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The Small Spacecraft Office at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., has teamed up with industry and local universities to develop a fully automated, miniature spaceflight system that provides life support for small living things. The system also will conduct biological examinations to look for genetic changes in bacteria during spaceflight.

Advanced miniaturization of key technologies coupled with the ability to launch small, secondary spacecraft offers a new, low-cost way to advance space exploration technology. Putting novel cellular genetics investigative tools into small spacecraft gives scientists a powerful ability to study and understand the effects of deep space environments on living things.

Flying multiple missions using the new, low-cost secondary payload technology will help scientists better understand how the space environment - which includes radiation and reduced gravity - affects living things. This new knowledge will enable scientists to develop defenses against the space environment's hazards. These countermeasures are critically needed for safe long-duration, human space missions.

University students are essential members of the GeneSat mission team. Students at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Calif., have developed a launch 'pod' that protects and ejects the satellite once it is flown into space. Students at Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., developed part of the satellite. Their equipment collects data, broadcasts it to Earth and generates power for the satellite with solar cells.

Once GeneSat is in orbit, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, Calif., students will control the spacecraft from the mission operations center at NASA Ames. Santa Clara students have developed software that sends commands to the satellite, calibrates the biological data that is sent back and analyzes spacecraft health.

These universities are members of the Silicon Valley Center for Robotics Exploration and Space Technologies (CREST) at NASA Research Park, Moffett Field, Calif. CREST is a consortium of universities, industry and government partners. CREST develops interactive partnerships that integrate disciplines, research and education to produce next-generation innovations in engineered systems.