The International Space Station, (ISS) is a large spacecraft, owned and used by several nations, which orbits around planet earth, housing a unique science laboratory.

The ISS is home to a crew of astronauts and cosmonauts, and its laboratory gives researchers the unique opportunity to perform key experiments in the space environment and learn from their findings. These experiments are incredibly broad ranging and involve anything from studies linked to human health, to testing out various technology and equipment, with a view to developing the possibilities for space exploration in the future.

Here is a little insight into some of the interesting experiments that have been carried out in the ISS laboratory:

Space Garden

One of many experiments into the possibility of growing plants and vegetation in space involved seeding and growing a courgette plant on the ISS. For crews on long-term missions, the addition of plants on the ISS is important as it provides them with oxygen and delicious fresh produce to eat.

So there you have it – courgettes in space, bizarre but true.

The Regeneration Of Cells

Flatworms have the ability to regenerate their own cells when they are damaged, be it through injury or aging and scientists were keen to learn whether this regeneration process would operate as efficiently when they were placed in the space environment.

This particular study involved sending a variety of flatworm heads and tails into space, so that their cell regeneration could be observed and the results recorded. The insight gleaned from these tests will give us important information about the way that tissue regeneration is affected by gravity.

Incubating Microbes

Another interesting experiment involved the selection of a random group of microorganisms, which were first incubated in Petri dishes, before being sent to the space station for observation. The idea behind this is to learn exactly how different microbes behave in space, giving scientists crucial information that will help to make crews safer when travelling on longer trips and space missions.

Liquids Behave Very Differently In Space!

Scientists are still learning about the physics behind the way liquids behave in space and recent experiments have involved using free-floating satellites within the ISS to gain a better understanding of this fascinating behaviour.

This research is important as amongst other things it will help scientists to understand the behaviour of liquid fuel, which will ultimately contribute to making spacecraft and rockets safer. 

Microgravity & Hawaiian Bobtail Squid

Some unexpected visitors to the International Space Station were a group of Hawaiian Bobtail Squid, that were sent with a view to observing the way bacteria could colonise in microgravity conditions.  This research provides us with a greater understanding of the potential implications for human health. These experiments proved to be so successful that yet more of these creatures are expected to be taking a trip to the ISS sometime in the near future...