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Welcome back: Kacena Lab preparing for space launch in July

Members of the Kacena Lab research team

Fazal Bhatti (front row, left), Desiree Aririeri, Ola Awosanya, Deepa Sheik Pran Babu, Sue Samson, Seungyup Sun (second row, left), Ushashi Dadwal, Aamir Tucker (third row, left), Zach Gunderson, Melissa Kacena, Zack Campbell (fourth row, left), Nick Diggins, Luke McVeigh, Rachel Blosser, Anthony Perugini (fifth row, left), Gremah Adam and Michael Savaglio

Written by Melissa Kacena, PhD, a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine.

It’s been a while since we posted a blog. The reason: the unpredictability of spaceflight and timing pressures.

This journey began in August 2012 when two spaceflight experiments were planned. The first was to be a cell-based study, and the second was to be a mouse bone healing study.

Due to problems with the cell spaceflight hardware — it was killing the cells — we delayed that experiment until the hardware was completely revamped and thus the mouse bone healing study launched first in February 2017.

We then planned for the cell-based spaceflight study in 2018, but it was delayed due to a combination of manifesting priorities and hardware/software concerns resulting from tests we completed at NASA Ames.

We recently learned that our study is now manifested on SpaceX-18, scheduled to launch July 8, 2019.

There are still some hardware/software tests that need to be completed before our mission is truly a go, but everything is looking very good.

So here we are, ready to start-up the blog again and document our exciting spaceflight research journey.

The first thing to do is introduce you to our new team.

As you can imagine, completing research at a university means many of the “workers” are trainees. In my case, I have a number of undergraduate students, graduate students (primarily medical students) and postdoctoral fellows working in the lab.

By definition trainees will leave once they are trained for their new positions. Therefore, we have had a number of changes in personnel since 2012.

Unfortunately for our spaceflight studies, two key people who had trained at NASA Ames left the lab at the end of 2018.

Dr. Marta Alvarez retired after working in my lab for more than six years, and Dr. Kevin Maupin moved back to Michigan where his family is from.

To fill this gap, my lab manager, Rachel Blosser, began the training process on our third NASA Ames test in 2018. Rachel will provide an account of these activities in her upcoming blog.

And fortunately for us, Kevin will still assist with this spaceflight mission as a consultant when we go to Kennedy Space Center in June and July.

Over the next several months our current team members will introduce themselves, and we will keep you up to date on our progress.

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.
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