This month in orbit: Maize space science

This month in orbit: Maize space science

Science and exploration

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Vital research on health, climate, materials and more continues with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and colleagues aboard the space station this month. Stay up to date with what was on their schedule with May’s summary of space science.

On May 6, 2022, ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer returned to Earth and splashed into the Gulf of Mexico, marking the end of his Cosmic kiss missions, although post-flight debriefings and the collection of scientific data continue.

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti Minerva mission continues on the International Space Station. And this month, she has been working with colleagues from around the world to conduct even more fascinating science for the benefit of us here on earth. Here is a summary of some of the highlights of the month.

To understand the body

Investigating how microgravity affects the health of our astronauts is a very important part of the research on board the space station. Not only does it allow us to safely continue a lasting human presence in space, but it also provides unique insights into health conditions – and potential treatments – on Earth.

This month, Samantha and her colleague Kjell Lindgren from NASA conducted both measurements for the Acoustic Diagnostics experiment. This study aims to look at how noise on board the space station and microgravity affect hearing. With the help of specialized equipment, researchers can see how otoacoustic emissions (small sounds from inside the ear) can change over time in noisy environments.

Astronaut Hearing Test | Cosmic kiss

The team also collected data for the ongoing Muscle Tone in Space experiment, Myotones. Astronauts train on gym equipment designed for space for at least an hour and a half a day to keep their muscles in good shape, even without gravity. The Myotones study looks at the biochemical properties of muscles during space travel and can lead to new rehabilitation techniques, both for astronauts and the rest of us down here on earth.

Keeps an eye on the earth

Despite some minor technical issues, data collection for Monitor for interactions between atmosphere and space (ASIM) continued throughout the month. ASIM studies severe thunderstorms and helps us understand the role they play in the Earth’s atmosphere and climate. In the future, it may even help us understand more about how our atmosphere protects us from radiation, as well as make climate models more accurate.

Vegetation fighting soil degradation in Mongolia

This month, Samantha also took Cupola photos of several certificates for ESA’s own Climate detectives. This youth project aims to stimulate curiosity about issues facing our climate among the next generation of researchers, and give them the opportunity to find solutions. She also took pictures of such a solution over China’s Kubuqi Desert on June 6. More than 50% of the desert is now covered by vegetation after restoration efforts.

Build for the future

Fluid Science Laboratory on the space station is being upgraded

The team on board the station also ran several experiments to investigate the properties of microgravity materials this month. First, FSL Soft Matter Dynamics PASTA experiment, which looks at the behavior of emulsions in microgravity. Emulsions are used in a variety of industries on earth, including food, cosmetics and even medicines. Understanding how they are formed and their dynamics will allow us to develop better, greener and healthier emulsion-based products and processes.

And it’s not just food, cosmetics and medicines that have benefited from space research this month. In May and June, astronauts also turned their attention to two studies that focused on alloys. Electromagnetic levitator (EML) and Transparent alloys experiment look at the microstructure and formation of metal alloy samples. Collecting these measurements helps us understand exactly what gives alloys their strength, flexibility and longevity.

Preparing to move on

The team at the International Space Station continues to build our ability to explore beyond our own planet. On June 1, it took the form of Samantha controlling Justin, an Earth-based robot, from Earth’s orbit. This Surface Avatar experiment will help scientists understand how astronauts can interact with robots on the planet’s surfaces in future missions, and design protocols to make the process as simple as possible.


On May 20, Samantha installed sample holders for Matiss-3 experiment, which explores the antimicrobial properties of hydrophobic (or water-repellent) surfaces in space. Because being in space lowers astronauts’ immune responses, it is extremely important to keep their environment sanitary; This study will give us an idea of ​​which materials can best keep pathogens at bay. It is possible that the results of this study in the future may help us create spacecraft that are easier to keep clean, freeing up more astronaut time for vital research.

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