6 Exciting And Tasty Experiments That May Help Us Get To Mars

They're launching to the International Space Station next week
beam module attached to ISS

And of course, no one can stop talking about the inflatable habitat that will be tested on the space station. Like a pop-up tent, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will fly to the ISS compacted in the trunk of SpaceX's Dragon capsule, then expand to over 10 times its original volume after it's attached to the space station. It'll still only be about the size of a small bedroom, but if it works, the technology will have huge implications for the future of human space exploration. Over the next two years, sensors on the BEAM module will measure impacts from debris, as well as radiation levels and temperature inside the module. Astronauts will enter and leave the module 4-6 times per year, staying for about 3 hours at a time. With the exception of the first entry, they should be able to hang out in there without a spacesuit or other life-support equipment. The BEAM module is scheduled to expand to its full size and begin taking measurements near the end of May or early June. If it works, it could eventually pave the way for privately owned space stations in Earth orbit as well as lightweight, inflatable habitats that could be sent to the moon or Mars. Bigelow Aerospace

For the first time since the June explosion of its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX will attempt to carry cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 8. The Dragon capsule will lug 3,800 pounds of supplies into orbit, including more than 250 science experiments. Here are a few of the most exciting, as highlighted by a NASA press conference. Each one could play an important role in helping move humanity beyond low Earth orbit.

lettuce grown under purple light as part of NASA's veggie experiment
Aspergillus nidulans fungus grows on a petri dish
Plankton cartoon character stands on international space station
astronaut exercises on the ISS to prevent muscle loss
scott kelly takes a blood sample