Friday, March 13, 2015

It's Finally Science Time!

After we got our samples back from Long Beach, CA we have been busy making sure everything is ready to go for our samples! They are, after all, very important.  We first collected all of our samples from the EUs that were still in their ECs.  Since we've been back, we have kept them in the -80C freezer, waiting for the chance to thaw them and collect the contents.  That in and of itself was a long and tedious process for 40 samples.  It took the better part of a work day to finish; but, it was still very exciting knowing that these samples went to space and back and could potentially teach us many things.  Once everything was collected, we returned the hardware back to KI.

Pier Luigi and Fabio from KI with Francis from Nasa Ames with the returned hardware

Now that we have all our precious samples, we were now able to start the exciting part! First, we needed to extract the RNA from the samples.  We have extracted about half our samples which already took a few days.

Tara in the process of extracting our samples from space. 

Tara using the NanoDrop to measure the sample's concentration, purity, and among other things
Now we are waiting on the next step which is to send a portion of the samples off to another facility to see the differences in genes expressed in a 1g environment and ug environment. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

T Cells are Back from Space

This past week, Tara, Emily, and I traveled down to Long Beach to retrieve our samples.  During our trip we got to visit the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, CA.  They were definitely doing very innovative things and we were more than excited to be able to take a look!

T-Cell Team at SpaceX Facility in Hawthorne, CA

Later that night, our samples arrived to a private air strip in the Long Beach Airport.  Overall it was a very smooth hand over! We were first to get our samples off the back of the hollowed out plane and we carefully made sure we got every single EU of our precious samples.  All the EUs stayed in the dry ice as we made our way back up to San Francisco with some very special cargo. 
T-Cell Team inside the plane before we got our samples

Tara is especially excited to have received our precious samples

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ground Controls and More

After the launch, Emily and I were definitely excited to fill our ground controls.  We then celebrated with a great breakfast and had a chance to rest after such an eventful day.  For the next couple days, we packed up the lab and got a chance to finally explore Kennedy Space Center and everything it had to offer.

Boxes upon boxes to ship back to the lab
Must-have meatball picture at the KSC Visitor Center

Astronaut Hall of Fame: what a great hidden treasure just a few miles outside of KSC
The Saturn V Rocket was enormous! 

Our last day at Residence Inn

Lastly, we got to see the on-orbit operations and perform the ground controls with a two-hour delay.
Early morning view of on-orbit operations.  

All suited up for ground controls.  
We had a special chance to visit the Orion!

With that, it was finally time to head to Orlando and fly back to San Francisco.  We had a great time at Kennedy Space Center and we will definitely miss it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


SpaceX CRS-5 Launch 

SpaceX's Dragon with the T-Cell Experiment onboard has finally launched at 4:47am EST! Words cannot even begin to describe the emotions as we saw the rocket go up into the sky.  Emily, BJ, Karin, and I stood on the causeway anxiously awaiting, as the announcer counted 3...2...1...LIFT OFF!  The rocket lit up the dark, early morning sky into nothing we have ever seen before.  As we watched the bright shining light soar into the heavens and beyond, the sight alone was all worth the long days and nights working on this project.  This was such an amazing experience that we are so privileged to be a part of.  

Even with a successful launch, our trip is not over yet.  There are still many things to take care of in the next few days.  But for now, there's definitely time for a well deserved rest.

Friday, January 9, 2015

L-8h (again)

It's been a whirlwind of activity the last few days.  Our first launch attempt on Tuesday (it seems so long ago now) was scrubbed just under 2 minutes before the scheduled launch.   We were all disappointed, of course, and returned to the lab that evening to re-do our prep and wait for confirmation on the next launch date.

Thankfully, it wasn't pushed too far back and is now set for tomorrow morning at 4:47AM.  Christina and I had another long day of T-cell isolation yesterday and are both looking forward to getting up early tomorrow morning to see the Falcon off. Go T-cell!

T-cell preparations, take two

Filled EUs and EU tools.  These are going to space tomorrow!

Monday, January 5, 2015

L-7 hours

It's been an exhausting couple days, but we have done everything we can! We have isolated the T-Cells from the blood of donors, filled the experimental units, and handed them over.  Emily and I with the help of BJ and Karin were able to work through the long hours it all took.  It's such a relief to be done for now!  Here are some pictures to document the process:

KI and T-Cell Team after the handover of EUs and tools

Emily and Christina isolating the T-Cells

Filled EUs ready to be transported.  
Emily and I were invited to visit the SpaceX rocket that was ready for launch.  Our samples are on the capsule! It was such a great and gratifying experience to see the rocket in person.

SpaceX Rocket ready to launch
Obligatory selfie by the rocket.  

And now we wait, for the final few hours before the launch!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Back at Cape

L-5!  Christina and I arrived in Cape Canaveral from SFO this evening, refreshed from the winter holidays and looking forward to the launch attempt on January 6th.  We'll be getting our samples tomorrow evening and will start our preparation for our T-cell isolation on Saturday.  Everything for launch is still a go, so we're all very hopeful this is the real deal.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

SpaceX-CRS 5 Mission is POSTPONED

After being at NASA Kennedy Space Center for a little over a week, the mission has been postponed until January 6, 2015.  You can read more here.  We were a little disappointed, but definitely happy to be home for Christmas.  We’ll be back soon!

Monday, December 15, 2014

First Week for SpaceX-CRS5 Mission

On Wednesday, December 10th we arrived in Orlando, Florida after a full day of travel from San Francisco.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day to leave, especially since we missed the massive storm that hit the Bay Area shortly after we left.  Since then, we’ve had some time to relax and prepare ourselves for the mission launch scheduled for Friday, December 19th

Here are some pictures of the things we've been able to do:

Selfie in front of NASA Kennedy Space Center Head Quarters
Obligatory picture in front of Residence Inn's Astronaut
Dr. Jeffrey Smith, NASA Ames Research Center's Space Biology Project Manager, took a tour of our T-Cell Lab 
The tour continued to the ESA Hardware Lab where the Experimental Units are processed and kept
We visited Cold Stowage to see where our samples will be held after we finish processing them

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My First Month at the Hughes-Fulford Lab

Field Trip to the Warehouse With Our First Shipment

Today marks my first month here at the Hughes-Fulford Lab.  Time has definitely gone by faster than I ever imagined; but more importantly, I have learned so much in just my first month here.  I came to my first day of work just a couple days after relocating from Los Angeles.  Everything was new: the culture, the weather, and just everything that I needed to learn before our trip to Cape Canaveral in December.   Learning everything has definitely been hectic for all of us.  But luckily, Emily and Tara are the best for helping me through my countless questions, and training me so that everything becomes second nature.  Even though I’m sure I have more to learn, hopefully after our SpaceX 5 launch, things will be a little less hectic.  But until then, lots to pack and even more to learn! I’m definitely looking forward to the time I have here at this lab.