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NASA brings a DNA sequencer to space for the first time

It might even help detect life beyond Earth.
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SpaceX, Flickr

SpaceX's after-midnight Falcon 9 launch didn't just advance the state of the art in rocket landings... the cargo it launched is groundbreaking, too. NASA notes that the mission is the first to bring a DNA sequencer to space. The Biomolecule Sequencer will not only demonstrate that you can sequence genes in microgravity, but provide a valuable service to the International Space Station's crew. They can use it to check up on crew health, identify microbes and maybe (just maybe) detect life beyond Earth. It's dramatically more convenient than before, when astronauts had to wait months to send DNA samples back to Earth.

This isn't the only useful cargo, of course. NASA is also testing a Phase Change Heat Exchanger that could help maintain temperatures in space (notoriously difficult today), an extra-efficient 3D solar cell and studies into both bone loss as well as microgravity's effects on the heart. All told, this one delivery could do a lot to advance science.

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