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Ideas for Scientific Experiments to be Done in Space?

Cliff posted more than 12 years ago | from the 0-g-baybee! dept.

Space 22

Mark Shuttleworth asks: "I'm hoping to launch an African Space Program by flying to space with the Russians. There have been some ups and downs along the road ;-) There is still no certainty, but the battle is half the fun. The program includes science, education and media. We have some great science experiments submitted by South African scientists, in physiology, genetics, proteomics and stem cell work. I wonder what ideas the Slashdot community has for world class space science or education, or other suggestions to make this project a huge success for Africa? If someone has a great idea, and it requires only safe, light, COTS equipment, I will try to get it onto the flight when/if I ever get up there. Any ideas are welcome. I'm looking for science experiments that are of interest to Africa, that are cutting edge, and that can only be done from space. Or educational things that demonstrate fun science that is uniquely possible in space. And yes, Debian, Python, Mozilla, POV, LAME, TTR and other friends will ride along too."

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Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2603704)

You could see if Linux can make money in space.
It certainly can't down here.

SEX!! (1)

TeleoMan (529859) | more than 12 years ago | (#2603715)

Well, somebody had to say it!

Re:SEX!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2603726)

>>can only be done from space

>SEX!! Well, somebody had to say it!

Maybe you can only get laid in space, but don't tar all other /. readers with the same brush.

Re:SEX!! (0)

robvasquez (411139) | more than 12 years ago | (#2604935)

Well what about ??

Waste of money (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2603769)

I'm a molecular biologist and reading this only deepens my impression that scientific research in space is almost entirely a flimsy justification to put on "I want to go flying in rockets." The way research works is you think of a question and then decide how to attack it, not to create a space program and then wonder if anyone has any good ideas for experiments.

OK, once you're going out there, maybe there are some protein folding experiments that might actually have some value. Africa related -- I dunno. Maybe you can breed rhinos up there where poachers can't get to them.

And yes, Debian, Python, Mozilla, POV, LAME, TTR and other friends will ride along too.

Ooooh, yeah, that's the fundamental question that launches all sorts of worthwhile science: what distro should I bring to space?

Re:Waste of money (1)

markshuttle (301803) | more than 12 years ago | (#2614565)

We have some good protein crystallization experiments, in immunology and African disease research, already lined up.

Yes, unmanned space science is much more cost effective for those types of science that CAN be done without human interaction. But unmanned flight will never put a (hu)man on another planet, and sooner or later, we need to grow beyond Earth.

Egg fertilization in microgravity (3, Interesting)

mfarah (231411) | more than 12 years ago | (#2604199)

AFAIU, the reason why NASA won't allow couples to go on the shuttle is the risk that they have sex and sperms fertilise in an unknown (and potentially disastrous) way.

So, my suggestion is: get eggs and sperm from some mammal (say: a dog, a horse, a cow or a monkey) and simulate the conditions in which the sperm try to fertilise the egg, to determine what happens.

Re:Egg fertilization in microgravity (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 12 years ago | (#2604949)

There have been experiments in +zero+gravity">fertilization under zero gravity. The experiment you propose, with mouse fertilization [] in microgravity has been studied (not much detail in that article...).

Re:Egg fertilization in microgravity (1)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | more than 12 years ago | (#2605028)

Now, I'd never heard of a "clinostat" before reading the article, so I could be missing something. From a google search it seems to just be a device that rotates, so that the fertilization technique won't have a constant force in a constant direction - but *will* always be under one full G of gravity. Is this really comparable to zero-g development?

Re:Egg fertilization in microgravity (1)

Sevillista (538744) | more than 12 years ago | (#2609045)

Ok, I have one question ... has anyone ever smoked in zero gravity? I mean, if they're asking them to engage in sexual intercourse, it's only fair they'll let them indulge after the act?

Just pondering.

Re:Egg fertilization in microgravity (1)

markshuttle (301803) | more than 12 years ago | (#2614608)

There have quite a number of successful "fertilization" experiments in both the Russian and US space science programs. Apart from human fertilization, we have to find out what species can be bred in space for long-term food sources. We have some stem cell research planned which is also related to the behaviour of cells in microgravity.

Yeah (1)

itwerx (165526) | more than 12 years ago | (#2605845)

Let's have that little LEGO robot (covered here [] ) duke it out with NASA's space droid [] a'la BattleBots [] !
Any bets on the winner?

plants? (1)

crazney (194622) | more than 12 years ago | (#2605872)

which way do they grow in space.. its not like they can push against gravity.. or is it that they head towards the light?, so shine light on all sides ;p

either way, i'd like to see a tree grown in 0 gravity :)

Re:plants? (1)

PrometheuSx11 (36115) | more than 12 years ago | (#2606012)

i remember from high school bio that plants respond to something called geotropism, that is they grow in response to gravity. They've done experiments like this and found that the plant cant tell up from down, and grows in a big ball of tangled roots and leaves.

Re:plants? (1)

crazney (194622) | more than 12 years ago | (#2606184)

cool, thats what i thought (a friend mentioned they grew away from gravity.. i'd love to see a photo of a tree/plant grown in space :)

Re:plants? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2606938)

Try reading Larry Niven's books:
The Smoke Ring
The Integral Trees

Think of a whole society in a massive virtually zero-g enviroment and the plants/animals that are found there, very good book (IMHO)

decompression test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2608593)

Send Osama bin Laden, who is Saudi Arabian (African) up, then push him through the hatch. See how long it takes for him to decompress.

Re:decompression test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2612522)

Yeah, or take an American up there and see if showing him the actual continents (as opposed to little green-pink-blue-brown representations in an atlas) will give him a better grasp on geography....

What is it about "zero gravity"? (1)

scubacuda (411898) | more than 11 years ago | (#2610369)

I don't know much about zero gravity research.

But what *is* it about it that facilitates research in areas like tissue/immunology/etc.?

Why is space preferable to a laboratory on earth?

Cell division? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#2611414)

Not sure if it's been done, but why not study cell division and the really basic functions of a cell. It seems to me that would be the most interesting and easily done experiment that would yield the greatest results.

I always wanted to know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2611764)

...if ants could sort tiny screws in space.

I'm curious.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2618255)

I understand that having something useful to do while up there might improve chances of the Russkies taking you along, but why does it have to be "of interest to Africa"?

I can't imagine that you have any guilt attacks about the fortune that you made as a whitey on the continent and that you now plan to spend on a ticket to space. On the other hand, I suppose you don't need to suck up to anyone. So what gives?

South Africans in general seem to me to have some huge paternalism complex. Some Africans of European ancestry towards black Africans, and South Africans in general (especially the new black rulers) towards the rest of Africa. So maybe you should just find something of general benefit to humanity to do up there.

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