Light Microscopy Module


Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

Facility Overview

This content was provided by Ronald J. Sicker, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Brief Facility Summary

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)

  • Ronald J. Sicker, Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, United States
  • Co-Facility Manager(s)

  • Robert Corban, Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, United States
  • Facility Developer(s)

    ZIN Technologies Incorporated, Cleveland, OH, United States
    Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, United States

    Sponsoring Agency

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Expeditions Assigned


    Previous ISS Missions

    Information Pending

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    Facility Description

    Facility Overview

    • Light Microscopy Module (LMM) is housed within and used in conjunction with the glovebox in the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR).

    • Images provided by the LMM can provide data to scientists and engineers to help understand the forces that control the organization and dynamics of matter at microscopic scales.

    • The LMM microscope is capable of using most standard Leica objectives. The present on-orbit compliment includes: 2.5x,10x, 20x, 40x, 50x, 63x, 63x oil, and 100x oil, objectives. New or different objectives may also be flown as needed.

    • The LMM contains a digital black and white low noise scientific camera.

    • PI specific specialty cells (sample holders) are under development for temperature control and electric field experiments.

    • Three dimensional (3D) confocal (point illumination) upgrades are scheduled for 2015-2016.
    • Description

      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.

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      Facility Operations

      Generic ISS and Increment specific procedures are uniquely developed for all investigations.

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      Results/More Information

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      Information Pending

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      Results Publications

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      Ground Based Results Publications

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      ISS Patents

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      Related Publications

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      Related Websites
    • ISS Research Project - Light Microscopy Module
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      image NASA Image: ISS023E056027 - NASA astronaut T. J. Creamer performing operations with the Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB) Module on the LMM.
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      image Some LMM confocal imaging goals reflected in on-going modeling work at Harvard University. Image courtesy of Dr. Peter Lu and Professor David Weitz, Harvard University.
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      image LMM Image
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      image NASA Image: ISS030E007417 - ISS030-E-007417 NASA astronaut Dan Burbank, Expedition 30 commander, conducts a session with the Preliminary Advanced Colloids Experiment (PACE) at the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) in the Fluids Integrated Rack / Fluids Combustion Facility (FIR/FCF).
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      image European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, Expedition 26 flight engineer, uses the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) to work on the Preliminary Advanced Colloids Experiment - Light Microscopy Module: Biological Samples (PACE-LMM-Bio) investigation in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. (NASA)
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      image View of the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) and glovebox within the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR) in the U.S. Laboratory/Destiny (NASA)
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      image View of the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) installed within the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR) in the U.S. Laboratory/Destiny, (NASA)
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      image NASA astronaut T.J. Creamer, Expedition 23 flight engineer, using the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) to work with the Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB) investigation hardware in the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR) for a Voluntary Weekend Science program. (NASA)
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