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How high school students lead space yogurt experiments

Credit: NASA

It’s probably not surprising that maintaining good health in space is so important. And without the typical resources found on Earth, we need to find creative solutions.


Excited 10th and 11th grade students around Victoria are now waiting with hope. SkyYogurt just manufactured on the International Space Station (ISS) will return to Australia from the NASA facility in the United States.

Students worked with researchers at Sinbang Institute of Technology to design an experiment to investigate the nutritional value of yogurt made in space. This result may provide insights into the most useful ways for astronauts to get important nutrition during long-range space flight.

Human intestine

Important element of Human health The overall health of the gut flora, estimated to host over 100 trillion Bacteria..

Maintaining the health and diversity of these bacteria may be even more important in space than on Earth. In 2019, NASA made a groundbreaking release result From a year-long study of astronaut twins Mark and Scott Kelly.

In 2016, Scott spent 365 days on the ISS and experienced a drop in gravity, but Mark remained on Earth. An interesting result of this study was that Scott experienced significant changes in the gastrointestinal microflora while in space. And it didn’t last after he returned to Earth.

It is theorized that the changes in the microbial flora experienced by astronauts are due to lack of exposure to the “everyday” microorganisms encountered on Earth. In addition, astronauts have low gravity and are exposed to high levels of radiation. These radiations increase as you move farther.

Understanding how to supplement and maintain the health of astronauts’ gut bacteria is NASA’s current research goals.. NASA is investigating this through the use of both capsule probiotics and capsule probiotics. Simulated gravity experiment.

Fresh from the ISS: How a group of high school students are leading the experiment on yogurt made in space

Experimental samples were prepared at the Kennedy Space Center (left) and subjected to a high-speed rotating vortex procedure (right). Credit: Rhodium Scientific

Why yogurt?

Yogurt is made by bacterial fermentation of milk. The lactic acid produced in this process acts on the protein in milk to produce the sourness and rich texture peculiar to yogurt. I wanted to see how this process would be affected in the space environment.

Our student-led experiments are investigating whether various probiotic strains can be used to make yogurt directly in space. The ideal result is to show that healthy and living bacterial cultures can be produced from frozen bacteria and dairy products sent into space. Yogurt is made from bacteria that have returned from space, but this has not yet been achieved. Before..

This is very useful during long-haul flights. Fresh food Is limited and typical probiotic capsules are ineffective. Yogurt also provides the nutritional benefits of the milk supplied by the bacteria.

Road to space

Our talented students have taken two paths to embark on this journey.Throughout in progress SHINE program6 exceptional STEM students from Victoria’s Haley Berry School Worked with Swinburne staff and student mentors to develop, prototype, and create ISS experiments.

In the past, this program has sent Human teeth, Chia seeds When Magnetic rheology fluid To the ISS. In the 2021-22 experiment, students had 24 5 ml vials (must be spatially small) to build a detailed experiment.

The second pass went through the inauguration Swinburne Youth Space Innovation Challenge (SYSIC), offers the opportunity to send experiments to space as part of Swinburne /Rhodium Scientific payload.

A team of four Victorian schools took an 11-week crash course in a space application before conducting a dream experiment.The Winning team Six dedicated experimental vials were assigned by Viewbank College, and all other teams were also awarded vials. All of these are working towards the goal of exploring probiotics, bacteria and yogurt in space.

Fresh from the ISS: How a group of high school students are leading the experiment on yogurt made in space

A sample of the Rhodium Probiotic Challenge was aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon 24 spacecraft.

Riding on the ISS

When ready for flight, the final bacterial sample was prepared and snap frozen by a Rhodium Scientific partner at the Kennedy Space Center in the United States.

All 33 vials boarded the ISS via SpaceX Crew Dragon 24 and were launched on December 24th. After loading, the sample was taken out of the quick freeze by Astronaut Mark Vande Hay. Japanese experimental moduleThe name “Kibo”.

After the assigned 48-hour and 72-hour timestamps (usually the time it takes to make yogurt on Earth), the samples were returned to deep freeze to maintain progress. It seems that it was yogurt at this time.

sample Returned to earth Upon returning to Australia in late January, staff and students will investigate within the next few months.

What we might find

Students chose to search for six different strains, mixed in different combinations, and specific strains that were isolated. Both space-based and control experiments on Earth can determine if the bacteria sent to the ISS were significantly affected by the reduced gravity.

Working in Swinburne’s lab, we use methods such as DNA sequencing to isolate changes in bacterial genetic composition and investigate how many generations (or cell divisions) have occurred in the sample.

The student We also deliberately designed experiments to test milk options for both dairy and non-dairy products to identify potential differences in nutritional value. But perhaps the most exciting part for everyone involved is the final taste test, to see if space yogurt is really outside the world.


Microcavity experiment heads to ISS


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