Molecular Muscle Experiment: Hardware and Operational Lessons for Future Astrobiology Space Experiments


Biology experiments in space seek to increase our understanding of what happens to life beyond Earth and how we can safely send life beyond Earth. Spaceflight is associated with many (mal)adaptations in physiology, including decline in musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, vestibular, and immune systems. Biological experiments in space are inherently challenging to implement. Development of hardware and validation of experimental conditions are critical to ensure the collection of high-quality data. The model organism Caenorhabditis elegans has been studied in space for more than 20 years to better understand spaceflight-induced (patho)physiology, particularly spaceflight-induced muscle decline. These experiments have used a variety of hardware configurations. Despite this, hardware used in the past was not available for our most recent experiment, the Molecular Muscle Experiment (MME). Therefore, we had to design and validate flight hardware for MME. MME provides a contemporary example of many of the challenges faced by researchers conducting C. elegans experiments onboard the International Space Station. Here, we describe the hardware selection and validation, in addition to the ground-based experiment scientific validation testing. These experiences and operational solutions allow others to replicate and/or improve our experimental design on future missions.


© Amelia K. Pollard et al., 2020; Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2020. cc-by


Astrobiology, C. elegans, Space biology, Spaceflight


Pollard, A.K., Gaffney, C.J., Deane, C.S., Balsamo, M., Cooke, M., Ellwood, R.A., Hewitt, J.E., Mierzwa, B.E., Mariani, A., Vanapalli, S.A., Etheridge, T., & Szewczyk, N.J.. 2020. Molecular Muscle Experiment: Hardware and Operational Lessons for Future Astrobiology Space Experiments. Astrobiology, 20(8).