To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Nature Partner Journals, our editors have chosen a selection of articles that showcase our cutting-edge open access content in a variety of fields: go.nature.com/2kBGhaP
For npj Microgravity, our Editor in Chief chose 2 prominent articles:
New research shows that minimizing the effects of gravity can improve the fabrication of high-tech semiconductors. Yuko Inatomi from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and co-workers investigated the growth of indium gallium antimonide (InGaSb) alloys on the International Space Station (ISS) and under standard terrestrial conditions. The team placed ‘sandwich’ samples, where a thin InSb layer sits between thicker chunks of GaSb, into a high-temperature furnace and characterized the alloy crystals formed in the mixing zone. The researchers found significant differences in crystal qualities and growth rates. Whereas samples grown on Earth had mostly curved growth interfaces, those formed on the ISS were nearly flat-a change that produced smoother distributions of atoms with a higher growth rate than typical conditions. The authors attribute the improved kinetics in microgravity to a reduction in convection forces at growth interfaces.
Long space voyages could pose health risks resulting from changes to astronauts' immune systems, warn NASA scientists. A team led by Clarence Sams of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston analyzed blood samples taken from astronauts before, during, and after six-month stays on the International Space Station. They detected a variety of persistent changes in immune cell numbers and functions, and altered production of signaling molecules that mediate the immune response. During extended space flights, such as missions to Mars, these changes could cause medical problems such as increased susceptibility to infectious disease, allergies, altered wound healing. It is also possible that the risk for cancer or the development of autoimmune disease would also be elevated. The characterization of immune changes during flight represents the first step in determining the need for immune-specific countermeasures that would improve the health and safety of astronauts on extended space missions.