Astronaut Kate Rubins Heads to the International Space Station for Microbiome Research StudyNovember 12, 2020
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will rocket to the International Space Station for the second time on October 14, but the mission is more than just a personal milestone for the 42-year-old space traveler. On November 1, Rubins and her crewmates’ presence on the International Space Station will make a record of 20 continuous years of human beings in space. Rubins will be joined in the mission by two Russian cosmonauts, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. Like Rubins, Ryzhikov has traveled to space once before, but the mission will be the first space flight for Kud-Sverchkov. The trio will leave Earth’s atmosphere from Kazakhstan‘s Baikonur Cosmodrome at approximately 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The team will then board the International Space Station a few hours later.
In an interview with reporters from CNN, Rubins detailed her unique training experience given the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Rubins began normal training for the mission well before the start of the pandemic, NASA’s closure last spring forced her to learn valuable skills for the flight from the comfort of her own home. While an adjustment, Rubins says that she was well-prepared for the difficulties that came from wearing a mask because of her former career. Before joining NASA, Rubins was a scientist who studied microbiology and viral diseases, a job that necessitated the use of personal protective equipment. Once it was safe, Rubins and her crew were able to restart in-person training at facilities in Texas and Russia.
Part of Rubins’ mission at the International Space Station will entail analyzing the station’s microbiome. Rubins describes this study as an item that she wishes to check off her bucket list. In explaining the importance of the study, Rubins notes that the International Space Station is the first object to be isolated from Earth for 20 years. As astronauts come and go from the space station with regularity, Rubins wants to find out how the station’s microbiome differs from the microbiome of the Earth. Rubins will accomplish this by sequencing DNA using the station’s powerful microscopes. Rubins’ research will be incredibly useful in cell culture studies.
Although Rubins is happy to conduct research on the International Space Station, she is even more excited to be part of the station’s 20-year anniversary. Rubins points out all the good that the International Space Station has done for the Earth, principally by allowing scientists from all over the world to conduct research at the facility. During her stay at the International Space Station, the station will boast a full complement of seven astronauts. Rubins says that the full seven-person crew will further allow the group to maximize research. Rubins also looks forward to taking questions from students during her stay and spreading the knowledge that can be obtained from space exploration.
Throughout her research endeavors, Rubins will not forget to do her civic duty. Rubins is prepared to vote in the presidential election during her stay on the International Space Station. Rubins’ vote will actually be her second time voting for president while in space, the first time having been for the 2016 presidential election.