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Japanese Stork Due to Deliver Doves in Space

Aug 23, 2015 06:14 PM EDT
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ISS astronauts display how to construct a pizza in zero gravity

It looks like they may need to start building an aviary in space. A Kounotori, which translates from Japanese to "white stork," is currently escorting a flock of fourteen Doves to the International Space Station (ISS).

No, birds haven't achieved space travel just yet. The Kunotori is the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) fifth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-5). What's more, that's "Doves" with a capital D - a group of CubeSat-class satellites being released as part of the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer investigation.

"These small satellites will capture imagery of Earth for use in humanitarian, environmental and commercial applications," NASA reports, adding that the satellites will be joining a preexisting 'flock' of 28 Doves orbiting approximately 22,236 miles above Earth. (Scroll to read on...)

However, it's not just Doves that the white stork has under its wings. On Monday, the HTV-5 will also be delivering new materials for the ISS Twin Study, an ongoing project that is dedicated to better understand how the human body responds to spending time in space. This includes key human -omnic analyses.

"The term -omics means 'everything'," NASA researcher and astronaut Kate Rubins explained in a past release. "For example, rather than observing a few genes at a time as researchers did in the early 1990s, scientists in the field of genomics investigate the activity of all of the genes in the genome simultaneously. It's like taking a snapshot of all of the activity inside a cell."

"These -omics-focused investigations will allow us to identify specific biological pathways that are being affected by spaceflight," added Graham Scott, chief scientist at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. "If we can understand what pathways are being affected and how they correlate to the physiology of the astronaut, we are on the road to designing individualized biological countermeasures for each astronaut." (Scroll to read on...)

That compliments the greater mission of NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. The pair, who came aboard the ISS back in March, will be spending a full year living and working aboard the ISS in order to further our understanding of microgravity living conditions.

"Data from the expedition will be used to determine whether there are ways to further reduce the risks on future long-duration missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars," NASA added.

JAXA's "Kounotori" HTV-5 is delivering more than 9,500 pounds of research and supplies for Expedition 44's six-person crew. NASA TV will begin live coverage of the white stork's arrival Monday at 5:15 am EDT with capture due at about 6:55 am.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

 - follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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