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SpaceX and ESA collaborate on ISS mission featuring advanced german science experiments
ESA astronaut Marcus Wandt.
SpaceX and ESA collaborate on ISS mission featuring advanced german science experiments
by Robert Schreiber
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Jan 18, 2024

On January 18, 2023, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Swedish astronaut, Marcus Wandt, will embark on a pioneering journey to the International Space Station (ISS). This mission, known as Muninn, will mark the first time an ESA astronaut participates in a commercial mission organized by the U.S. launch service provider Axiom, aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Wandt's 14-day mission will be a blend of maintenance work and scientific inquiry, where he is slated to conduct 20 experiments. Of these, half involve German scientific involvement, overseen by the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). This collaboration extends to esteemed German institutions like the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine, the Institute of Materials Physics in Space, the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), Charite hospital in Berlin, and the universities of Giessen, Greifswald, and Kiel.

Upon his return to Earth, Wandt will undergo scientific evaluations at DLR's ':envihab' facility in Cologne, an established post-mission tradition for ESA astronauts since Alexander Gerst in 2014. ':envihab', part of the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine, is adjacent to the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) and serves as a state-of-the-art research hub for scientific and medical examinations.

CIMON: A New Frontier in AI Assistance in Space
A highlight of Wandt's mission is his interaction with CIMON (Crew Interactive MObile companion), a unique AI-powered assistant developed by Airbus with IBM's Watson AI technology. This represents CIMON's first scientific mission, following successful technology demonstrations with astronauts Gerst, Parmitano, and Maurer. CIMON aims to enhance human-machine interaction on the ISS, with implications for advancements in robotics, education, medicine, and care on Earth.

Innovative Experiments and Studies
Wandt's mission will encompass a wide array of experiments, each addressing different scientific queries:

Bone Health: Investigating the impact of space on bone density, this study, led by the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine, seeks to understand bone loss mechanisms, potentially benefiting osteoporosis and spinal injury patients on Earth.

Cardio-Deconditioning: This ESA-led experiment, involving international collaboration, focuses on understanding cardiovascular changes in astronauts using cardiac MRI. Its findings could enhance care for bedridden patients and cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.

BRAIN-DTI: Conducted in collaboration with universities in Belgium and LMU, this study explores how the human brain adapts to the unique conditions of space, providing insights into the brain's remarkable adaptive capabilities.

PK-4 Plasma Crystal Experiment: A visual study of atomic-level processes in plasma, this experiment has applications in semiconductor technology, propulsion systems, and medical treatment innovations.

ANITA-2: Monitoring air quality on the ISS, ANITA-2, developed by OHB System AG, offers real-time analysis of cabin air, enhancing astronaut safety and well-being.

Additionally, Wandt will perform maintenance on experiments with German participation, including the DOSIS 3D MINI experiment and preparatory calibrations in the Material Science Laboratory (MSL).

German-Swedish Space Collaboration
The mission also underscores the strong partnership between Germany and Sweden in space exploration, evident in student programs like REXUS/BEXUS, TEXUS, and the MAPHEUS research rocket program. These initiatives, fostering educational and research opportunities, highlight the collaborative spirit driving space exploration today.

Marcus Wandt's mission aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule, enriched with a suite of German-led scientific experiments, represents not only a new chapter for ESA's involvement in commercial space missions but also a significant contribution to space science. As Wandt prepares for this historic journey, the space community eagerly anticipates the insights and advancements that will emerge from his groundbreaking work aboard the ISS.

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