Sunday, 10-28-2012 - A privately built spacecraft cargo will carry some Blood and Astronant pee back to Earth from the International Space Station Sunday (Oct. 28): astronaut blood and urine.
Hundreds of blood and urine samples, some in bags and others in syringes, are returning to Earth aboard an unmanned Dragon space capsule that is wrapping up the first commercial cargo flight to the station by the private spaceflight company SpaceX. The Dragon capsule is due to leave the station just after 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT).
"Bio samples, experiments, and hardware loaded into #Dragon; hatch is now closed. Next stop, Earth!" SpaceX officials wrote via Twitter Saturday. The gumdrop-shaped Dragon capsule is returning nearly 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of experiments and gear from the International Space Station, but NASA scientists said they are extra excited about the blood and urine samples coming home. [Astronaut Blood and Urine on Dragon Explained (Video)]
There are 384 syringes of urine and 112 tubes of blood packed aboard Dragon, some of which have been waiting for delivery to scientists on the ground for more than a year. The samples were taken by space station astronauts as part of two ongoing experiments studying the nutrition of astronauts and how their diet can help protect against the negative health effects of long-term space travel, such as bone loss.
"While it may seem very strange to some folks, my typical line is that, 'It may be urine to you, but it's gold for us,'" NASA nutritionist Scott Smith of the Johnson Space Center said before the Dragon mission. "There's a lot of science that comes out of this."
Smith said his team has not returned any astronaut blood and urine samples from the space station since July 2011, the month of NASA's final space shuttle mission before the fleet was retired. Since then, the samples were stored in freezers awaiting the Dragon spacecraft. American astronauts, meanwhile, traveled to and from the station on Russian Soyuz capsules
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