“Space, the final frontier”, as he describes it star trek opening sequence, it’s a place of mystery and exploration, where humans have only just begun to scratch the surface of what exists. We have sent many probes and astronauts into space to conduct experiments in our quest to understand the universe and our place in it.
Some of these experiments could prove beneficial. However, others may seem useless in helping us better understand our universe and the laws that govern it. So grab your astronaut sundae and let’s explore ten experiments in space that seem pointless… but maybe aren’t.
Related: 10 Social And Biological Experiments With Strange Results
10 A rose with a different scent
In 1998, NASA partnered with International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) to study the impact of microgravity on the smell of a rose. They wanted to develop a new perfume from what they hoped would be the result.
It turns out that putting a rose in microgravity changes the amount of volatile oils the rose produces. The volatile oils of a rose carry the scent of the flower. When the rose was tested in space, it produced less oil, which completely changed the fragrance of the rose.
IFF decided to create a new perfume called “Zen” by Shiseido Cosmetics using the findings of this experiment. After sending a rose into space, I can only imagine the IFF R&D bill.
9 The small positive side of a tragedy
In 2003, the space shuttle Columbia exploded on reentry, killing the entire crew. While cleaning up the remains, the teams found a salvaged experiment containing nematode worms.
The worm’s survival was an important discovery because it showed that life could survive by landing on another planet without the protection of a spacecraft. It can also explain how life has spread throughout the galaxy.
Even today, nematode worms are sent to the International Space Station for further experiments and observations.
8 The Twins Study
What are the long-term effects of space travel? That’s what the researchers hope to discover with the Twin Study. NASA has been studying astronaut Mark Kelly and his identical twin brother Scott. As smart as the people at NASA are, they aren’t smart about naming their experiments.
Scott was sent to the International Space Station to spend almost an entire year in microgravity. And while Scott was floating, Mark was here on earth completing the same tests, so the 84 researchers working on this experiment were able to see how much microgravity affected the human body.
Unsurprisingly, since our bodies are developed to handle gravity and earth conditions, there were many changes to Scott. Some of those changes included:
- decreased body mass
- changed the shape of the eyes
- Overactive immune system
- Changes in your chromosomes
Once Scott returned to earth, his body was mostly recovered. The scientists hope to help humans manage the stress of living in space through this study, but nothing has been provided to the public about its results. I can only imagine that finding astronaut twins is a difficult task to accomplish.
7 extreme clamp ball
When we can get a satellite into orbit, attaching it to a 21-kilometer-long (13-mile) tether behind a shuttle doesn’t seem to make any sense to the average civilian. But that is exactly what the scientists wanted and did; The scientists wanted the satellites to generate electricity as a space shuttle pulled them through Earth’s magnetic field.
Both attempts failed. The first shuttle managed to free only 840 feet of cable before getting stuck. The second attempt in 1996 was closer to success; the shuttle Columbia managed to free 12.2 miles of cable before breaking, effectively launching the satellite into deep space.
The guy wire was only 2.54 millimeters (1/10 of an inch) thick; Surprisingly, it did well for what it was. According to NASA, the system had been generating electricity, about 3,500 volts and 0.5 amps. So it is possible to generate green energy during launch; we may just want to try a thicker, stronger wire.
6 growing plants in space
anyone who has seen the movie the martian, starring Matt Damon, understands the theoretical importance of this experiment. If we’re ever going to colonize Mars, we’ll need to be able to grow our own food. That’s really the goal in understanding what it takes to grow fruits and vegetables in space.
Remember what happened to sailors when they didn’t eat enough vitamin C. They got scurvy because they couldn’t keep fresh produce on their boats. Until now, scientists have not grown much more than a few varieties of lettuce, cabbage, kale, mustard, and flowers. Eventually, scientists want to be able to grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits, since even having the plants on board makes astronauts happier.
5 The water walls experiment
The Water Walls experiment (what a unique name, huh?) is designed to study how water behaves in microgravity. It involves the use of a system of water-filled “bags” to create walls of water that astronauts can use for a wide variety of purposes.
Engineers hope to be able to replace some or all of the critical life support systems currently in use. They want to have one bag for the ship’s gray water, one for black water, one for air purification, one for edible algae, and finally one to protect astronauts from space radiation.
The best part is that, if successful, it would drastically reduce the mechanical and technical equipment required for current life support systems. The only mechanical part in the water walls would be the water pumps to move the water where it is needed.
4 Mighty Mouse is no longer fiction
Any experiment that begins with genetically modified “power mice” will pique the interest of almost anyone. The mice in the experiment were mutated to have twice the muscle mass of their simpleton counterparts.
The aim of the experiment was to see what effects microgravity had on the loss of muscle and bone mass. The results were that during 33 days in space, the powerful genetically superior mice did not lose any of their muscle or bone mass. At the same time, the regular space mice lost about 18% of their own in that same time.
The scientists are hopeful that these results can help people both on Earth and astronauts who have to deal with loss of muscle mass due to disease or low gravity. According geneticist Se-Jin Leewe are still years away from human testing.
3 The fire experiment
One of the worst things that can happen to a spacecraft is a fire, as it can spread rapidly and destroy vital support systems. NASA’s plan to avert that disaster is to safely burn down the International Space Station (ISS). Yep, you read that right.
The project has been named SoFIE, which stands for Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinguishing. The SoFIE experiments will take place on the ISS combustion grate. Scientists hope to learn how fire spreads and acts on different materials in low gravity, with the ultimate goal of establishing colonies on the Moon and Mars with minimal risk of fire destroying everything.
2 The ice crystal experiment
The Ice Crystal experiment is designed to study how ice crystals form in space. I know what you’re thinking; ice is ice: water cools and freezes, space is cold, end of story. And you would be right at the most basic level; all ice is just frozen water.
However, the way it forms and acts in space is different from what it does on Earth. Why is this important? Because it could help us find planets or other celestial objects with water and decide if life could possibly live there. Remember, water is life for us, and as far as we understand, everything else.
You’ve probably noticed that almost all experiments have long-term space travel or colonies in mind. This is no different; if we can find objects with enough water to support life, the galaxy will get a little smaller.
1 The Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project is an ongoing effort to map the entire human genome. There are around 3 billion letters in human DNA, so it’s understandable that it took scientists years to consider this experiment a success. In 2003, after 13 years of progress, scientists completed mapping 92% of the genome and called the project off. After another 14 years, the human genome has been fully mapped.
The project has been and continues to be important for several reasons. It has helped scientists learn more about the genetic causes of disease, it has led to the development of new and better treatments for disease, and it has even helped us understand where human evolution is headed.
Some geneticists believe that the map of the human genome is the key to successfully saving the human race. Christopher Mason, who was the lead geneticist for the aforementioned Twin Study, believes that we will be able to use the map to modify humans and other species to better handle the struggles of space exploration.
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