3 Big Discoveries Made by the International Space Station




International Space Station,ISS,Chris Hadfield,low-gravity,experiments,health,cancer research,physics,dark matter,positrons,microencapsulation,Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer,vision,astronauts,microgravity

With an estimated pricetag between $140 and $160 billion the 15 year-old International Space Station is without a doubt the MOST expensive thing ever built. Measuring 108x72 meters larger than an American football field, it is also easily the largest artificial satellite, having taken 16 nations more than 13 years to build. And while we get a lot of so-called "news" from the ISS like about mission scientists playing Angry Birds in low gravity or playing David Bowie covers, we don't hear a whole lot about the terrific science that's being done up there. Well that changes today : here are just 3 of the many discoveries made aboard the ISS that YOU should know about. (intro song) One of the most recent and maybe most important discoveries came in April 2013 when scientists announced that the Space Station's Cosmic Ray Detector had observed particles that may confirm the existence of Dark Matter. Dark matter, which appears to take up a great deal of the Universe but we dont know what it is, has been perplexing scientists since its existence was first inferred in the 1930s. It's thought to make up about 23% of all the mass energy in the universe but it's never been directly observed because it doesn't emit or reflect light , and it's not composed of protons and neutrons like other matter is. Enter the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS, one of the final pieces of equipment installed on the ISS. In just 2 years of operations, the AMS has detected billions of cosmic ray particles, particularly electrons, and their antimatter counterparts : positrons. What scientists have discovered is that the AMS is detecting more positrons than electrons, and the're coming from ALL directions, not just from one particular place. This not only confirms that there is tons of anti matter out there but it also supports the theory that positrons are formed NOT from specific places, like pulsars, or other stuff that we can see, but by collisions of dark matter particles EVERYWHERE, which we can't see. Scientists have said that this may be the most important discovery in physics to be made on the ISS but another obvious function of this Space Station is to study the long-term effects of living in space. Space life has many pitfalls: astronauts have been found to lose lots of bone density and muscle mass due to low gravity environment. But thanks to the ISS, NASA has now learned that extended stays in Space also place lots of stress on the eyes. Researchers found that 60% of astronauts who have been in Space for 6 months or more have suffered vision problems that got worse with time. Thankfully in most cases, the problems went away once they were back on Earth but doctors now suspect these and other ailments are caused by pressure on the eyes & optic nerves. Without normal Earth-like gravity keeping things moving, spinal fluid seems to build up in the brain pressing on nerves and flattening the backs of eyes. In early 2015, two crew members will begin a year-long stay on the Space-station to better understand long term health effects and because of this new finding, these and other astronauts may undergo regular eye scans and test out special eyeglasses to find out how future crews can keep seeing clearly. And of course, the final frontier of Space is also meeting the final frontier of medicine: Cancer Research A lot of oncology studies have taken place aboard the ISS thanks again, to the unique micro-gravity setting. And much of it has focused on the technology of micro-encapsulation which creates tiny, tiny, tiny biodegradable balloons that can be filled with drug treatments or imaging dyes and injected right at the spot of a tumor. This, unsurprisingly, has been found to work a lot better than sending stuff through a patient's entire body and hoping it lands in the right place. Work in the ISS lab room revealed that in low gravity, different fluids contained in these balloons can kind of hang together intact instead of rubbing up against each other This discovery has led to all kinds of patent-able inventions that NASA has developed to reproduce this process on Earth and it's now being used to manufacture the next generation of cancer treatments. So $106 billion and 13 years-- nice to see that we're getting a return on that investment. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow. If you have any questions or comments or ideas for us, you can leave them on Facebook or Twitter or down in the comments below. And if you want to keep getting smarter with us here at SciShow, you can go to YouTube.com/SciShow and subscribe. (ending song)