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Ideas for Scientific Experiments to be Done in Space? 22

Mark Shuttleworth asks: "I'm hoping to launch an African Space Program by flying to space with the Russians. There have been some ups and downs along the road ;-) There is still no certainty, but the battle is half the fun. The program includes science, education and media. We have some great science experiments submitted by South African scientists, in physiology, genetics, proteomics and stem cell work. I wonder what ideas the Slashdot community has for world class space science or education, or other suggestions to make this project a huge success for Africa? If someone has a great idea, and it requires only safe, light, COTS equipment, I will try to get it onto the flight when/if I ever get up there. Any ideas are welcome. I'm looking for science experiments that are of interest to Africa, that are cutting edge, and that can only be done from space. Or educational things that demonstrate fun science that is uniquely possible in space. And yes, Debian, Python, Mozilla, POV, LAME, TTR and other friends will ride along too."
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Ideas for Scientific Experiments to be Done in Space?

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  • Well, somebody had to say it!
  • Waste of money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday November 23, 2001 @01:42PM (#2603769) Journal
    I'm a molecular biologist and reading this only deepens my impression that scientific research in space is almost entirely a flimsy justification to put on "I want to go flying in rockets." The way research works is you think of a question and then decide how to attack it, not to create a space program and then wonder if anyone has any good ideas for experiments.

    OK, once you're going out there, maybe there are some protein folding experiments that might actually have some value. Africa related -- I dunno. Maybe you can breed rhinos up there where poachers can't get to them.

    And yes, Debian, Python, Mozilla, POV, LAME, TTR and other friends will ride along too.

    Ooooh, yeah, that's the fundamental question that launches all sorts of worthwhile science: what distro should I bring to space?

    • We have some good protein crystallization experiments, in immunology and African disease research, already lined up.

      Yes, unmanned space science is much more cost effective for those types of science that CAN be done without human interaction. But unmanned flight will never put a (hu)man on another planet, and sooner or later, we need to grow beyond Earth.
  • by mfarah ( 231411 ) <miguel@@@farah...cl> on Friday November 23, 2001 @03:05PM (#2604199) Homepage
    AFAIU, the reason why NASA won't allow couples to go on the shuttle is the risk that they have sex and sperms fertilise in an unknown (and potentially disastrous) way.

    So, my suggestion is: get eggs and sperm from some mammal (say: a dog, a horse, a cow or a monkey) and simulate the conditions in which the sperm try to fertilise the egg, to determine what happens.
    • There have been experiments in http://www.google.com/search?q=fertilization+space +zero+gravity">fertilization under zero gravity. The experiment you propose, with mouse fertilization [fertilitycommunity.com] in microgravity has been studied (not much detail in that article...).
      • Now, I'd never heard of a "clinostat" before reading the article, so I could be missing something. From a google search it seems to just be a device that rotates, so that the fertilization technique won't have a constant force in a constant direction - but *will* always be under one full G of gravity. Is this really comparable to zero-g development?
    • Ok, I have one question ... has anyone ever smoked in zero gravity? I mean, if they're asking them to engage in sexual intercourse, it's only fair they'll let them indulge after the act?

      Just pondering.

    • There have quite a number of successful "fertilization" experiments in both the Russian and US space science programs. Apart from human fertilization, we have to find out what species can be bred in space for long-term food sources. We have some stem cell research planned which is also related to the behaviour of cells in microgravity.
  • by itwerx ( 165526 )
    Let's have that little LEGO robot (covered here [slashdot.org]) duke it out with NASA's space droid [nasa.gov] a'la BattleBots [battlebots.com]!
    Any bets on the winner?
  • which way do they grow in space.. its not like they can push against gravity.. or is it that they head towards the light?, so shine light on all sides ;p

    either way, i'd like to see a tree grown in 0 gravity :)
    • i remember from high school bio that plants respond to something called geotropism, that is they grow in response to gravity. They've done experiments like this and found that the plant cant tell up from down, and grows in a big ball of tangled roots and leaves.
      • cool, thats what i thought (a friend mentioned they grew away from gravity.. i'd love to see a photo of a tree/plant grown in space :)
  • I don't know much about zero gravity research.

    But what *is* it about it that facilitates research in areas like tissue/immunology/etc.?

    Why is space preferable to a laboratory on earth?

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall