On Sunday 21 February at 04:06 am Adelaide time, Northrop Grumman’s (NG) Antares rocket launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, heading for the International Space Station (ISS), carrying with it an Australian-based space medicine experiment.
Officially titled “Pharmaceutical Excipient Ingredient Stability in Microgravity”, this intriguing experiment is being coordinated by researchers and scientists from the University of Adelaide. It was carried on the NG-15 mission to the ISS along with 4-tonnes of cargo, including several technology development demonstrations, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware.
As part of the experiment, sixty pills of Ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug commonly used for pain relief) will be attached to the outside of the ISS for six months, where they will be exposed to space radiation and microgravity. They will then return to Earth in a reentry capsule to be analysed.
“One day pills might have to withstand being taken from Earth to Mars and back again to help keep astronauts healthy, so we need to know how they will be affected by one of the harshest environments known: space,” said the University of Adelaide’s Professor Volker Hessel, Research Director of the Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources and Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials.