SpaceX's Polaris Dawn crew will be the first all-private mission to perform the first-ever commercial spacewalk outside the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The Polaris program is funded by Shift4 Payments founder Jared Isaacman, who led the world's first all-civilian Inspiration4 mission to orbit Earth in September 2021. The Polaris Dawn crewmembers are: SpaceX Lead Space Operations Engineer Anna Menon, retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Scott ‘Kidd’ Poteet, Commander Isaacman, and SpaceX Lead Space Operations Engineer Sarah Gillis (pictured below). They will test new technologies aboard Crew Dragon, including SpaceX's new extravehicular activity spacesuits and the Starlink inter-satellite laser communication system. The Polaris Dawn mission is scheduled to launch sometime in March 2023 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Date is subject to change.)
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The University of Malta will conduct a space anemia research with the SpaceX Polaris Dawn crew, Professor Joseph ‘Sci’ Borg @joseph_borg_ told TESMANIAN in an interview. He is a molecular geneticist and biomedical laboratory scientist who teaches and conducts research at the university in Europe. He already sent two ‘Project Maleth’ science research projects aboard SpaceX NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions to the International Space Station (ISS), and is getting ready to send its third. Read more: SpaceX Dragon Delivers SpaceOMIX's Maleth-II Bioscience Research To The Space Station
The university’s new bioscience program is called ‘Pleiades’, it will investigate how microgravity affects the Polaris Dawn crew’s blood cells while they travel on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. Spaceflight can take a toll on the human body, astronauts typically return from space with anemia – a blood disorder in which the blood has a reduced ability to carry oxygen due to a low red blood cell number and reduction in the amount of hemoglobin.
Professor Borg shared that the research on space anemia will be conducted in collaboration with Professor Guy Trudel from Canada’s Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI). “In this new Pleiades program, blood samples will be taken before launch, collected during space flight, and collected once more upon their return back to earth,” shared Borg. The blood samples will be processed at the Kennedy Space Center and sent by airplane to laboratories at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the University of Malta.
Professor Borg is leading the research in Malta, he explained: The astronauts’ “blood will be profiled for hemoglobin quantification. The levels of fetal and adult hemoglobin fractions will also be studied paving the way to understand better the developmental globin gene switch mechanism,” he said. “Ultimately, this could lead to better therapies aimed at treating clinical disorders, such as Sickle Cell Anemia and Beta Thalassemia. If we find a way on how to revert back to fetal hemoglobin synthesis, this can treat those patients who are otherwise dependent on life long blood transfusions. Space is an excellent medium to discover new biomarkers and genes responsible for the fine control of such gene switches, and Pleiades will do just that starting with the Polaris Program first mission,” Professor Borg told TESMANIAN journalist Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo. Regarding the name of the research, he said the "Pleiades is a star system that is visible to the naked eye in dark skies – just like in science, sometimes the answer is right there staring at us already, we just need to find the opportunity to look at the right direction."
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#SpaceX @elonmusk— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) December 15, 2022
The University of Malta will conduct a space anemia research with the SpaceX Polaris Dawn Crew ✨️
Thanks Professor @joseph_borg_ for taking the time to share about your research with me.
by @JaneidyEve via @Tesmanian_comhttps://t.co/YNTTghiz72
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.