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Ground Control Studies at NASA Ames in August

During a space flight mission high acceleration and g-forces pose as threats to the cargo on board the spacecraft.  These forces are the most powerful during the launch and reentry of the mission.  The forces aboard the craft need to be taken into careful consideration when flying delicate material such as circuitry or in our case live mice.

For our experiment we will be using SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with the dragon capsule.  The launch consists of two stages.  Stage one involves the initial firing of the nine merlin engines situated at the base of the rocket in an 8+1 configuration.  These engines produce a staggering 1.3 million pounds of thrust at maximum power which translates into 4.5g’s, or about the same amount of force experienced by the driver of a top fuel dragster during peak acceleration.  These high forces in combination with intense vibrations from the launch present several threats to our experiments.

The largest threat is damage to the surgical sites in the mice. Femurs in the mice that have undergone surgery on the ground are especially susceptible to damage caused by the launch.  Further damage to the sites may cause healing to be delayed and thus skew any results derived from the experiment.

In order to better understand the risks associated with the harsh nature of a space launch, we will be conducting several ground control studies at NASA AMES testing facility the week of August 17, 2015. These studies will give us an accurate way to test the actual effects of the g-forces and vibrations on our mice and identify the best method for the space flight. The results of this testing will give us a clearer idea of what to expect during this mission and allow for fine tuning of our techniques.


The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Carl Pinkham