11 best space experiments!

Unveiling the Secrets of Space: 11 Remarkable Experiments

Video of the day September 2nd 2019


11. The Space Race

While it may not seem like it now, the very attempt to get into space was in and of itself an experiment. Think about it, for a long time, we had many misconceptions about space and the universe at large. Such as that the Earth or the sun was the “center” of the universe. So then, when we tried to get INTO space, we had to learn a lot about it on the fly, and that caused a lot of problems.

For example, getting out of the atmosphere requires “space velocity”, or the amount of speed needed in order to break Earth’s gravity and its hold on you. You also needed to have a spacecraft that could handle the heat and intensity to survive getting through said atmosphere.

Think we were done with that? Not even close. Because once in space, the atmosphere that we just blew past no longer protects us. Early Soviet Union missions into space (mainly with animals) proved that radiation and the heat of re-entry could kill anyone in the craft it not protected. That’s still not even talking about the lessons in gravity that we had to learn as well.

And on and on it went. It was not as simple process, which is why it took us such a long time to not just get to space, but to get to the moon. Now, we’re learning all over again as we attempt to go to Mars. But that wouldn’t have been possible without the lessons and experiments that happened during the earliest days of the Space Race.

But in this post we explained how it would be possible

10. Gravity In A Vacuum

There are many people who helped prove what gravity is and isn’t. Among them being Sir Isaac Newton and Galileo. On Earth, objects fall to the ground at a rate that is based on their weight, density, and terminal velocity depending on their positions and how high up they are. However, Galileo theorized that in a place that was a vacuum, no matter the weight of the objects, they’d fall at the same rate to the ground. Because air resistance also helps determine how fast an object goes to the ground.

So, where do we go to prove such a thing? THE MOON!!!!!

No, really, this happened. In fact, it happened on the Apollo 15 Space Mission, where David Scott was on the moon, looked into a camera and held a hammer in one hand, and a feather in the other. Clearly two objects of very different weights. He held them up to the same height, dropped them, and because of the lack of air resistance via the vacuum, they both fell to the moons’ surface at the same time. Thus proving Galileo’s theory beyond a shadow of a doubt.

To be clear, there gravity on the moon, which is why the objects fell, but because of the lack of air resistance, the objects had no reason to fall any faster or slower than anything else.

9. Microgravity on Bacteria

You might be curious as to what kinds of experiments astronauts get up to in space shuttles and the International Space Station. The simple answer is: a lot. Because there’s still a lot that we don’t know about space, and more importantly, how certain object interact with space as a whole.

For example, have you ever wondered how things like bacteria would react to being in microgravity? No, I bet you haven’t, but NASA had a curiosity about it. So, they decided to send some samples up in two different space missions, and what they found was actually quite frightening. Mainly, they found that things like Salmonella actually get more intense in space. And not just by a little, but 3-7 times MORE intense than they are on Earth. Which means you REALLY don’t want to get Salmonella or other things in space, just saying.

So how does that work? It has to do with conditions. On a space shuttle, with no gravity and certain “space lights” filling the place, the bacteria things it’s inside a human gut (where it reacts with things and makes people sick).

Thankfully, because of this research, a special vaccine was created to counter the hyper-virulent bacteria. As well as finding a special protein within it that actually regulates how it acts in certain conditions. Pretty cool, huh? And that’s why you need to ask ALL the questions when it comes to doing tests in space.

8. Regeneration

You might not think that humanity being in space would affect our bodies that much. But given how gravity at points holds us together, it’s a very important thing to know how certain things react to being hurt in a zero-gravity setting. So, in 2014, an experiment was sent up to the International Space Station, one that dealt with Flatworms.

Why Flatworms? Simple, they can regenerate from any minor (and sometimes major) injury. You could even cut off their heads and they would regenerate fine. So, they sent up a series of Flatworm heads and tails to the station in order to be analyzed and see if they would be able to regenerate.

The point of this is simple, if an animal that can regenerate naturally in a gravity environment can’t do it as fast (or at all) in a zero-gravity environment, then that would mean that humans heal slowly in space as well without contained conditions. Which would be bad. And another reason for astronauts to be VERY careful as they move around in space shuttles and the station.

7. The 13-Mile Space Tether

You don’t know what’s possible out in space until you try it out, right? Well, NASA decided to team up with the Italian space agency back in 1992 and 1996 for a set of unique space shuttle missions. The intent of the project was to go into a space shuttle, have it deploy a satellite into space, and then hold onto said satellite via a tether. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Except, they wanted to extend that tether to about 13 miles, and then use the shuttle to drag the satellite around to see if it would generate an electric current due to them still being in Earth’s atmosphere. A very bold plan. One they had to try out twice.

The first time, they made it into space, were able to deploy the satellite, but the reel that had the tether jammed when it was only 880 feet out. Thus ending the mission because it couldn’t be reeled back in or fixed. Then in 1996, they tried it again, and were able to extend it out about 12.2 miles. Which is very impressive. Yet, when they reached that distance, the tether snapped. Again ending the mission. This time for good because it wasn’t attempted by the agencies again.

This was partially because of the failure, but also because of the success. Before it snapped, the satellite was indeed generating electricity. Thus proving the concept.

6. Exercise In Space

Let’s go back to how human bodies react in zero gravity environments. You already know that things like liquids and even some foods don’t react the same in space as they do on Earth. However, what you likely didn’t learn is that gravity is a vital force for keeping out bones strong. Mainly, the pressure that gravity exerts on our bodies allows them to be tough and not break simply by being “forced down”. However, in space, that’s not the case, there is no gravity, even on a shuttle or the International Space Station. So, when early astronauts spent a lot of time in space and came back down to Earth, their bodies weren’t the same in terms of strength. Their bones had become more brittle because they became used to the zero gravity.

So due to this, on the International Space Station, there is a series of exercise equipment (mainly exercise bikes) that is in place for the astronauts to use. And they HAVE to use it for long periods of time to ensure that their bones and muscles don’t become lax and brittle over the course of their tenure.

Exercise in Spacesource: Nasa

5. The Smells In Space

No, I’m not trying to gross you out, but it’s something in another long line of things that you wouldn’t think zero gravity would affect. Smells are different in space. This was proven on the STS-95 mission in 1998. The experiment was simple, take a rose fully in bloom, make sure it gets to the shuttle, and then have them examine the oils of the rose where the smells come from.

What they found as a result was rather shocking. Without gravity, the oils of the rose aren’t as intense as they are on Earth. What’s more, the smell of the rose via the oils is completely different in space.

And like good Americans, they saw an opportunity. So the new “rose fragrance” was eventually turned into a perfume called Zen. Because of course it was.

4. Plants In Space

We often take for granted the simple actions and things that happen on Earth that may not work exactly how you think in space, which is why these experiments happen. One such question was whether plants could actually grow in space.

So, in 2012 on the International Space Station, a zucchini plant was grown, and the astronaut who took care of it, Don Pettit, actually wrote blog posts (from the perspective of the plant) to talk about its growth.

This was not only important because of the effects of gravity on plants, but how potential space radiation would affect plants too.

The obvious implications of this is that if plants can be grown in space or on other planets that aren’t like Earth, they could help provide both Oxygen and food for the crews and colonists on long-term missions.

3. The Death and Life Of Colombia

Sometimes, things just go wrong, and for the space program, that happens more than people would like to admit. Even in the modern age, things go wrong and it cost people their lives. One of the biggest examples of this was the Colombia space craft that blew up soon after launch because of damage to their heat shield. The Colombia was supposed to be a massive scientific research mission in space. One that would have done numerous experiments over time.

In a very ironic twist though, the destruction of the Colombia did lead to one experiment and concept being proven true. Mainly, on the Colombia were a bunch of Nematodes, which were contained in a special canister to allow them to survive both in space and the launch of the craft. The canister was found, and the Nematodes were alive! Which was significant for a very big reason:

“It’s the first demonstration that animals can survive a re-entry event similar to what would be experienced inside a meteorite,” Catharine Conley, then of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said in 2005. “It shows directly that even complex small creatures originating on one planet could survive landing on another without the protection of a spacecraft.”

Sure, it’s a very small bright spot in the wake of a tragedy, but it’s something that did help explain the power of life, even if the experiment was unintentional.

2. Fire Extinguisher

Whether on Earth or in space, having a fire breakout in an enclosed area is never a good thing. In fact, it was a flash fire that killed the astronauts of the first Apollo Space Mission. In space though, you have to wonder not only how fire will interact with the environment, but also, how to put it out.

Under very controlled circumstances on the International Space Station, these experiments were carried out with interesting results. First off, fires in space don’t burn the same way as on Earth. Without gravity compressing the oxygen all around them, they burn small, and at lower temperatures than expected. They can also burn with less Oxygen present.

Due to this, the flames need to be doused with higher concentrations of retardants and extinguishers. However, there are some space fires that’ll apparently continue to burn despite being extinguished.

1. Life On Mars

Perhaps the greatest space experiment is the one that is still yet to come. For while humanity has embraced the stars in the figurative sense by going into space and even landing on the moon, they still have not done one major dream. Living on another planet. That is the goal for humanity right now in terms of space exploration, and our target has been one that we’ve known about for a long time: Mars.

Colonizing Mars is going to be not just a grand endeavor, but a grand experiment. Because not unlike the people living on the International Space Station, this mission will see a group (or groups) of people being exposed to life in space for a long period of time. Then, they’ll have to go and live on Mars via gear and other materials that’ll have been sent in ahead of time.

The process will not be simple. They’ll have to adapt to somewhat cramped living quarters at first (based on mission plans outlined by SpaceX). They’ll also have to do mini-experiments on Mars and its soil, potential water (via the frozen ice caps of the planet), and more.

Then, after about 9 months, they’ll actually return to Earth and be examined at all levels to see whether anything from Mars has affected their systems. So they’ll literally being walking talking lab rats when we go to Mars the first time.

Sure, if we do make it there, and the astronauts survive the mission intact, it could lead to full colonization. However, whether that actually happens is up for debate. And many experiments will need to be done in order to ensure that life on Mars is not just possible, but safe.

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