If all goes according to the current schedule, on Saturday at 4:47a EST, the Kentucky Space "ExoMed-3" mission will go to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket.
The micro-gravity work in regenerative medicine is being carried out in partnership with Tufts University.
Following the SpaceX capsule Dragon's berthing with the station, flatworms will be brought out of cold stasis for roughly 17 days on orbit. From the press release (PDF) of the experiment posted to the Kentucky Space site, the mission
will analyze the regeneration mechanisms of planarian flatworms in the microgravity environment (and absence of a geomagnetic field) of space. This experiment is a critical step in a specific regenerative medicine research and commercial pathway being pursued by the parties. Once returned (alive) to Earth mid-January, the flatworms’ regeneration patterns will be analyzed via morphological molecular genetic methods.
The mission will also feature the use of Google Glass to record astronaut interaction with Kentucky Space payloads. Transportation will be handled by FedEx Space Solutions.
Few people know that the nation's newest national laboratory is 240 miles overhead, continuously falling around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour. When controlling for gravity (read that again), the science done in recent years shows that cells and genes behave and express themselves differently. As you might image, understanding exactly why that happens has attracted the attention of life sciences researchers, and may, if the ongoing work systematized and iterated for a reasonable cost, lead to a better understanding of regenerative dynamics and disease pathologies. The inhabitants living at the bottom of the gravity well on Earth would be the happy beneficiaries.
SpaceX, in another first, will attempt to autonomously return the launch vehicle's 14-story first stage to a barge in the Atlantic ocean for an upright landing. It's part of the company's ongoing work to develop fully reusable rockets. It's important because rocket developers have always built new rockets for each mission, often discarding the husks on orbit as debris. SpaceX, if successful, could eventually return, refit and refly the same launch vehicles, exponentially lowering the cost for space access for themselves and, of course, their customers.
If flying towers and mastering gravity don't necessarily interest you, there is an altogether different and compelling reason why space exploration, among other highly technical and science based businesses, of course, is important.
Virtually all job growth in the past 20 years has come from companies less than five years old.
Is innovation important? The IdeaFestival thinks so.
Questions about the ExoMed-3 mission may be directed to the mission managers identified in the linked press release. Kentucky Space space systems engineer Twyman Clements is shown here working with the payload at Kennedy Space Center.