives for Everyone
The Rodent Research Hardware provides a platform aboard the International Space Station for long-duration rodent experiments in space. Such experiments will examine how microgravity affects the animals, providing information relevant to human spaceflight, discoveries in basic biology, and knowledge that will have direct impact toward human health on Earth. Rodent Research-1 is a test of the operational capabilities of the new hardware system, including the Transporter, Rodent Habitat, and Access Unit.
Science Results for Everyone
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Laboratory (NL)
Earth Benefits, Scientific Discovery, Space Exploration
ISS Expedition Duration
September 2014 - October 2015
Previous ISS Missions
This is the first flight of the Transporter and Rodent Habitat hardware. Both units are based on the Animal Enclosure Modules and have modifications which allow them to either transport animals on the SpX vehicle or maintain and house animals on the ISS. The Animal Enclosure Modules supported rodents on 27 space shuttle missions.
The mission objectives of the validation flight are:
The addition of the rodent research system expands the utilization of ISS for research on the effects of microgravity on rodents.
The demonstration of the hardware capability to support rodent research for long-duration missions on ISS is accomplished.
A validation of the operational capabilities of the hardware to support rodent research provides valuable information applicable to future long-term space missions.
Based on the recommendations from the National Research Council’s Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era (2011), and on surveys of potential ISS users from industry and other government agencies, the ISS Program has created an on-orbit rodent research program as an essential tool for understanding the impacts of space flight on physiological systems and for development of potential therapies that will mitigate detrimental responses and advance disease treatments in certain populations on Earth. Researchers use both similarities and differences between rodents and humans to gain insight into complex human biological systems, and past rodent spaceflight experiments have contributed significantly to our understanding of the effects of microgravity on biological processes that are directly relevant to humans in space. Physiological systems of interest for human exploration of space are targeted at the following systems:
Immune system changes
Cardiovascular system changes
Nervous system changes
There are no science objectives for this flight, and no PI assigned. CASIS and their commercial partner for this flight are conducting research in support of their commercial research objectives. The purpose of Rodent Research-1 (NASA) is to validate the Rodent Research hardware and a limited set of generic science operations.
Rodent Research-1 consists of Rodent Research-1 (NASA) and Rodent Research-1 (CASIS) and plans to launch 20 mice, including 10 NASA mice, and 10 CASIS mice. The 10 NASA research mice are 16-week-old C57Bl/6J females. Two mice are euthanized and dissected inside the MSG 30 days after transfer on station. Their livers and spleens are harvested and stowed in the MELFI until it is returned on another SpX vehicle. The remaining 8 mice are euthanized and preserved for downmass to confirm body weight is maintained while on station. This allows researchers to verify that the mice are eating and drinking properly on the station.
The main objective of this flight is to validate the Rodent Research hardware and a limited set of generic science operations in preparation of upcoming Rodent research. Validation of hardware is based on animal health checks and post-flight body weight. More specifically, Rodent Research-1 (NASA) aims to:
Validate that the Rodent Habitat Hardware can deliver and maintain healthy animals
Rodent Habitat – provides on-orbit housing for rodents in an EXPRESS rack
Transporter – provides housing for rodents during ascent on Dragon
Animal Access Unit (AAU) – Interfaces with both the Habitat and Transporter for transfer of the animals between the units and access to the animals for science operations
Validate that on-orbit activities to support hardware operations can be performed
Validate that a limited set of generic on-orbit operations can be performed to support future science objectives
This is the first flight of the Rodent Research system for long-duration use on the International Space Station. The validation of the rodent habitat hardware and operations allows for future rodent investigations that will provide invaluable information about changes that occur to the body that are directly relevant to humans in space.
Rodent research may lead to significant results in the field of human aging and disease, as well as in additional research areas where gravity (and the lack thereof) has strong effects on many biological and physical processes. Some of these changes allow scientists to study and develop new drugs to treat diseases on Earth.
Video downlink is required.
Crew installs the Habitat into the Express Rack, connects the power connectors and turns on lights and fans, and installs food bars. The Transporter and Access Unit are de-stowed and animals are transferred from the Transporter to two Habitats using Mouse Transfer Boxes. Half of the animals are used to support CASIS science, the other half support NASA hardware validation. Every 3 days for the first 12 days crewmembers check the water box through the lid and report any obvious signs of leakage or condensation indicating a problem with the water system.
There is one dissection session no earlier than 21 days after transfer to Habitat, preferably 30 days after transfer, in which 2 NASA animals are transferred to the MSG, euthanized, and tissues dissected and stored in the MELFI. Crewmembers dissect and freeze the animals’ livers and preserve their spleens by fixation. The remaining samples are frozen for return on the following SpaceX vehicle. During the final NASA rodent operations on-orbit session, the remaining 8 animals are euthanized and frozen in the MELFI for downmass to verify animal body weight. This allows researchers to verify that the animals were eating and drinking properly. All samples will be returned home on a SpaceX vehicle.
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