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Follow Along With NASA's First Deep Space Biology Experiment

BioSentinel will test the effects of cosmic radiation on living organisms during long-term spaceflight.

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An artist’s rendition of the BioSentinel spacecraft, which is a shoebox-sized CubeSat.
An artist’s rendition of the BioSentinel spacecraft, which is a shoebox-sized CubeSat.
Illustration: NASA/Daniel Rutter

BioSentinel, a first-of-its-kind experiment from NASA, is carrying living organisms over 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) into deep space to test the long-term effects of cosmic radiation on living things—in this case, yeast. NASA has unveiled a new real-time visualization tool so the public can follow along with BioSentinel’s progress.

BioSentinel launched in November as part of a NASA effort to understand more clearly how deep space travel can affect living organisms. BioSentinel is a shoebox-sized cubesat that hitched a ride as a payload on Artemis 1.

On December 5, NASA officially began the first long-duration biology study in deep space when BioSentinel was 655,730 miles (1,055,295 kilometers) from Earth. Since then, BioSentinel has continued to hurtle through space, and yesterday NASA invited the public to follow the mission’s progress with a visualization tool that is tracking the movement of BioSentinel in real-time.

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The location of BioSentinel in relation to Earth and other NASA spacecraft, like the Webb Space Telescope, as of December 16.
The location of BioSentinel in relation to Earth and other NASA spacecraft, like the Webb Space Telescope, as of December 16.
Screenshot: NASA/Gizmodo

Currently, BioSentinel is far outside Earth’s magnetosphere and will remain in its own orbit around the Sun for an expected mission duration of 18 months. The visualization allows you to rewind and speed up time, to relive BioSentinel’s launch aboard Artemis 1 as well as see its future trajectory.

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Yeast was chosen because, according to NASA, the cells that make up yeast are somewhat similar to the cells that make up humans, including DNA that can be damaged by cosmic radiation. The results of this experiment will help shed light on how humans and other organisms might respond to long-term spaceflight, such as during a crewed mission to Mars.