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NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 Completes Scientific Mission on Space Station

After months aboard the International Space Station, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7 is returning to Earth. NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli and Roscosmos cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov each completed their first spaceflight. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen each completed their second spaceflight.

During their time on the station, Crew-7 conducted science experiments and technology demonstrations to benefit people on Earth and prepare humans for future space missions. Here’s a look at some scientific milestones accomplished during their mission:

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The Human Body in Space

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen processes blood samples for the Immunity Assay investigation, which monitors the impact of spaceflight on immune function. Prior to the experiment, scientists could only test the immune function before and after flight. Taking samples while on station provides scientists a clearer assessment of changes to the immune system during spaceflight.

: ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen, wearing a black t-shirt and green pants, holds a syringe and smiles at the camera. He is holding a syringe with both gloved hands. Several vials are taped to the workbench in front of him.

Since physiological changes in microgravity can resemble how the human body ages on Earth, scientists can use the space station for age-related studies. NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli collects cell samples inside the Life Science Glovebox for Space AGE, a study to understand how microgravity-induced age-like changes affect liver regeneration. Results could boost our understanding of aging and its effects on disease mechanisms.

Jasmine Moghbeli, wearing a red polo shirt and a headset, looks up and smiles at the camera. Her arms are inside a large, clear glovebox used to contain experiments. Equipment, laptops, cords, and lights cover the walls behind her.

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa exercises with ARED Kinematics, a device that mimics forces generated when lifting free weights on Earth. The experiment assesses the current exercise programs on station to understand the most effective countermeasures to maintain muscle and bone strength.

Expedition 70 Flight Engineer and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa works out on the Advanced Resisitive Exercise Device located (ARED) in the International Space Station's Tranquility module. The ARED is designed to mimic the inertial forces generated when lifting free weights on Earth.

Safe Water

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Andreas Mogensen works on ESA’s Aquamembrane-3 technology demonstration, which tests a special membrane to eliminate contaminants from wastewater. The membrane incorporates proteins called aquaporins, found in biological cells, and may be able to filter water using less energy. An aquaporin membrane-based system could improve water reclamation and reduce materials needed for future deep space missions.

Andreas Mogenson looks at the camera while working on an orange box with several tubes sticking out of it floating next to him.

NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli prepares a water sample for DNA sequencing using the EHS BioMole Facility, a technology demonstration used to monitor microbes in water samples aboard a spacecraft. Future exploration missions will need to analyze water to ensure it is safe for crews to drink while far from Earth.

Jasmine Moghbeli holds a pipette used for water samples while working at a table. Her hair is floating around her head and a microphone floats by her ear.

Growing Food on Station

Tomato seedlings sprout in the space station’s Advanced Plant Habitat. At the beginning of Crew-7’s mission, Plant Habitat-03 wrapped up a months-long experiment that tests whether epigenetics are passed to subsequent generations. Epigenetic changes involve the addition of extra information to DNA, which regulates how genes turn on or off but does not change the sequence of the DNA itself. Crew-7 also grew tomatoes for Plant Habitat-06, which investigates how the plant immune functions adapt to spaceflight and how spaceflight affects plant production.

iss070e064263 (Jan. 12, 2024) -- Inside the Plant Habitat-06 facility, the early stages of seedling growth of wild-type tomatoes is visible. This specific investigation takes a look at the physiological and genetic responses to defense activation in wild-type and immune-deficient tomatoes during spaceflight.

BioNutrients completed five years of demonstrating technology to produce nutrients on demand aboard the space station. Since vitamins can degrade over time, the investigation used engineered microbes to test generating fresh nutrient supply for future long-duration missions.

Four small clear, cylindrical containers are attached by Velcro inside a black box. The containers each hold an orange bubbly liquid.

Outside the Station

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Satoshi Furukawa retrieves MISSE-17 hardware after the experiment spent six months outside the station. MISSE experiments expose materials and organisms to the space environment to analyze performance and durability. Crew-7 installed MISSE-18, which houses several materials including printed quantum dots arrays used to make a miniaturized and ultra-compact spectrometer.

Furukawa, wearing a gray shirt and khaki pants, smiles at the camera as he pulls hardware through the open cylindrical door of an airlock. The suitcase-sized hardware has a silver front, with blue boxes behind it.

CubeSats deployed from the space station are a lower-cost alternative to traditional satellites. Crew-7 deployed two CubeSats from Japanese schools, including BEAK CubeSat, which tests novel technologies for future nano-sized planetary probes and Clark sat-1, which transmits voice and imagery data to ground control stations on Earth.

The BEAK CubeSat is deployed from a small satellie deployer in the grips of the Japanese robotic arm attached to the Kibo laboratory module. BEAK, launched to the Interational Space Station aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, was developed by The University of Tokyo in Kashiwa, Japan, and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Sagamihara, Japan. Its primary mission is to test novel technologies for use in future nano-sized planetary probes.

Picture Perfect

Using handheld digital cameras, astronauts capture images of the Earth below. This imagery is used by researchers across disciplines from glaciology to ecology. A Crew-7 member captured this image of the Aladaghlar Mountains in northwest Iran, where the convergent boundary of the Arabia and Eurasia tectonic plates created folds in the landscape over millions of years.

A brown textured map of Northwest Iran. There are folds of mountains in an array of white, tan, and brown.

These bright red streaks above a thundercloud on Earth are a rare phenomenon known as red sprites. Red sprites happen above the clouds and are not easily studied from Earth. This image was captured on the space station with a high-speed camera for the Thor-Davis experiment. Imagery collected from the station is instrumental in studying the effects of thunderstorms and electrical activity on Earth’s climate and atmosphere.

A red streak shoots into the blackness of space. Below it is a blue ring around a bright white circle, with the top of a thundercloud visible below it.

Biology on Station

Recent spaceflight experiments found individual animal cells can sense the effects of gravity. Cell Gravisensing investigation from JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) seeks to understand how cells can do this. JAXA astronaut Satoshi Furukawa uses a microscope to examine cells during spaceflight and document cell responses to microgravity. Understanding the mechanisms of cell gravity sensing could contribute to new drug development.

Satoshi Furukawa is wearing a yellow short-sleeved shirt, a mask, googles, and blue gloves as he works with a black microscope on a workbench.

NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli works in the BioFabrication Facility (BFF), which bioprints organ-like tissues in microgravity. During the Crew-7 mission, BFF-Cardiac tested bioprinting and processing cardiac tissue samples. This experiment could help to advance technology to support the development of biological patches to replace damaged tissues and potentially entire muscles.

Moghbeli’s arms are inserted into large plastic gloves that are connected to a clear flexible plastic glovebag attached to the wall of the space station. Moghbeli is wearing a blue shirt and a headlamp. She is looking at the camera over her shoulder and smiling.

Special Delivery

Two commercial spacecraft visited during Crew-7’s time in space bringing critical science, hardware, and supplies to the station: SpaceX Dragon in November 2023 and Northop Grumman’s Cygnus in February 2024.

A white Dragon spacecraft approaches the station against the blackness of space. Its top hatch is open, revealing the docking ring, and jets of propulsion fuel are visible shooting from its top and bottom on the left side. A portion of the station is visible at the bottom left of the image.
Northrop Grumman's Cygnus space freighter approaches the International Space Station to deliver more than 8,200 pounds of science experiments, crew supplies, and station hardware for the Expedition 70 crew. Both spacecraft were orbiting 259 miles above the south Pacific Ocean at the time of this photograph.

Andrea Lloyd
International Space Station Research Communications Team
Johnson Space Center

Search this database of scientific experiments to learn more about those mentioned above.