Life Science Research in Space Prepares Mankind for Long-Distance Spaceflight

Janice Bennett-Livingston
Published: May 8, 2015
Weather & Environment
Industrial Measurements
Innovations and Inspirations
Life Science

Vaisala instruments are known for preserving research assets in clinical trials, medical device distributors, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical manufacturing and packaging and many other regulated applications. This is because of the reliability of the sensors and the ease-of-use of the software and devices.

However, there is another industry that relies on our life science solutions – aerospace. Our environmental measurement solutions are on the Mars Rover Curiosity and the International Space Station. Of course it follows that life science research in space would benefit from Vaisala reliability...

Over 20 Years in Space

Scientists at BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado have been using Vaisala's carbon dioxide, humidity, and temperature sensors to control life science experiments both onboard Space Shuttle flights and at the International Space Station (ISS) since 1992 to regulate plant growth and animal habitat environments.

This research seeks to understand how low gravity affects living organisms, and to develop advanced life support systems, including agriculture and water purification bioreactors. The overarching goal is to support the goal of long-distance space missions. In small sealed space capsules the effects of gravity are isolated from other environmental factors, such as light, temperature and humidity levels, and fluctuating concentrations of carbon dioxide, oxygen and trace gas contaminants. Vaisala humidity and temperature sensors control the payload that provides essential life support functions for animal models (mice) during transport flight.

Dr. Alexander Höhn, adjunct Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at Colorado University oversees this research. Says Höhn,

"We found Vaisala in early 1990s while searching for small, rugged carbon dioxide sensors. Sensors from other manufacturers were also tested but nothing else worked as reliably. Over the years, the legacy sensors have been replaced with GMM220 series CO2 modules and HMP110 humidity and temperature probes. However, the long retired sensors are still functional and continue to show reasonable readings after almost 20 years."

Demanding Conditions Test the Outer Limits of Reliability

The longevity of the sensors in especially impressive considering they are exposed to environmental conditions far exceeding their original design; including condensation during unpowered payload phases, heavy vibrations during launch, and extended microgravity.

Read the full story, guest authored for Vaisala News by Dr. Höhn…


Webinar: Risk Assessments in Regulated Environments

Webinar on assessing risk in GxP environmental monitoring applications.

Mars Rover Curiosity Equipped with Vaisala's Pressure and Humidity Sensors

Vaisala has a presence in examining the Martian atmosphere as the Mars Rover Curiosity is equipped with Vaisala BAROCAP® and HUMICAP® pressure and humidity sensors.



Janice Bennett-Livingston

Marketing Manager

In addition to editing the Vaisala Life Science blog, Janice Bennett-Livingston is the Global Life Science Marketing Manager for Vaisala's Industrial Measurements business area.

Pre-Vaisala writing credits include a monthly column called "Research Watch" for Canada's award-winning magazine alive, as well as articles in Canadian Living and other periodicals. Other past work: copywriting for DDB Canada, technical writing at Business Objects, and communications specialist for the British Columbia Child & Family Research Institute.

Mars Perseverance Rover, Copyright NASA/JPL-Caltech

Is there anybody out there?

Yes, we are and have been for decades, and soon Vaisala's  technology will land on Mars once gain - in collaboration with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and as part of the new Perseverance Rover of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. High technology, innovations, and curiosity to explore the world have characterized Vaisala from the very beginning. Join us in the exploration!

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