Thursday November 21, 2019
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NASA Preparing to Launch Twin Sisters to Study Signal Disruption from Space

The plasma of the ionosphere is mixed in with neutral gases, like the air we breathe, so the Earth’s upper atmosphere — and the bubbles that form there — respond to a complicated mix of factors

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The five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA's plans. VOA

NASA is preparing to launch twin satellites this month that focus on how radio signals that pass through the Earth’s upper atmosphere can be distorted by structured bubbles in this region called the ionosphere.

The twin E-TBEx CubeSats — short for Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment – will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the US space agency said on Monday.

Especially problematic over the equator, the radio signal distortions can interfere with military and airline communications as well as GPS signals.

Right now, scientists cannot predict when these bubbles will form or how they will change over time.

“These bubbles are difficult to study from the ground,” said Rick Doe, payload programme manager for the E-TBEx mission at SRI International, a non-profit research institute in Menlo Park, California.

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NASA has also decided to ask the private sector to design and build a new generation of spacecrafts. Pixabay

“If you see the bubbles start to form, they then move. We’re studying the evolution of these features before they begin to distort the radio waves going through the ionosphere to better understand the underlying physics,” Doe said.

The ionosphere is that part of the Earth’s upper atmosphere where particles are ionized — meaning they are separated out into a sea of positive and negative particles called plasma.

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The plasma of the ionosphere is mixed in with neutral gases, like the air we breathe, so the Earth’s upper atmosphere — and the bubbles that form there — respond to a complicated mix of factors.

What scientists learn from E-TBEx could help develop strategies to avoid signal distortion — for instance, allowing airlines to choose a frequency less susceptible to disruption, or letting the military delay a key operation until a potentially disruptive ionospheric bubble has passed, NASA said. (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)