Richard has chosen to devote part of his mission to scientific activities. His partners include:
The first commercial research partner involved with Richard's mission is ExtremoZyme, Inc., a biotechnology company he co-founded with his father, Owen Garriott. The company will conduct protein crystallization experiments in space, with proteins that have important cellular functions and are usually associated with common human diseases.
Richard will take a container of small tubes of frozen protein molecules and precipitant. When on orbit, he will allow the tubes to thaw and a reaction will take place forming small crystal structures. Richard will return these to the Earth where the molecular structure of the proteins can be analyzed. The weightless environment of space helps the formation of superior crystals, which in turn enables researchers to learn more about the molecular details of these proteins which is essential for protein engineering and structure-guided drug design.
Twenty students from Huffman High and Indian Springs schools helped prepare the experiments during a workshop at the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Richard has asked students for their predictions on his Protein Crystal Growth experiment through the Challenger Center.
The Nature Conservancy
Richard has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to develop a project to be conducted during his mission to identify environmental change and successful protection projects around the world. Richard has been working with Nature Conservancy scientists to identify the sites of particular interest which he will photograph from space.
Richard’s father, former NASA Astronaut, Owen Garriott took many photographs of the earth during his missions to space aboard the Skylab in 1973 and Spacelab-1 in 1983. One of the primary objectives of the Skylab missions was to photograph the earth, and it is these photographs that will be used by Nature Conservancy scientists to compare the ecological changes within one generation.
Some of the identified locations and phenomena, that Richard will attempt to photograph include:
- Brazil's Landscapes
- Meili Glacier in Zhongdian, China
- Cotopaxi, stratovolcano in Ecuador
- Congo & Amazon deforestation
Watch Richard talk about his upcoming mission and what he is doing with The Nature Conservancy.
Following in his father footsteps, Richard will be conducting three experiments on behalf of NASA during his spaceflight. The three experiments are:
Visual Acuity - will study the current microgravity environment encountered by astronauts and how their eyes react to low and high pressure as well as variations in oxygen concentrations. Richard will be the first space explorer to have had Photorefractive Keratectomy eye surgery, referred to as PRK. NASA has recently approved this procedures for their astronauts, but to date, none have been flown or have been selected who have had the procedure. NASA will examine his visual acuity, accommodation and refraction before, during and after spaceflight. There is reason to believe visual acuity might change on orbit, as inner eye pressure goes up by as much as 50 percent during spaceflights.
This information will determine if an eye which has undergone a PRK procedure remains stable during a 10-day exposure to microgravity.
Immune system - will study the effects of spaceflight on the human immune system and validate monitoring tests for immune function in astronauts. The study will assess immunity during spaceflight by testing white blood cells for changes in function or response to stimulation as a consequence of spaceflight. This information may determine astronauts’ clinical risk during spaceflight. Previous data collected suggests that there is indeed a suppression of the immune system associated with spaceflight. Richard will be contributing to this data pool, and since his mission will come mid-mission for some other astronauts; he will be able to return fresh blood samples from long-duration crew members, which has rarely been able to be sampled.
Sleep study - will document sleep/wake patterns and sleep characteristics of astronauts. Normal sleep patterns and body chemistry are notably changed during spaceflight.
The data collected may assist in determining the efficacy of ongoing countermeasures for space-related sleep disturbances and may also assist in developing additional countermeasures which could potentially impact the health, productivity and safety of astronauts during spaceflight.
ESA (European Space Agency)
Richard will be conducting the following three experiments on behalf of ESA during his spaceflight:
Early Detection of Osteoporosis "EDOS"
This consists of the following scientific protocol:
- Performing densitometry & bone architecture measurements, with the goal of evaluating the bone modifications process and evolution, at a micro-architectural level, on astronauts/cosmonauts tibia and radius
- Performing analysis of astronauts blood samples in order to match their results (with regards to the elements responsible of the human bone cells modeling / (re)construction) with the ones obtained from the bone densitometry and architecture measurements
This aims to:
- To obtain insight in the process of vestibular adaptation to G-transitions.
- To correlate the cosmonauts susceptibility to the Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS) with the susceptibility to Sickness Induced by Centrifugation (SIC).
This aims to study the details on development of Low Back Pain during flight in astronauts. Strain on the iliolumbarligaments increases with backward tilt of the pelvis combined with forward flexion of the spine. This is what astronauts may experience due to loss of curvature. Objective is to assess astronaut deep muscle corset atrophy in response to microgravity exposure. MRI data and questionnaire data obtained from Berlin Bed-Rest study will be used for interpretation of Low Back Pain questionnaire results.