How does the International Space Station use magnets?

Did you watch the space launch on Saturday? We certainly did! SpaceX Dragon has successfully launched into space on Saturday 30th May 2020 and has now arrived at the International Space Station (ISS)! This is an incredible achievement within space history. Here are some fun facts and research done by ISS with the use of magnets!

FOOD AND DRINK

In space you can’t simply place something on a surface and walk away from it. It is reported astronauts often lose things and can spend their time searching for lost items. Everything they use in the space craft must be securely fastened down; they achieve this with the use of velcro, clips, duct tape, elastic bungees or magnets! For example, they place magnets on food trays to keep cutlery in place or to hold the tray down to prevent it from floating away!

MEDICAL RESEARCH

Back in April 2020, scientists retrieved samples of live mice, plant cells grown on the international space station. This is a Japanese lead study to demonstrate how bone cells of animals may have been altered after a long-duration spaceflight. They hope this research on animal bones will help the preparations for long-term humans’ expeditions in space. The bones flown in from space are going to be compared with bone cells that were magnetically levitated in a ground-based lab. This will help the scientists to determine whether magnetic levitation can simulate microgravity. In the future they hope the studying of bone cells will help researchers develop better preventative care or therapeutic treatments for people suffering bone loss, both on Earth and in space!

RELIABLE RESEARCH

As mentioned before, magnets are used to hold things securely in place in space. With this in mind, electromagnets are used to hold experiments in place; they are used to isolate samples and experiments from vibrations. Scientists were unsure if vibrations interfere with their experiments. Below is a video of a Controlled Dynamics Locker onboard the ISS, and within the locker is an electromagnet. When the electromagnet is turned on it causes the experiment container box to hover, so it does not encounter any other surface. The importance of this is for medical applications. For example, there are disagreements on whether vibrations hurt or help protein crystal growth. This is important as the more we understand about proteins the more we can look at ways of preventing allergic reactions from proteins in foods to misshapen proteins associated with diseases of the brain such Alzheimer’s.  

How impressive is that? The advantages and ever growing uses of magnets really are out of this world! We hope you have learnt a thing or two, and please feel free to share our blogs with your friends and families. In case you missed it, check out our previous blog about magnets in space here.

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