The United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has begun testing a new multi-capability microscope at the International Space Station (ISS).
It will help scientists study the effects of the space environment on physics and biology aboard the orbiting laboratory, reported photonicsonline.com.
The microscope is isolated from vibrations on the station, allowing it to obtain clear, high-resolution images.
Using high-resolution magnification, scientists can examine microorganisms and individual cells of plants and animals, including humans.
The microscope will allow real-time study of the effects of space environment without the need to return samples to Earth.
Any living specimens returned to Earth must endure the effects of re-entry through the atmosphere.
The ability to use the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) on station will enable scientists to study data unaffected by re-entry.
"We really need to maximize life science investigations conducted on the International Space Station," said Jacob Cohen, a NASA researcher.
"It's really amazing to be able to remotely manage, optimize and troubleshoot experiments observed with a microscope in space without the need to return the samples back to Earth. This microscope is helping fulfill the vision of a true laboratory in space," he said.
Researchers expect the LMM to perform the same as a microscope on Earth.
In the future, the microscope could be used to assist in sustaining station crew health, advance our knowledge of the effects of space on biology and contribute to the development of applications for space exploration and on Earth.