"The idea with this first round is to determine whether the cells actually grow in what should be an inhibitory level of drug, and if so, are there any correlations with specific changes in the gene expression?" Klaus explained. Part of the AES-1 package will return to Earth with the SpaceX-3 mission in February 2014, with the remainder coming back on SpaceX-4 in the summer.
While AES-1 won't be too labor-intensive in flight, it does require a certain degree of participation by the station crew. "A few days into the mission, they'll go in and activate the 16 different group activation packs, and then periodically per the timeline they'll do a termination step on them," said Klaus. "We've flown various forms of our payload, sometimes essentially completely autonomous and sometimes with direct crew interaction."
BioServe is familiar with this type of design flexibility, with experience on 43 prior missions since 1991, including sounding rockets, Mir, space shuttle and space station flights. "You essentially begin to trade off experimental volume for automation. The more automation you have, the less [experiment volume] you can generally accommodate because of the need for the electronics and supporting systems," said Klaus.
Although Klaus and the research team plan to fly other bacterial species on future AES investigations, they decided E. coli was the best choice for this first flight. "We would ultimately like to fly things that are more clinically relevant, but for this first round, because they're so well characterized and we in BioServe have flown a lot of previous work using E. coli, it made sense to stick with this primary line we've been using for a
|Contact: Laura Niles|
NASA/Johnson Space Center