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UNDERSTANDING OF LIFE PROCF`' ; S INCREASED NASA's Biosatellite II experiment has added another dimension to man's understanding of life processes. The experiment is part of the Biosatellite program which is designed to study the effects on living things of such phenomena as weightlessness, weightlessness combined with radiation, and removal from the diurnal (day-night) cycle on earth. The information acquired through the pr:,gram is expected not only to throw new light on the fundamental processes of life but also to contribute to planning for manned space flights of long duration.
Biosatellite II carried frog eggs, microorganisms.

plants, and insects on an orbital flight that lasted about two days. The living cargo was subjected during the flight to weightlessness alone and to weightlessness combined w i th radiation artificially

Technicians read-Y Biosatellite II for launch.

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applied from a source on the spacecraft. NASA and participating university and industry scientists studied for several months the impact of the flight on the living things. Among the revealing new information derived from the studies are the following: • Weightlessness can spur radiation-induced mutations and other cell damage. On the other hand, weightlessness appeared to slow the growth and metabolism (energy conversion; i.e., conversion of food or nutrients to bodily processes) of injured cells, giving them an opportunity to repair damage due to radiation. • Earth's gravity controls plant growth to a greater degree than previously realized. 0 Bacteria seem to multiply more readily in space than on earth. But weightlessness appears to inhibit the relative growth of viruses. t . l ust as on earth, young and rapidly dividing cells in a weightless environment are more severely afView

s fected by radiation than mature slowly growing cells. • Plan' life reacts far more to weightlessness than animal life. Since living things have much in common, the results are contributing to understanding of life processes. To biologists studying such diseases as cancer where mutant cells compete with normal cells, for example, the fact that lowered or absent gravity can slow down the activity of damaged mutant cells may be significant. Much more experimentation and study will be required, of course, before its significance can be ascertained. Scientists also caution that Biosatellite II experiments were with relatively simple organisms and the findings cannot be transferred directly to man. For example, forty-five hours of weightless flight for some of these organisms is the equivalent of years to a human being. But the Biosatellite II experiments and others to follow are adding a new dimension to man's knowledge about life.

of Biosatellite II just before mid -air recovery by United States Air Force plane.


TrMr 7.7 W1 Biosate!lite I, launched December 14, 1966,

could not be brought down as scheduled :i because of retrorocket failure. Efforts to locate the craft during its anticipated normal reentry on February - e unsuccessful. I AROR I, 'Y IN SPAi NASA launched Biosatellite II from Cape Kennedy, Florida, on September 7, 1967. About two days later, ground controllers ordered the satellite to fire retrorockets, slowing it so that it fell out of orbit toward earth. As it parachuted down over the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, the spacecraft was retrieved in the air by a United States Air Force plane. During 45 hours of weightless flight, part of the living cargo aboard Biosatellite II was subjected to measured doses of gamma radiation from an onboard 85 Strontium package. Other living things were not exposed to radiation. Thus, information could be acquired about the effects of weightlessness alone and the effects of weightlessness and radiation combined. A control group of organisms was subjected to the same conditions as the flying group, except that it was in laboratories on earth. After Biosatellite II was recovered. it was rushed to Hawaii for quick look studies of the experimental specimens. They were then transferred to the !aboratories of the participating scientists for continued observation and extensive study. Plans call for additional Biosatellite flights. In a pair of month-long orbital flights, trained monkeys will be used to learn how prolonged weightlessness may affect body processes in higher life forms. This NASA Facts presents some highlights of the Biosate!lite II experiments. The step-by-step information about growth of certain specimens was obtained by halting, or fixing, their development at planned intervals during flight. This was accomplished by treating the organisms with chemicals that arrest growth at certain stages. POPULATION FYPLOSION Bacteria flown on Biosatellite II apparently found weightlessness ideal for life as they knew it. For every 10,000 NASA sent up. a billion returned. Experimenters theorize that without the restraints of gravity, the bacteria found it easier to take in nutrient and give off waste, thus allowing a greater

part of their metabolism to be devoted to reproduction. Bacteria are one of the major classes of microorganisms. Another is called protozoa. Biologists consider bacteria a form of plant life; protozoa, animal life. There is another group of microbes that has so far defied classification — even as a living thing. This is the virus. All three types rode in Biosatellite 11 Two different bacteria, Salmonella and Escherichia coli, were aboard Biosatellite 11. In many laboratory experiments on earth, these bacteria are infected with a virus and then irradiated. The virus multiplies rapidly, eventually lysing, or bursting, the one-celled creatures. The bacteria thus became known as lysogenic (rupturing) bacteria. The weightless condition of space produced significant differences in effects on the bacteria. The viruses per bacterium failed to reproduce as well as they do on earth. As a result, the number of irradiated infected lysogenic bacteria that burst in space was about 25 percent fewer than earth controls. Scientists cannot yet explain this. The lysogenic bacteria also tolerated radiation better (in addition to reproducing substantially faster) than did similar bacteria on earth. The spaceborne viruses were not as badly damaged by radia tion as their counterparts within microb— n ground laboratories. Another interesting result was that irradiated bacteria multiplied more rapidly under weightless conditions than non-irradiated bacteria. Irradiated Salmonella aboard Biosatellite 11 totaled 48 percent more than those in identical types of chambers on the ground. Non-irradiated Salmonella produced 19 percent more in weightlessness than on the ground. In neighboring chambers of Biosatellite 11 rode two types of protozoa. One is the amoeba called Pelomyxa carolinensis. This little creature is a favorite subject in classroom laboratories. The jelly-like microorganism was able to maintain its external shape while weightless. Two days of wei, htlessness resulted in no amoeba population a explr .on. Actually, they reproduced at about the same rate as their counterparts on earth. However, amoebae did feed somewhat more and divided somewhat less frequently in space. During reentry, when the forces on the spacecraft's occupants were several times that of earth's gravity, amoebae fed less and divided more frequently than their earth-bound counterparts. 3

The amoeba performs most of the functions of many celled animals. It resembles man's white blood cells most in structure and behavior. Another kind of protozoan sent into space was the spore of the fungus called orange bread mold. The spore is called Neurospora. Tests on the resultant fungi revealed no effects that could be entirely attributed to either weightlessness or weightlessness combined with radiation. fRUG EMBRYO GRUVYfH

Cells range in size from the microscopic bacteria and protozoa to easily visible eggs. Once fertilized, however, egg cells start dividing. Scientists have observed that gravity affects the growth of embryos in frog eggs. Frog eggs have heavy ends and lighter ends. After the frog eggs are

fertilized, their heavy Inds move downward. Laboratory experiments that have prevented frog eggs from pointing their hea p ends g own have resulted in the hatching of abnormal' dpoles. Some of these tadpoles have even had two heads. Cell division of earth-fe rtilized frog eggs flown in the Biosatellite II experiment was apparently unaffected by weightlessness. This confirmed a similar finding during the manned Gemini XII flight of November 11 to 15, 1966. Actually, the Gemini flight provided about double the weightless hours of Biosatellite II. An assumption, therefore, is that frog eggs must be oriented properly where gravity or similar forces are present. The absence of gravity, however, does not significantly affect the normal development of resultant offspring, after the first cell division has taken place.

Ore of six tadpoles that hatched from eggs flown aboard Biosatellite II.


EXPERIMENT CROWNS CENTUR Y OF PLANT STUDIES This is not so, however, with plants. The Biosatellite II experiment confirmed that plant leaves. stems, and roots depend upon continuous gravity for orientation. WithoLt gravity, leaves, stems, and
roots of plants grow in unexpected directions. While circling earth in Biosatellite Il, the roots of wheat seedlings curved upward and to the side rather than in the opposite direction relative to the stem. The leaves of pepper plants twisted and curled downward. Generally, the leaves of healthy pepper plants grow almost horizontally relative to the earth's surface or to the side relative to the plant's stem. The Biosatellite II experiment thus crowned nearly a hundred years of earth experiments on the role of gravity in plant growth. The phenomena noted during the weightless flight in Biosatellite II had been suspected because of clinostat experiments on earth. A clinostat rotates growing plants slowly with their stems horizontal to earth. It simulates the more obvious effects of weightlessness by keeping the pull on the plant from being exclusively in one direction. The helter skeeter plant growth is attributed to unbalanced distribution of enzymes and other growth regulators because of the absence of unidirectional gravity. Apparently, normal distribution of growth regulators depends upon signals of a single force like earth's gravity in roughly the same way that a pilot flying in fog follows a radar beam to an airport. The knowledge gained opens interesting possibilities for artificial cortrol of plant growth. Scientists are considering enzyme medication and manipulation of the direction and intensity of gravitational-like influences as means toward this end. Some structural and chemical differences between the flight plants and those on the ground were observed. Among them were an increase of sucrose and decrease of stored starch in the pepper plants and longer shoots in proportion to roots in the wheat seedlings. Studies on the effects of radiation in a weightless environment were carried out with Tradescantia. This is a native American wildflower found frequently along roadsides. It is known to develop pink streaks on its normally blue petals when exposed to radiation. Its relatively small number of large chromosomes

Effect of weightlessness on developing wheat seedlings.

Ground control-normal

Ground control-clinostat

Biosatellite II — 45 hours


(12) makes Tradescantia a good subject for studies of genetic injury and mutation due to radiation. Another consideration is that the Tradescantia gene that determines flower petal colo is about as sensitive to radiation as genes of mammalian cells. Weightlessness had no apparent effect on the flower petal color gene. Nor did the gene show any reaction to radiation different from which it would show when similarly irradiated on the ground. However, other plant cells were more severely damaged by radiation than identical cells of plants on the



Effect of weightlessness on the anatomy of wheat seedlings PARTICLE DISTRIBUTION IN CELLS —CAP OF PRIMARY ROOT r--TIP OF SHOOT 1



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Reaction of Pepper Plant to Weightlessness.

Before launch.


4 hours and 40 minutes of weightlessness.

12 hours and 29 minutes of weightlessness.

17 hours and 40 minutes of weightlessness,


Effects of radiation and weightlessness on the vinegar gnat (Drosophila).

INSECT MUTATIONS DUE TO RADIATION SPIIRRFD BY WFIGHTI FSSNFSS Three types of insects flown on Biosatellite 11 were more severely affected by radiation when welghtiess than if they were under normal gravity. Insects studied include vinegar gnats (Drosophila rnelanogaster), flour beetles (Tribolium), and parasitic wasps (Habrobracon).
Vinegar gnat larvae were disturbed even by

weightlessness alone. There was abnormal chromo some transfer in dividing cells. This has not been seen in gnat larvae on earth. Irradiation under weightlessness worsened their situation. When the larvae grew to adulthood, they were weaker and had shorter life spans than larvae that had stayed on earth. Male vinegar gnats suffered more damage than females. Scientists think that this is linked to the fact that females have two X chromosomes while males have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome. Thus, the loss of an X chromosome could affect a

Adult from normal egg (ground)

Effects of weightlessness

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Adult from egg In Blosatelhte II Radiation and weightlessness effects


male more seve sly than a femals. In another expenm,^i l t, irradiated flour beetle (Triboliurn) pupae flown on Blosatelllte II showed a 50 percent Increase In radiation-induced wing abnormalities as compared to pupae similarly exposed on earth. Also, twice as many of the offispring of those sent into space failed to survive as compared to their earthbound counterparts. WEIGHTLESSNESS APPEARS TO AID HEALING OF P,ADIATION DAMA11,F The eggs of the parasitic wasp (H?brnbracon) suffered considerable damage during Irradiation in space but partially recovered. In fact, not only did the eggs recover more rapidly in a weight l ess environment but also the wasps that hatched from the eggs showed less genatic damage than wasps hatched from simil- ly irradiated eggs in the ground laboratory. Weightlessness also seemed to reduce the death rate of embryos from irradiated eggs.

All of the latched embryos In this experiment were produced from unfertilized eggs, These parthenogenically (no male parent) produced organisms are experimentally advantageous because they display all the effects of any genetic damage. Other organisms usually take more than one generation to reveal all effects of genetic damage. Because of this attribute, genetic information about Habrobracon is the most complete of any organism. Scientists attribute cell recovery to the fact that cell division and metabolism are apparently slowed down In a weightless environment. This slowdown may enable the cell to repair the damage caused by radiation. Another result lent additinnal evidc Ti ,_e to pre liminary inclj=,uns that weightlessness affects actively dividing cells more than slowly growing cells. Male Habrobracon sperm cells, which are produced early and remain in so-called suspended animation, were affected by radiation while in space in the same way as similar cells were affected on earth.

and radiation on the flour beetle (Tribolium).

Pre-irradiated pupa flown in B osatell to II

Adult from Biosatellite irradiated pupa with split wings

Effects of weightlessness acct radiation on Habrobracon.


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Lemon color mutant with small eyes


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Second generation male offspring of flight irradiated males


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Antes nopedlal mutant legs instead of antenna


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Thrust-augmented Delta (TAD) launches
Biosatell to II.

A i^ Pupal lethal mutant

SPAU RAFT AND LAW VFHICLE DESCRIPTIONS At launch, the 955-pound Biosatellite II con-



Black color body

sisted of four major sections. These are the adapter section, the thrust cone assembly, the forebody. aid the experiments capsule. The adapter is a 400-pound 5-foot long tapering cylinder with a maximum diameter of nearly 5 feet. It contains equipment for satellite orientation and for communication with earth. It Is cast adrift in space when the other sections are being prepared for return to earth. The thrust cone assembly, the forebody, and the


Exploded view showing principal B osatellite II parts

Forebody Assembly

Entry Vehicle

Experiments Capsule Assembly

Thermal Cover

Thrust Cone Assembly

fapter Section




experiments capsule are referred to collectively as the entry vehicle. The entry vehicle is also shaped like a cylinder with a maximum dia-neter of 43/4 feet and an over-all length of about 4 feet. It weighs 515 pounds. The thrust cone assembly provides the retrorocket and other equipment needed to slow the vehicle down for return from orbit. The thrust cone assembly is then separated from the rest of the entry vehicle. During entry into the atmosphere, the forebody functions as a heat shield to enable the experiments capsule that it encloses to survive the blistering heat. The experiments capsule is a sealed selfcontained laboratory providing all requirements for carrying out experiments. The capsule also carries the parachute system for slowing down the entry vehicle in the atmosphere and a radio beacon to

help in pinpointing its location. A thermal cover over the back end of the experiments capsule Is ejected at an altitude of about 80,000 feet activating parachute deployment. The launch of B!osatelhte II marked the 48th success in 51 attempts for NASA's Delta rocket vehicle. The capabilities of this particular vehicle can be augmented by three small solid rockets that are strapped to its first stage. With the solid rockets, the vehicle is referred to as a Thrust-Augmented Delta (TAD). TAD has a total lift-off thrust of 328.000 pounds. It is 92 feet high including the shroud or nose cone that protects Its payload. TAD can be employed with a single or two upper stages. When used with a single upper stage, as in the Biosatellite II experiment, it can place a 1,450pound spacecraft into orbit.

View of interior of Blosatellite II experiments capsule.





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