Regular readers of the Space Cynics blog will know that I am no fan of the ISS, that great $100 billion albatross that continues to follow that perverse government version of Newton’s Law: a program in motions tends to remain in motion.
Defenders of ISS often trot out a range of highly dubious rationales for building and maintaining ISS, ranging from the scientific (e.g., protein crystal growth) to the economic (e.g., think of all the great tech transfer that will result, such as velcro and tang!) to the fanciful (it inspires humanity). I’ll just ignore that last category.
Ironically, a group of scientists may have also put a nail firmly in the coffin of the “pure protein crystal” crowd – by demonstrating the ability to use magnetic fields to create ultrapure protein crystals.
They were even able to create a sort of negative gravity and make the growth plume travel downwards.
“The authors of the paper have a technique that can produce the same effects of microgravity on crystal growth in a much more controlled manner than could ever be achieved on the the International Space Station,” says Edward Snell, a structural biologist at the State University of New York in Buffalo, US.
What’s more, the technique will be faster and much cheaper than growing crystals in space, he says.
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