CNN's Former NASA Astronaut Plans Private Trip Back to Space begins

Record-holding NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson1 has spent more time in outer space than almost any other human on the planet, but even in retirement she's desperate to go back. On Tuesday, the 61-year-old Whitson revealed that she will do just that — and this time, she's flying private.

Axiom, a Houston-based company that focuses on arranging commercial flights to space, announced that Whitson will pilot a mission dubbed AX-2, which could be among the first privately funded civilian missions to space to launch from US soil.

and later says:

Whitson, who nabbed the American record for time spent in space during her 22-year NASA career, said the AX-2 mission will likely be less onerous than the trips she's made to space on behalf of the US space agency. Still, Whitson said, she and Shoffner will be keeping busy: Shoffner plans to host livestreams from space to encourage math and science education. And they'll be supporting research projects for a company called 10XGenomics, Shoffner said.

Question: Are there any papers, press-releases or other information on what 10X Genomics plans on testing during the upcoming Axiom Space Mission 2 or AX-2 mission? The company focuses on technology to measure gene expression localized within a single cell, but I can't see how microgravity would play into that. Since this is research by a private company I'm guessing that the work should benefit their products and their use on Earth rather than doing basic science research exploring the biological effects of spaceflight, but I could be completely wrong about that.

1Jeanne Moos' video: interesting/humorous observations on several levels (e.g. discussing the drinking of processed urine with the former US president) "Better you than me!"


1 Answer 1


This link (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/25/axiom-space-ax-2-spaceflight-led-by-peggy-whitson-and-john-shoffner.html), and the others below, suggest that rather than doing medical-based research themselves, it appears to be more focused on "meta-research"; evaluating how research methods and techniques change in space:

In addition to training for Ax-2, Whitson and Shoffner are working with California-based biotechnology company 10x Genomics to perform research in orbit on single-cell genomic methods.

“Their products are used by all the top 100 research facilities around the world, researchers in orbit have been looking for the same capabilities,” Shoffner said of 10x Genomics.

The company’s research will look to help answer questions such as how humans live in space long-term. Whitson noted that the the Ax-2 mission’s shorter duration will get the research back to 10x Genomics faster.

“Accessibility is one of the advantages of flying it with us, as it can get to orbit sooner and be tested sooner,” Whitson said.

From (https://www.axiomspace.com/press-release/ax2):

In addition to their flight training, they will learn how to translate terrestrial single-cell genomic methods to an orbital science process in collaboration with Pleasanton, Calif.-based 10x Genomics, a global leader in developing products to master biology for advancing human health whose offerings are used by all of the top 100 global research institutions.

They do however have plans to use what they learn in other studies (https://cosmiclog.com/2021/05/25/record-setting-astronaut-will-lead-private-space-mission/):

“The human body is made up of 40 trillion cells, each of which is changing all the time. 10x is focused on looking into single cells, which gives researchers more information about the human body than we had before,” the company explained in an emailed statement.

10x Genomics says it’s looking for ways to apply single-cell genomics to immunology, neuroscience and the study of cancer.

“While we are still in the early stages of what we could do in space, there are projects that could help us understand how cells react in space vs. Earth that could lead to new discoveries,” the company said. “Early studies would probably be looking at RNA expression for areas like osteoporosis to see how bone density is affected by gravity.”

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "will look to help answer questions such as how humans live in space long-term." lol. Real cutting edge, that. $\endgroup$ May 26, 2021 at 1:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Sounds like their goal is to advertise their product and their company rather than do actual research. $\endgroup$ May 26, 2021 at 13:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ From looking at a couple of papers (e.g. mdpi.com/1422-0067/20/9/2316/pdf), 10x Genomics equipment and methods are already used in space-related experiments, so it's not completely performative, but it would be nice if the results were published, rather than just improving a product. $\endgroup$
    – Freddie R
    May 26, 2021 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @user2705196 that may become the new norm for "privately funded civilian missions". $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    May 26, 2021 at 20:38

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