Animal Research Facilities

Talcing animals into space requires special considerations. For mice, the traditional aquarium-style cages don't provide enough traction for the animals to walk around. Instead, space mice have wire mesh cages so their toes can grip a rougher surface. Wood chips couldn't be used for bedding; they wouldn't stay in place. Gravity-feed water bottles wouldn't work; pressurized water containers are needed instead. Bowls of dry food aren't practical, so compressed food bars are provided instead. As for how to clean the cages, a special waste containment system has been created to keep everything in its place.

Suitable habitats and adequate life support systems for each research subject are essential for experiment success. Hardware to support living organisms is designed to accommodate the conditions of spaceflight, but microgravity poses special engineering challenges. Fluids behave differently in microgravity. The relative importance of physical properties such as surface tension increases, and convective air currents are absent or reduced (see Chapter 1, Section 2.2). Plants are usually flown attached to a substrate so that nutrients and water can be provided through the root system. Cultured cells are flown in suspensions of renewable media contained within specialized hardware units. Nonhuman primates are often flown in comfortable confinement systems to prevent them from endangering themselves during launch and reentry or damaging sensors or instrumentation during the flight. Other organisms such as rodents are typically flown without confinement so they can float freely within their habitats while in the microgravity environment. With the use of implanted biotelemetry hardware, however, small primates can be flown unconfined.

The comfort and safety of research subjects is a high priority. Because trauma or stress can compromise experiment results, humane care and good science go hand in hand. Animals may be singly or group-housed, but group-housed animals tend to remain healthier and exhibit fewer signs of stress. For nonhuman primates, environmental enrichment is provided in the form of behavioral tasks or "computer games", which can double as measures of behavior and performance. Such enrichment helps to prevent stress and boredom, a possible result of confinement and isolation.

Light within habitats is usually regulated so as to provide a day/night cycle similar to that on Earth. Air circulation and heating or cooling ensures that temperature and humidity are maintained at comfortable levels. Food is provided according to the needs of the species in question and the requirements of the experiments. Generally, a continuous water supply is available. Waste material, which includes not only excreta, but also particulate matter shed from the skin and debris generated during feeding activities, is eliminated using airflow systems engineered for the purpose (Souza et al. 2000).

Space Experiment Particulate Matter

-Water separator »Water out

Heat exchanger -By-pass valve

■LiOH canisters Fan

■Feces collector ib <—Oxygen in «—Hydrogen in

-Filter

•Trace Gas Filter

Figure 3-12. Drawing showing the life support system for a rhesus monkey during a flight on board the Russian Cosmos-Bion unmanned biosatellite. Adapted from Souza et al. (2000).

3.2.1 Primate Habitats

Between 1975 and 1990, NASA participated in seven missions flown on board the Russian Cosmos-Bion spacecraft. Five of these biosatellite missions have been dedicated to research with rhesus monkeys lasting up to 14 days. All ten monkeys from these Bion missions were recovered from orbit. The animals were housed in two capsules within the spacecraft's landing module (see Figure 3-03). The capsules, each containing life support and experiment equipment, were oriented within the spacecraft so that the monkeys could view each other. Couches inside the capsules supported and confined the monkeys and provided adequate cushioning when the capsule impacted the ground at landing. A lightweight bib prevented the monkeys from disengaging leads emerging from the implanted sensors. Unidirectional airflow moved excreta toward a centrifugal collector beneath each couch. Monkeys could obtain juice and food, in paste form, from dispensers located in each capsule by biting on switches in the delivery tubes. Primate access to the dispensers could be controlled remotely from the ground. A video camera in each capsule monitored animal behavior during flight (Figure 3-12). The last flights with rhesus monkeys, Bion-11, took place in 1996. One monkey died the day after the capsule recovery during his post-landing medical operation and checkup. This death raised new questions regarding the ethics of using primate animals for research, and NASA dropped out of participation in a planned Bion-12 mission. Also, the cost of purchasing a monkey, its housing and care, and the training and associated hardware made monkey flights almost as complex and costly as human experimentation.

Figure 3-13. The Animal Enclosure Module (A EM) is a rodent housing facility that supports up to six 250-g rats. The unit fits inside a standard Shuttle middeck locker with a modified locker door. A removable divider plate can provide two separate animal holding areas. The A EM remains in the stowage locker during launch and landing. On orbit, the AEM may be removed partway fi'om the locker and the interior viewed or photographed through a Lexan cover on the top of the unit. Photo courtesy of NASA.

3.2.2 Mice and Rat Habitats

In Shuttle and SpaceHab, rats can be housed in two habitat types: the Animal Enclosure Module (AEM) and the Research Animal Holding Facility (RAHF).

The AEM is a self-contained animal habitat, storable in a Shuttle middeck locker, which provides ventilation, lighting, food, and water for a maximum of six adult rats (Figure 3-13). Fans inside the AEM circulate air through the cage, passively controlling the temperature. A filtering system controls waste products and odors. Although the AEM does not allow handling of contained animals, a clear plastic window on the top of the unit permits viewing or video recording.

The RAHF was a general use animal habitat designed for the Spacelab or SpaceHab modules. Animal-specific cage modules were inserted, as needed, to provide appropriate life support for rodents (Figure 3-14). Cages could be removed from the RAHF to accommodate inflight experiment procedures. Each cage assemblies carried two rats separated by a divider. Life support systems ensured environmental control, delivery of food bars and water, and waste management. Activity monitors in each cage recorded general movement using an infrared light source and sensor. However, a basic life support system such as RAHF appeared insufficient for maintaining rodents on long-duration flights. The need for a control 1-g centrifuge and a programmed waste collection system (collection and preservation at discrete time intervals) becomes particularly significant in long-duration flights.

On board the ISS, the Advanced Animal Habitats (AAH) will provide a research environment for laboratory rats and mice in orbit for up to 90 days. The AAH is internally modularized so that it can be reconfigured for a wide range of rodent experiments to accommodate mice in all stages of their life cycle (pregnancy, birth, nursing, post-weaning, and adult), and rats from weanlings (neonates once separated from their mothers) to adults.

ESA is also developing a design concept for a facility able to support experimentation with mice on board the ISS. The so-called MISS facility is composed of two main parts: a rack dedicated to the habitat and the scientific equipment, and a container to transport the animals from ground to the MISS rack in orbit and vice-versa. A total of 30 mice with a mean weight of 30 grams/animal could be housed inside the MISS rack for a period of up to 3 months, while 10 mice could be transported within each container.

Environment control system

Rodent cage module

Environment control system

Rodent cage module

needed, to provide appropriate life support for rodents. Cages could be removed from the RAHF to allow inflight experiment procedures to be conducted. Adapted from Souza et al. (2000).

Figure 3-14. The Research Animal Holding Facility (RAHF) was an animal habitat for general use within the Spacelab module. Animal-specific cages were inserted, as needed, to provide needed, to provide appropriate life support for rodents. Cages could be removed from the RAHF to allow inflight experiment procedures to be conducted. Adapted from Souza et al. (2000).

Figure 3-14. The Research Animal Holding Facility (RAHF) was an animal habitat for general use within the Spacelab module. Animal-specific cages were inserted, as needed, to provide

3.2.3 Aquatic Habitats

It has been realized since the early days of space biology that aquatic organisms were prime candidates for research in gravitational biology. During the third Skylab mission and then the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, hundreds of killifish were sent into space in plastic bags filled with water and oxygen. High survival rates were obtained using that simple method (Baumgarten et al. 1975, Scheld et al. 1976, Hoffman et al. 1977). Killifish and guppy fish flew on board the Russian biosatellites Cosmos-782 and -1514 using the same technique, with the amazing result of the fish swimming with their back always turned towards the oxygen bubble (Krasnov 1977, Gazenko and Illyin 1984).

With the onset of the Space Shuttle era, new technologies could be implemented and thus new hardware development occurred based on the science requirements. The first pressurized container, called STATEX (from STATolith Experiment) flew on the Spacelab D1 German mission. It allowed the investigation Xenopus tadpoles (Neubert et al. 1983). Inside the pressurized container was a control centrifuge and additional room for experiment-specific hardware. Both the centrifuge and the experiments could be equipped with small water tanks, like Petri dishes, with a bottom biofoil providing gas/oxygen transfer to the water. A modified STATEX container next flew on board the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1993, where both tadpoles and cichlid fish larvae were investigated (Neubert et al. 1991) (Figure 3-15).

Pressurized Container With Latches
Figure 3-15. Photograph of the STATEX-II hardware. 1: Main container with reference centrifuge (b) and the micrograviU' stacks (a). 2: Observation and fixation unit. Photo courtesy of Institute of Aerospace Medicine, DLR, Germany.

A more sophisticated hardware for aquatic specimens, the Aquatic Research Facility (ARF), was then developed by the Canadian Space Agency (Figure 3-16). In contrast to STATEX, which was bound to fly within Spacelab, the ARF fits in a standard Space Shuttle middeck locker and can therefore be used during more flight opportunities. Embryonic starfish and other aquatic animals have flown in this facility, and many more species should fly in the future, including a series of experiments on tadpole development (Snetlcova et al. 1995). The life support system is also based on biofoil.

Another aquatic research, known as the Aquatic Animal Experiment Unit (AAEU), was developed by Japan for the Spacelab-J and IML-2 missions. The AAEU provided larger volumes for animal habitats, as well as an artificial lung and an automatic feeding system. A major step in studies on developmental biology in space was achieved when the first mating of Medaka fish in space occurred in this facility on board IML-2 (see Figures 212 and 5-02) (Ijiri 1995). The AAEU also hosted investigations on Japanese lcoyfish during both orbital and parabolic flights (Mori et al. 1994).

The second generation of the AAEU is the Vestibular Function Experiment Unit (VFEU), developed by NASDA for the Neurolab mission in April 1998. It also flew on a subsequent Shuttle mission, carrying two marine Oyster toadfish as experiment subjects (see Figure 2-05). Housed in the VFEU, the fish were electronically monitored to determine the effect of gravitational changes on their balance system. The electrophysiological activity of the otolith nerves of freely moving fish was recorded through a specially designed array of implanted electrodes. Measurements of afferent and efferent activity were made before, during, and after the flight.

Figure 3-16. Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau performs a status check on the Canadian Aquatic Research Facility (ARF) during the STS-77 Space Shuttle mission in May 1996. Photo courtesy of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

The systems described above supported animal life support by either passive oxygen transfer via biofoil or, in case of the AAEU and VFEU, by active transfer using a water purification system and an artificial lung. Another approach is to create a life support system which resembles the biosphere used naturally on Earth. Basic research into bio-regenerative life support systems in aquatic habitat was executed at the University of Bochum, Germany. A miniaturized version of their full-scale Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System (CEBAS) was then developed for space conditions under contract of the Germany Aerospace Center DLR (Blüm et al. 1994).

The CEBAS minimodule is able to house aquatic species in a large volume of water (8.6 liter), either in different compartments or as a community, in a closed ecological system. Homweed plants are used for oxygen production, a biofilter allows for water recycling, and fish and snails evolving freely in this environment can be used as experimental research subjects (Figure 3-17).

Figure 3-17. Diagram showing the architecture of the CEBAS (Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System) Minimodule.

Figure 3-17. Diagram showing the architecture of the CEBAS (Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System) Minimodule.

Egg Incubator Wiring Diagrams

The CEBAS minimodule flew twice in 1998 on board the STS-89 and STS-90 missions, with adult swordtail fish, newborn swordtail fish, and several pond snails. A CEBAS with cichlid fish flew also on board the last flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) in January 2003, for an investigation on the development of the fish otoliths in microgravity.

A video subsystem enabled the scientists from various disciplines, including neurobiology, develop-mental biology, and bone physiology, to view the animals and analyze their behavior. The CEBAS Minimodule allowed the first investigations of eco-physiological research under space conditions in an almost complete self-sustaining mode. Indeed, only light and food (although in small amounts) were provided to the plants and animals.

New, state-of-the-art hardware is being developed for the ISS, enabling much longer exposure to microgravity. The Aquatic Animal Experiment Facility (AAEF) will accommodate freshwater and saltwater organisms in microgravity on board the ISS. The facility will be designed to accommodate experiments for up to 90 days, making it possible to conduct research ranging from early development and differentiation to individual responses in the microgravity environment. Access to the Centrifuge Accommodation Facility will provide the onboard 1-g controls, as well as acceleration forces from 0 to 2 g to identify the gravity response threshold for particular cellular and physiological processes. This JAXA Space Station facility will be located in the Japanese Experiment Module.

Figure 3-18. Schematic drawing of the Aquatic Habitat (AQH). The access port is for specimen sampling and the moving frame is for inner wall cleaning. The egg trapper is for egg collection by water flow. Photo courtesv of JAXA.

The Aquatic Habitat (AQH) will accommodate both freshwater and marine organisms Three-generations of small freshwater fish (killifish Medaka and zebrafish Dario), and egg through metamorphosis of amphibians (Xenopus) could be experimented by AQH. Invertebrate organisms, such as sea urchins and snails, and aquatic plants species will eventually be supported by this habitat. Various experimental functions such as automatic feeding, air-water interface, day/night cycle, video observation, and specimen sampling rtit susiamer

Egg trapper rtit susiamer

Egg trapper

Aquatic Habitat Aqh

Specimen chamber

Automatic feeder

Waste filter

Access port

Waste filter

Specimen chamber

-Moving frame

Automatic feeder mechanism will be also available (Figure 3-18). The water circulation system was improved from the past aquatic facilities for Space Shuttle experiments under the consideration of the long life-time, and a brand-new specimen chamber was developed to equip the above various experimental functions.

ESA's Biolab (see Figure 4-02) will also allow research with small aquatic animals. However, the volume of the experiment containers is limited to about hundred milliliters.

A new generation of CEBAS minimodule, housing aquatic species in a completely closed environment, is also being planned for ISS. Ground-based research and development have already started on a commercial basis (Slenzlca et al. 2001, 2003, 2006). The development of complete bioregenerative systems helps our understanding of ecophysiology and ecology in general. So the results of this research and development will ultimately benefit our understanding of Earth's ecology.

Jellyfish in solution

Jellyfish in solution

Closed Ecology Experiment Facilities
Figure 3-19. The four Jellyfish Kits flown on Spacelab missions contained the necessary materials to maintain jellyfish during flight, measure the radiation dose, and apply fixative to the specimens. Adapted from Souza et al. (2000).

3.2.4 Other Habitats

The Egg Incubator (EI) for ISS is designed to support experiments utilizing non-mammalian amniotic eggs such as chicken and Japanese quail eggs. Anticipated experiments include studies in embryo orientation and mortality, embryogenesis, and development of bone and muscular tissue. The

EI fits into one Space Shuttle Orbiter middeclc locker, which allows for late access prior to launch and early access upon return.

The Insect Habitat (IH) System developed by CSA for ISS consists of a Transport Element, a Science Element and an Insect Container Element. The IH is designed to support a variety of insect species. However, during the initial increments the IH will be devoted to experiments using Drosophila melanogaster.

Other animal habitats can be much simpler. For example, jellyfish polyps are usually contained in bags and flasks of artificial seawater (Figure 3-19). At the beginning of the flight, crewmembers can inject controlled amounts of thyroxine or iodine into the bags, inducing the polyps to metamorphose into free-swimming ephyra, a tiny form of jellyfish. After several days in space, crewmembers cam inject again some fixatives and stow the bags in the onboard refrigerator. Some of the other bags and flasks are filmed to observe the animal's swimming behavior for example. After the mission, investigators can then examine both sets of live and fixed jellyfish and compare them for changes in morphology, calcium, and statolith size, shape, and number.

3.3 Plant Research Facilities

Plant development studies require a minimum of 36 plants per experiment. However, plant physiology studies vary considerably in their requirements and also may require experiment-unique hardware.

Plants such as culture-derived daylily (Hemerocallis cv. Autumn Blaze) and haplopappus (Haplopappus gracilis) were flown in the Plant Growth Unit (PGU) located in the middeclc of the Space Shuttle. The PGU occupied a single middeck locker and had a timer, lamps, heaters, and fans to provide temperature regulation and lighting. The unit also has a data

Figure 3-20. Photograph of plant shoots inside the Plant Growth Unit. Photo courtesy of NASA.

acquisition system and displays, which allow the crew to monitor equipment status and environmental parameters (Figure 3-20).

For long-duration flights, a plant growth chamber with a minimum total growing area of 0.5 to 1 m2 is required. This chamber requires its own environmental control system with subsystems for the control of light, temperature, gas composition, and water/nutrient delivery. The Commercial Plant Biotechnology Facility (CPBF) in the US Lab Module provides a large enclosed, environmentally controlled plant growth chamber designed to support commercial and fundamental plant research on board the ISS for continuous operation of at least one year without maintenance.

Three other plant facilities are dedicated to fundamental research on plants on the ISS. The NASA Plant Research Unit (PRU) and two ESA facilities: the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) and Biolab (see above). All facilities use experiment containers that can be mounted on the 2.5-m diameter centrifuge, thus allowing to expose the specimens to centrifugal accelerations between 0 and 2 g. Transparent covers allow illumination and observation (also near-infrared) of the internal experiment hardware containing the plant specimen. Standard interface plates provide each container with power and data lines, gas supply (controlled concentrations of C02, 02, and water vapor; ethylene removal), and connectors to water reservoirs. There is a difference in container size (Table 3-03) and in the degree of automation. All these facilities are designed to support plant growth in space for up to 90 days, for studies on protoplasts,

Video recorders

Figure 3-21. The Gravitational Plant Physiology Facility (GPPF) was a double-rack supporting plant studies within the Spacelab. Capabilities include two 1-g centrifuges to simulate Earth's gravity, various lighting conditions, and visible and IR video monitoring. Adapted from Souza et al. (2000).

Video recorders

Figure 3-21. The Gravitational Plant Physiology Facility (GPPF) was a double-rack supporting plant studies within the Spacelab. Capabilities include two 1-g centrifuges to simulate Earth's gravity, various lighting conditions, and visible and IR video monitoring. Adapted from Souza et al. (2000).

Plant holding^ compartment callus cultures, algae, fungi and seedlings, as earlier flown on Spacelab using Biorack and the Gravitational Plant Physiology Facility (GPPF) (Figure 321), and new experiments with larger specimens of fungi, mosses and vascular plants.

Facility

Volume

Height

Biolab

0.361

60 mm

EMCS

0.581

160 mm

PRU

201

380 mm

Table 3-03. Container sizes for the plant growth facilities on board the ISS.

Table 3-03. Container sizes for the plant growth facilities on board the ISS.

3.4 Multipurpose Facilities

3.4.1 Animal and Plant Centrifuge

According to the current plan, a 2.5-m centrifuge will be housed in the Centrifugation Accommodation Module (CAM) developed jointly by JAXA and NASA for the ISS (Figure 3-22). This centrifuge will produce artificial gravitational forces upon attached habitats that house various biological specimens, from cells to rodents to large plants. It will be capable of generating controlled, artificial gravity levels ranging from 0.01 g to 2.0 g. The centrifuge will also provide life support resources and electrical power to the habitats as well as data transfer links to computers on the ISS. The habitats that are available to researchers for use on the CAM include the Cell Culture Unit for cell and tissue cultures, the Plant Research Unit for small plants, as well as the Egg Incubator, the Insect Habitat, the Aquatic Habitat, and the Advanced Animal Habitat for rats and mice described above.

Figure 3-22. The Centrifuge Accommodation Module built by JAXA for the ISS is 8.9 m long, 4.4 m in diameter. The CAM has 14 rack locations, 4 of which house experimental hardware (including the Life Sciences Glovebox, a Habitat Holding Rack, and a Cryo-Freezer) with the remaining 10 dedicated to stowage. The 2.5-m diameter Centrifuge Facility is located in the module's endcone. Source JAXA.

2.5-m diameter, centrifuge

Glovebox

2.5-m diameter, centrifuge

Glovebox

Jaxa Module Interior

Figure 3-22. The Centrifuge Accommodation Module built by JAXA for the ISS is 8.9 m long, 4.4 m in diameter. The CAM has 14 rack locations, 4 of which house experimental hardware (including the Life Sciences Glovebox, a Habitat Holding Rack, and a Cryo-Freezer) with the remaining 10 dedicated to stowage. The 2.5-m diameter Centrifuge Facility is located in the module's endcone. Source JAXA.

"Service module ^Animal Holding Rack

3.4.2 Workstation and Glovebox

Experiments not requiring manipulations during flight consist of radiation biology experiments and some plant biology experiments. Other types of both plant and animal experiments require manipulations at such short-time intervals that an unmanned, long-duration flight is unsuitable. Crewmembers may support experiments by monitoring research animals or plants visually on a periodic basis or performing contingency procedures made necessary by hardware malfunction or unexpected experiment performance. The crew may also replenish water and food supplies, substantially reducing the need for automation, and conduct inflight experiment procedures directly on research specimens. These manipulations may include operations such as taking blood samples, perform dissections, fixating preparations, and harvesting plants.

Figure 3-23. The glovebox provides a sealed work area where crewmembers can perform experimental procedures such as subsampling cultures, fixating preparations, fluid chemical handling, and harvesting plants. Photo courtesy of NASA.

The difficulty of carrying out these apparently simple procedures in microgravity should not be underestimated. For example, spores or seeds released from a plant must be collected (they will not fall to the ground) and then actively distributed onto or into the surface of a new growth medium. The action of fixation by pouring a large volume of fixative solution onto dissected structures is impossible, all the components of such a system must be contained and controlled. Direct access to the biological organisms is accomplished using a workstation that maintains biological isolation of the organisms. The so-called glovebox is a closed, retractable cabinet for laboratory activities that require the crew to handle chemicals and manipulate samples (Figure 3-23). Crewmembers can introduce samples through a side access door and handle the specimen through gauntlets in the front of the enclosure. A mesh grill and forced airflow keep solid particles, liquid spills, and gaseous contaminants within the cabinet. The spacecraft environment is also monitored for escaping contaminants by an air sampler, photography, and crew observations and comments.

3.4.3 Microscopes

A Zeiss Compound Microscope with system magnification up to 1000X will allow performing cellular and subcellular observations on board the ISS. It is designed to operate inside the work volume of the Life Sciences Glovebox and provides differential interference contrast, phase contrast, fluorescence, brightfield and darkfield microscopy for fresh, live, fixed, and stained sample observation.

A Leica stereo Dissecting Microscope with 4X to 120X zoom magnification will be used for microscope-aided inspections and manipulations. It is also designed to operate inside the work volume of the Life Sciences Gloveboxes and provides large depth-of-field with long working distance optics to facilitate specimen dissections and similar operations.

3.4.4 Life Sciences Laboratory Equipment

Life Sciences Laboratory Equipment (LSLE) is an inventory of equipment available for utilization in space biology or human physiology. This equipment is currently available and most has been utilized on flights integrated into the middeclc, Spacelab, and SpaceHab facilities on board the Space Shuttle, or the Bion biosatellite. An online catalog of the LSLE equipment can be found at the following URL:

http://fundamentalbiology.arc.nasa.gov/PI/PI_flthdw.html

4 BASELINE DATA COLLECTION FACILITIES

In order to understand the changes induced by spaceflight, it is essential that testing and sample collection be done on a well-considered and rigorous schedule, with a sufficient number of points preflight and postflight. A series of ground-based, preflight measurements is generally made for each flight experiment to establish a set of normal or "baseline" values for the biological system studied. The variability in these measurements is necessary to determine the significance of the changes observed inflight. Early postflight measurements are also necessary to define adequately the time course of recovery for inflight changes.

The investigator's team and the support personnel participate in the Baseline Data Collection (BDC) in facilities located at the launch and the landing sites. These facilities are also designed for preparing biological experiments for flight, for doing ground control experiments simultaneously with flight experiments, and for analyzing data. Data are transmitted from the space laboratory to these work areas, and are used to adjust the timeline and environment conditions for the ground-based controls.

Because the number of flight samples will necessary continue to be small, and individual variations in response are often large, a large number of testing needs to be done on the ground before the flight, in order to select the most representative specimens. In addition, some studies require animals or plants to be at a well-defined period of their development at the time of launch. Given the possibilities for multiple launch delays, it is necessary for these studies to anticipate those delays and always carry the right number of specimens at the right time. This can lead to very large numbers of biological specimens for a given mission (Figure 3-24).

Postflight collections of biosamples are also carried out for many life sciences experiments. Because readaptation to Earth's gravity reverses many of the changes that occur in tissues in space, it is imperative that biosamples be obtained as soon as possible postflight. To facilitate this, ground laboratories are usually prepared to implement such experiment procedures at the time of landing.

Xiphophorus
Figure 3-24. Swordtail fish (Xiphophorus helleri) in their holding tanks in the Operations and Checkout Building at the NASA Kennedy Space Center, before being selected for flying as part of the Neurolab payload on Space Shuttle Mission STS-90. Photo courtesy of NASA.

In the nominal sequence of post-landing operations of the Space Shuttle, living specimens can be handed over to investigators within 1-2 hours after wheel-stop for postflight analysis. For specimens located in the SpaceHab, the earlier access can be 4-5 hours. Stored data (e.g., plates, films, tapes) and samples brought back by the Space Shuttle can be in hands of the users within a few hours after the landing. The science racks within the SpaceHab are disassembled and the equipment is shipped to the postflight science facility or to the investigators' laboratory within a few days of landing.

At the NASA Kennedy Space Center, a Space Life Sciences Laboratory has recently been built, featuring a variety of biological specimen holding areas and laboratories, including controlled environment chambers for plants, habitats for rodents, aquatic species, avian species and insects. It is also equipped with biological imaging techniques and analytical chemistry, and can support biomolecular and microbial ecology research, as well as developmental, physiological, and molecular experiments.

In the case of the biosatellites or sounding rockets, biosample collections are carried out in mobile field laboratories set up at the landing site. Indeed, unlike the Space Shuttle, the biosatellites and sounding rockets do not land at a specific site. As the module descends under a parachute, a radio direction finding equipment is used to locate the biosatellite. Once the ground personnel recover the biological subjects, immediate postflight operations are conducted in a temperature-controlled field laboratory erected at the landing site. Animals flown on Russian biosatellites are examined upon recovery and then shipped to Moscow for testing. Processing of other biospecimens begins three or four hours after landing. Tissue samples requested by investigators are preserved or frozen according to instructions, and later shipped to the investigators' laboratories. If required, postflight testing is performed after the subjects have been transported to Moscow.

Unused tissues from the organisms flown in space may be fixed or frozen and stored in archives for later use by scientists. Access to these sample databases can be made through study proposals in response to solicitations for research experiment from the space agencies. So, analysis of the data may continue for several years. As results are analyzed, investigators prepare for publication, sharing the information with other investigators of the space mission or the science community at large. After publication of scientific peer-reviewed articles, the results of the space experiments are stored in life sciences databases, such as the International Flight Experiments Database (IFED). This database can be accessed through the following URL:

http://www.mainsgate.com/IFE/index.html

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Neubert J, Briegleb W, Schatz A (1983) The Frog-Statolith-Experiment (STATEX) of the German Spacelab Mission Dl. Scientific Background and Technical Description. IAF-83-184, pp 1-6 Neubert J, Rahmann H, Briegleb W, Slenzka K, Schatz A, Bromeis B (1991) STATEX II on Spacelab Mission D-2: An overview of the joint project

"Graviperception and Neuronal Plasticity" and preliminary pre-flight Results. Microgravity Quarterly 1: 173-182 Planel H (2004) Space and Life. An Introduction to Space Biology and Medicine.

CRC Press, Boca Raton Rahmann H, Slenzka K (1994) Influence of gravity on early development of lower aquatic vertebrates. In: Proceedings of the 5th European Symposium on Life Sciences Research in Space. Arcachon, France, ESA SP-366, pp 147-152 Scheid HW, Boyd JF, Bozarth GA et al. (1976) Killifish hatching and orientation: Experiment MA-161. Apollo Soyuz Test Project Preliminary Scientific Report. NASA Document TM X-58173, pp 19-1-19-13 Schmitt DA, Hatton JP, Emond C, Chaput D, Paris H, Levade T, Cazenave J-P, Schaffar L (1996) The distribution of protein kinase C in human leukocytes is altered in microgravity. FASEB J 10: 1627-1634 Slenzka K, Duenne M, Koenig B, Schirmer M (2001) Beyond C.E.B.A.S. Baseline data collection for ground based ecotoxicological research and system application to ISS. ELGRA News 22: 136-137 Slenzka K, Duenne M, Jastorff B, Schirmer M (2003) AToxMss. From a space proven payload to a validated test system in ecotoxicology. Adv Space Res 31: 1699-1703

Slenzka K, Duenne M, Jastroff B (2006) A closed aquatic habitat for space and Earth application. Adv Space Res, in press Snetkova E, Chelnaya N, Serova S, Saveliev E, Cherdanzova E, Pronych S, Wassersug RJ (1995) Effects of spaceflight on Xenopus laevis larval development. J Exp Zool 273: 21-32 Souza K, Etheridge G, Callahan PX (eds) (2000) Life into Space 1991-1998. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, NASA SP-2000-534. Available online at: http://lifesci.arc.nasa.gov/lis_home/

FURTHER INFORMATION:

NASA Space Station Biological Research Project:

http://brp.arc.nasa.gov/Home/home_index.html Life Science Hardware on board the International Space Station:

http: //www. spaceref. com/directory/ exploration_and_missions/human_ missions/international_space_station/life_science_hardware/ JAXA Life Science Hardware for the International Space Station:

http://idb.exst.jaxa.jp/edata/02310/199908E02310000/199908E02310000. html

ESA Life Science Hardware for the International Space Station:

http://www.spaceflight.esa.int/users/file.cfm?filename=iss01-esaf ISS Payload Information Resource:

http://stationpayloads.jsc.nasa.gov/F-facilities/index.html International Space Station Reference:

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/reference/index.html

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