Crew time on the International Space Station (ISS) is extremely limited for any operations on science payloads. Autonomous science experiments in small, self-contained, cubical payloads are highly desirable because these pay-loads take up minimal space and spaceflight resources.
The Compact Science Experiment Module (CSEM) was originally designed as a plug-and-play science experiment to study the activity of fruit flies in microgravity. It is comprised of a compact modular enclosure with a transparent habitat, camera with mirror to monitor two dimensions simultaneously, microcontroller for controlling the experiment, LED lighting for creating circadian effects, and various sensors to monitor that the environment stays healthy for the organism under study. The CSEM can be modified to study other organisms such as plants and small-scale, non-life-science experiments. Powered through a USB cable, the CSEM can also connect to ISS telemetry for data transmission to the ground. The astronaut can simply plug in the USB cable to start the experiment.
The CSEM provides a suitable experiment platform consisting of an enclosure that contains all the required components to perform science experiments that can house either living biological samples or other samples on both the ground and on the ISS. The invention provides required instrumentation for video capture and data storage, environmental monitoring inclusive of sensing temperature in degrees Celsius, relative humidity as a percentage, carbon dioxide in parts per million, and oxygen in percentage format. Data can be stored within the module and retrieved after the experiment, or can be transmitted to the ground from the ISS by connecting to the ISS telemetry system.
The CSEM has been fully developed at NASA Ames Research Center and tested on the ISS. In general, fruit fly studies can provide information about the effects of spaceflight at the bio-chemical, cellular, and organismal levels. Using fruit fly spaceflight hardware, researchers are able to investigate the role of spaceflight on development, growth, reproduction, aging, neurobe-havioral responses, immunity, heart function, etc. The fruit fly genome matches the human disease genome by almost 77%, and flies have, therefore, been a useful tool for scientists to understand the genetics and molecular biology of more complex biological systems like humans.
The CSEM is extremely adaptable to other model specimens and samples as well, and has also flown plant experiments on the ISS. The software can be tailored to accommodate different experiment scenarios by adjusting video imaging times, LED light cycles, data storage and telemetry, etc.