SpaceX Dragon Hauls NASA Holiday Gifts And A Treasure Trove Of Experiments To The ISS

iss resupply
A SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft launched early this morning carrying new science and holiday gifts in route to the International Space Station (ISS). The cargo came in at a whopping 6,500 pounds of supplies and science experiments.

A good bit of the included cargo included science projects for the crew on ISS and are aimed at keeping astronauts healthy during the upcoming Artemis missions that will be the forerunner to long-duration space travel. Artemis missions will include extended trips to the Moon with intentions to eventually travel to Mars.

The SpaceX Dragon autonomously docked with the ISS under the watchful eyes of astronauts Raja Chari and Thomas Mashburn as the ISS was traveling more than 260 miles above the South Pacific Ocean Wednesday, December 22nd. Following about one month attached to the ISS, Dragon will make its return to Earth with cargo and research in tow.


The latest science experiments to make their way to the ISS are only a few of the hundreds of investigations that are currently being conducted aboard the space station. These experiments are in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. NASA believes that advances in these areas are crucial to long-duration space travel and that the findings will be vital in providing a safe and sustainable existence for astronauts that make extended space flights.

One of the science experiments that arrived this morning may seem like it was ripped right out of a science fiction movie. The Bioprint FirstAid Handheld Bioprinter (Bioprint FirstAid) is a portable, handheld bioprinter that uses a patient's own skin cells to create a tissue-forming patch that will cover a wound and vastly improve and accelerate the healing process. The German Aerospace Center is responsible for this bioprinting experiment that utilizes viable cells and biological molecules to print tissue structures. While a means of overcoming unique incidents that may occur during space travel, this type of technology has enormous potential back on Earth as well. It holds the possibility to provide safer and more flexible treatment whether in space or on Earth.

Cancer has been a concern for NASA too, being that astronauts are exposed to far more radiation than people back on Earth. NASA has specified that the risk of radiation carcinogenesis from space radiation is one of its top research priorities. A study a few years ago determined that of the astronauts that had flown into space at least one time since 1959 and all cosmonauts since 1961, just under a third of the deaths were attributed to cancer. In comparison, around 22% of all deaths during the same time period were cancer related according to the CDC.

A science experiment delivered this morning will look at monoclonal antibodies which are used to treat a wide range of human diseases. These antibodies do not dissolve easily in liquid and therefore they must typically be given intravenously in a clinical setting. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Protein Crystal Growth 20 experiment will look at crystallizing a monoclonal antibody, pemborlizumab. This is an active ingredient in Keytruda, a drug that targets multiple cancers. The hope is that by crystallizing the ingredient, doses can be given at a doctor's office or even at home.

Astronauts aboard the ISS currently wear items of clothing several times, and then replace them with new clothes that are delivered on resupply missions. One of the experiments that arrived today will look to change that and free up some of the valuable cargo space on resupply spacecraft. Procter & Gamble has teamed up with NASA to develop Tide Infinity, a fully degradable detergent that specifically targets stains in space. The experiment will explore the performance of its stain removal ingredients and its stability in microgravity. This could prove vital for future long-duration space flights where resupply will be limited greatly, and the crews will have to wear the same outfits they leave Earth with for extended periods of time. The ability to wash those outfits while traveling through space will certainly be welcomed by all the astronauts who will be forced to be in close perimeter to one another during a long space journey.

A few other science experiments arrived this morning as well. One includes a study that will assess space-induced changes in immune status by culturing cells collected from crew members before, during, and after spaceflight. Another will monitor the development of the shoots and roots of plants in microgravity. An experiment that will test a commercial manufacturing device that processes heat-resistant alloy parts in microgravity was also aboard the Dragon resupply spacecraft.

As NASA and other space agencies work toward extended spaceflights that will take humankind farther into space, experiments like these are most assuredly crucial to the success of those future missions. The first Artemis mission will be the precursor to all of those missions and we here on Earth are ready to see how far we can actually go into the great beyond.