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LMM brings real-time imaging in space

May 2011
Compiled by BioPhotonics staff

A new microscope aboard the International Space Station is expected to provide scientists with the ability to study – in real time – the effects of the space environment on physics and biology.

NASA recently began testing the Light Microscopy Module (LMM), which is isolated from vibrations on the station to allow it to obtain high-resolution images. The work will allow scientists to study the effects of the space environment on specimens without the need to return the samples to Earth. Any living specimens returned to Earth must endure the effects of re-entry through the atmosphere, which could alter the samples.

Slides of (1) mouse tissue, (2) multiple samples and (3) a butterfly wing. Courtesy of NASA.

The microscope also will help fulfill the vision of a true laboratory in space. The LMM is a microscopic fluids instrument that features an imaging light microscope with laser diagnostics. Biological samples for the LMM that were launched on the space shuttle Discovery’s STS-133 mission on Feb. 24, 2011, include eight fixed slides containing yeast, bacteria, a leaf, a fly, a butterfly wing; tissue sections and blood; six containers of live C. elegans worms; a typed letter “r”; and a piece of fluorescent plastic. The wing is from “Butterflies in Space,” a previous study that involved students from around the country and was flown into space in 2009 on the STS-129. In addition, some of the worms are descendants of those that survived the space shuttle Columbia accident.

Scientists and engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center modified the commercial microscope in the LMM with 23 micromotors and cameras to permit remote control operation. They expect that the module will perform the same as a microscope on Earth.

In the future, the device could be used to assist in maintenance of station crew health, to advance knowledge of the effects of space on biology and to contribute to the development of applications for the exploration of space and Earth.

An instrument consisting essentially of a tube 160 mm long, with an objective lens at the distant end and an eyepiece at the near end. The objective forms a real aerial image of the object in the focal plane of the eyepiece where it is observed by the eye. The overall magnifying power is equal to the linear magnification of the objective multiplied by the magnifying power of the eyepiece. The eyepiece can be replaced by a film to photograph the primary image, or a positive or negative relay...
AmericasBiophotonicsBioScancamerasDiscoveryGlenn Research Centerhigh-resolution imagesimagingimaging light microscopeInternational Space StationISSLight Microscopy Moduleliving specimensLMMmicroscopemicroscopic fluids researchMicroscopymulticapability microscopeNASANewsOhiospacespace environmentsSTS-133

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