Appendix A: Experiments
Central to Mark's trip is the belief that science is about exploring the places Humanity has
feared to tread. To this end, Mark will be conducting a number of experiments under
the direction of a number of South African scientists with the aim of expanding
our knowledge of the Universe.
The most important details about these experiments - what they are and why they are important -
can be found below.
The very first cells that the body creates do not have a "pre-determined destiny" - unlike
more mature cells they are not skin cells or liver cells or brain cells - they are simply
stem-cells, which change to become a specific type of cell by responding to their
environment. Understanding these cells holds the key to healing serious injuries where
the cells in one part of the body have been damaged beyond repair.
Space places a very different set of strains on the human body to what we encounter here on
earth. Much of the science conducted in orbit has been aimed at understanding how we function
when under conditions of "micro-gravity". While Mark is in space he will be monitored by a team
on earth who will record (amongst other things) his heart-rate and the way his muscles react.
There are many unanswered questions and conflicting reports of biological responses - Mark
hopes to help clear some of them up.
When we consider the threats facing Africa as a whole, few would argue that HIV and other
diseases are our Nemises. In the war on disease, the frontline is within our bodies, where
our immune cells interact with and (hopefully) attack the disease as it infects us. The
problem facing scientists is that the combatants are too small to observe directly - we
must look at various pieces of evidence to infer what happened. One of the processes
which help with that is called SPC (Soluble Protein Crystallisation) which gives
scientists a way to look at the weapons used by the immune system with an eye to knowing how
to make them more effective.
Changing the way people (especially young people) view Science and its relation to the world
in which we live is abosutely critical if we are to expand Africa's competitive ability.
Despite the reality, many see science as boring or staid - a perception which could not
be further from reality. Measuring the impact of the launch on that perception
is the aim of Mark's final experiment - one which takes place more here on earth than
in the ISS.