We are proposing the fully autonomous science facility REALISE for suspended biological cultures that can both incubate organisms over long periods of time (30 days to 9 months) but also perform in-situ analysis of samples using bright-field and three-color fluorescence microscopy. REALISE will be based heavily on functionality, components, and experience from past Shuttle, ISS, and Orion heritage flight hardware but is intended to set new standards for in-situ scientific analysis, long-term cell culturing, as well as automation. The in-situ automated microscopy compartment will set new standards in characterizing cell adaptations in space over time as opposed to only start and end conditions. The fluorescent analysis -in addition to bright-field microscopy for morphological changes- will be used to characterize microbiological processes such as cell metabolism, cell health, and cell function. While REALISE is developed specifically for the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway, it will have future applications also on commercial space stations and lunar surface habitats both manned and unmanned as well as for more automated and less crew-intensive experiments onboard the International Space Station. REALISE is proposed to be a two locker system that will be permanently deployed onboard the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway and can store and actively support cell cultures fully thermally-controlled for up to 9 months. Once an experiment or production is terminated, REALISE is designed to be serviced on-orbit while the crew is present for consumable swap out so that the unit can initiate another autonomous operation cycle. Potential applications are radiation studies over multiple generations to characterize the response of organisms or the effectiveness of countermeasures for future long-term human spaceflights as well as cell production facilities for unique terrestrial cell culture treatments that can only be grown in the space environment.
REALISE will provide NASA the capability to conduct autonomous long-term cell culture studies ranging from microbiology (yeast, protein crystals, ) to mammalian cell cultures (bone cells, heart cells, blood cells, stem cells) in deep space. As REALISE is specifically designed for the Gateway Lunar Orbital Platform, novel radiation studies over multiple generations under long-term exposure to the space environment are imminent examples that are critical to inform NASA about the risks and mitigation of future human space exploration missions.
REALISE will provide autonomous large scale cell culture productions for commercial companies that can produce unique cell culture lines onboard the Gateway in the deep space environment. However REALISE is expandable to ISS, commercial space stations, and/or planetary surfaces. Subcomponents such as automated manufacturing as well as in-situ analysis methods can also be individually marketed.