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The First All-Women Spacewalk is Set to Take Place This Week: NASA

According to NASA, The Spacewalk will last approximately six and a half hours

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Spacewalk
The Spacewalk will last approximately six and a half hours, according to NASA. Pixabay

The first all-woman spacewalk is set to take place this week itself as NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are scheduled to venture outside the International Space Station (ISS) on October 17 or October 18.

The spacewalk will last approximately six and a half hours, according to NASA.

“@Space_Station update: our first all-female spacewalk with @Astro_Christina and @Astro_Jessica will be Thursday or Friday to replace a faulty battery charge-discharge unit,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted on Tuesday.

Station managers decided to postpone previously planned spacewalks that had been set to install new batteries this week and next in order to replace the faulty power unit, called a Battery Charge/Discharge Unit (BCDU).

The BCDU failed to activate following the October 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss.

Spacewalk
The Spacewalk will last approximately six and a half hours, according to NASA. Pixabay

NASA said that the BCDU failure has not impacted station operations, safety of the crew, or the ongoing experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory, many in preparation for future human missions to the Moon and Mars.

However, the failed power unit does prevent a new lithium-ion battery installed earlier this month from providing additional station power.

An all-woman spacewalk, involving Koch and NASA astronaut Anne McClain, was originally scheduled for March.

But that spacewalk was scuttled because properly fitted spacesuits could not be readied in time for both astronauts, Space.com reported.

Spacewalk
An all-woman Spacewalk, involving Koch and NASA astronaut Anne McClain, was originally scheduled for March. Pixabay

So far, the 15 women who have conducted a spacewalk did so with a male companion. So when Koch and Meir venture out of the space station this week, they will make some long-overdue history.

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This will be Koch’s fourth spacewalk and Meir’s first. (IANS)

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Heart Rate Gets Altered in Space But Returns to Normal on Earth

Upon return to Earth, space-flown heart cells show normal structure and morphology

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Heart Rate
Relatively little is known about the role of microgravity in influencing human Heart Rate at the cellular level. Pixabay

Heart Rate gets altered in space but return to normal within 10 days on Earth, say researchers who examined cell-level cardiac function and gene expression in human heart cells cultured aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for 5.5 weeks.

Exposure to microgravity altered the expression of thousands of genes, but largely normal patterns of gene expression reappeared within 10 days after returning to Earth, according to the study published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

“We’re surprised about how quickly human heart muscle cells are able to adapt to the environment in which they are placed, including microgravity,” said senior study author Joseph C. Wu from Stanford University.

These studies may provide insight into cellular mechanisms that could benefit astronaut health during long-duration spaceflight, or potentially lay the foundation for new insights into improving heart health on Earth.

Past studies have shown that spaceflight induces physiological changes in cardiac function, including reduced heart rate, lowered arterial pressure, and increased cardiac output.

But to date, most cardiovascular microgravity physiology studies have been conducted either in non-human models or at tissue, organ, or systemic levels.

Relatively little is known about the role of microgravity in influencing human cardiac function at the cellular level.

Heart Rate
Heart Rate gets altered in space but return to normal within 10 days on Earth, say researchers who examined cell-level cardiac function and gene expression in human heart cells cultured aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for 5.5 weeks. Pixabay

To address this question, the research team studied human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs). They generated hiPSC lines from three individuals by reprogramming blood cells, and then differentiated them into heart cells.

Beating heart cells were then sent to the ISS aboard a SpaceX spacecraft as part of a commercial resupply service mission.

Simultaneously, ground control heart cells were cultured on Earth for comparison purposes.

Upon return to Earth, space-flown heart cells showed normal structure and morphology. However, they did adapt by modifying their beating pattern and calcium recycling patterns.

In addition, the researchers performed RNA sequencing of heart cells harvested at 4.5 weeks aboard the ISS, and 10 days after returning to Earth.

These results showed that 2,635 genes were differentially expressed among flight, post-flight, and ground control samples.

Most notably, gene pathways related to mitochondrial function were expressed more in space-flown heart cells.

A comparison of the samples revealed that heart cells adopt a unique gene expression pattern during spaceflight, which reverts to one that is similar to groundside controls upon return to normal gravity, the study noted.

Heart Rate
Past studies have shown that spaceflight induces physiological changes in cardiac function, including reduced Heart Rate, lowered arterial pressure, and increased cardiac output. Pixabay

According to Wu, limitations of the study include its short duration and the use of 2D cell culture.

In future studies, the researchers plan to examine the effects of spaceflight and microgravity using more physiologically relevant hiPSC-derived 3D heart tissues with various cell types, including blood vessel cells.

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“We also plan to test different treatments on the human heart cells to determine if we can prevent some of the changes the heart cells undergo during spaceflight,” Wu said. (IANS)