The Light Microscopy Module (LMM) is a modified commercial, highly flexible, state-of-the-art light imaging microscope facility that provides researchers with powerful diagnostic hardware and software onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The LMM enables novel research of microscopic phenomena in microgravity, with the capability of remotely acquiring and downloading digital images and videos across many levels of magnification. The way that matter is organized and moves on the microscopic level profoundly affects the macroscopic world and an understanding of such processes helps scientists and engineers build more efficient materials and machines both for both the earth and space environments.Facility Manager(s)
ZIN Technologies Incorporated, Cleveland, OH, United States
Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, United States
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)Expeditions Assigned
19/20, 21/22, 23/24, 25/26, 27/28Previous ISS Missions
The Light Microscope Module (LMM) flight unit features a modified commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) Leica RXA microscope, which is configured to operate in an automated mode with some interaction from the ground support staff or the astronaut crew. The microscope is modified and enhanced to provide additional capabilities including, video microscopy to record sample features including basic structures and crystal growth dynamics and basic biological system observations.
Currently, demonstrated imaging techniques use a high resolution black and white microscopy, bright field, epifluorescencent (EPI), and fluorescent techniques. An investigator can choose from standard Leica objective lenses of different magnifications. This suite of measurements enabled by the LMM allow for a detailed characterization of fluids, colloids, and two-phase media, including biological samples. A backlighting LED sample holder was also developed to enhance biological imaging, and is available onboard the ISS.
LMM has the ability to have its hardware-reconfigured on-orbit to accommodate a wide variety of investigations. The LMM provides unique containment hardware for fluids and shatterable/fragile materials. Major components used to facilitate microgravity operations include an Auxiliary Fluids Container (AFC), which can be attached to the microscope, an Equipment Transfer Module (ETM) that can attach to the AFC, and the microscope itself. The crew is needed to set up the system in the LMM which is part of the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR), reconfigure the LMM, and perform on-orbit maintenance. The flexibility and ability to modify system parameters early in the data acquisition process is a design feature that allows discovery based scientific investigation.
Observation of PI provides sample materials begin after samples have been loaded into LMM sample modules. Experiment samples are frequently launched and transported in the Equipment Transfer Module (ETM) to the ISS. Once aboard, the ETM is attached to the AFC by a crewmember using gloves attached to the AFC gloveports. The samples are then oriented on the microscope stage. After the sample has been positioned, remote operation of the microscope, and data processing of the samples can begin.
Future planned capabilities for this facility include confocal microscopy, which uses a 532-nm frequency-doubled Nd:YAG laser, a confocal scanner, and a digital CCD camera. The scanner allows 30 frames per second of confocal images to be taken by the CCD camera. The crystal's three-dimensional structure can be reconstructed by assembling individual slices with an image analysis program, from which colloidal growth, structure, and dynamics can be observed and measured. The confocal module is attached and aligned to the side of the LMM. The module accesses the sample through an auxiliary port on the microscope. The microscopes reflected light turret contains a reflecting mirror to direct the light to and from the sample. Other planned features include: High Speed camera, Color Camera, Laser Tweezers (Proposal) and Condenser.
To date, significant studies have been conducted in the area of heat transfer and thermo physics, with approximately three peer review journal articles and 17 presentations and publications having been completed. LMM-Bio results are in development (STS-134 and STS-135) with over 1000 hours of combined operations; CVB final report due 6/2013 and CVB-2 is being planned.
Generic ISS and Increment specific procedures are uniquely developed for all investigations.