Particle physics experiments

Polaris Dawn selects 38 science and research experiments to advance human health and space exploration – Parabolic Arc

Polaris Dawn Crew (Credit: Jared Isaacman)

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 24, 2022 (Polaris Dawn PR) — Polaris Dawn, the first of three manned spaceflight missions in the Polaris program, today announced the extensive suite of science and research experiments the crew and SpaceX will conduct throughout the mission. The selected projects are designed to advance both human health on Earth and future long-duration spaceflight.

“The Polaris Dawn mission profile provides us with great opportunities to expand our collective knowledge of the human body in space and the associated applicability here on Earth. Our science and research program will enrich the body of knowledge for future long-duration spaceflights that will bring us back to the Moon and Mars; as well as to advance our knowledge and understanding of humanity here on Earth. The Polaris Dawn team together with the outstanding science and research team from SpaceX have cast a wide net to find the best experiences to fly with us. We greatly appreciate all submissions and tremendous work support. Polaris Dawn is the premier mission of the Polaris program and our goal is to continue to find the best research for our future spaceflight,” said Jared Isaacman, mission commander.

SpaceX is targeting no earlier than March 2023 for the Falcon 9 launch of the Polaris Dawn mission from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For five days, Dragon and the crew of Polaris Dawn will strive to travel 1,400 km – the highest Earth orbit ever – and attempt the first-ever commercial spacewalk. Many selected research projects take advantage of this unique mission profile, including the relatively high radiation levels due to high altitude orbit and harsh vacuum exposure during spacewalking. These projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Use of ultrasound to measure changes in the structure of the eye in microgravity; track organ blood flow patterns to monitor nutrient uptake, toxin filtration, and blood clot prevention; and to test innovative training modules just in time to enable successful use of this tool without extensive training.
  • Wearing a contact lens integrated with microelectronics that will allow the crew to continuously monitor changes in eye shape and pressure, a first for a manned spaceflight mission. The data collected will contribute to the understanding of spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS), a condition that can cause degraded vision and poses a risk to human performance during a mission.
  • Investigate the effects of microgravity, magnetic and fungal influences on the root growth of germinating plants in low Earth orbit to help inform plant growth procedures for food viability and sustainability in lunar or Martian gravitational environments as well as deep space exploration. Additionally, the research will provide actionable physical and genetic data related to plant growth using gravitropism, fungal volatiles, and magnetic fields to enhance food production here on Earth.
  • Determine how the body processes common pharmaceuticals in orbit to continue testing theoretical evidence that space alters the effectiveness and potential safety of these drugs. The effects of spaceflight on the stability of pharmaceuticals will also be assessed;
  • Expand on-orbit medical capabilities, including the development of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) procedures for use in the Dragon spacecraft, and demonstrate the use of a fiber optic camera to image and better understand how fluid moves in spaceflight can affect airway management in a medical emergency;
  • Brain mapping via handheld MRI within hours of the splash, providing unique insight into how the brain is affected by microgravity and how it readjusts, contributing to studies of the brain’s involvement in related neuro-ocular syndrome to spaceflight (SANS);
  • Validation of a continuous blood glucose monitoring device to increase access to space for a more diverse population of future astronauts; and
  • Measurement of the high-energy neutron radiation environment to which the crew will be exposed to help inform and improve models for predicting space radiation exposure.

Polaris Dawn and SpaceX will collaborate with 23 institutions on the selected experiments, such as the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), University of Texas, Houston, University of Augusta, University of Colorado at Boulder, Baylor College of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Weill Cornell Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, and US Air Force Academy. For a complete list and description of selected science and research experiments and associated institutions, visit the Polaris Dawn Science and Research site. While each experience has been selected for inclusion in the mission profile, additional testing and qualification requirements are ongoing. A final list of experiments approved to fly will be released closer to launch.

Media contacts:
Sarah Grover
Director of Communications for the Polaris Program
[email protected]

About the Polaris Program and Polaris Dawn
The Polaris program is a one-of-a-kind effort to rapidly advance human spaceflight capabilities while continuing to raise funds and awareness for important causes here on Earth. The program will include up to three manned spaceflight missions that will demonstrate new technologies, conduct extensive research and ultimately culminate in the first flight of SpaceX’s Starship with humans on board. All missions will be commanded by Jared Isaacman, an accomplished pilot and astronaut who leads Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit that has raised more than $240 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.®.

Polaris Dawn is an important first mission in this effort, continuing to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude in addition to advancing healthcare access and connectivity to disconnected communities around the world. Polaris Dawn is striving to reach the highest Earth orbit ever, attempt the first-ever commercial spacewalk, conduct extensive research to deepen our understanding of human health on Earth and in future long-duration spaceflight, and test Starlink’s laser communications in space.

To learn more about the Polaris Program, visit www.PolarisProgram.com and follow us on Twitter (@PolarisProgram) and Instagram (@PolarisProgram).