NASA sent DNA sequencing instruments into space for the first time Monday, taking the search for extraterrestrial life straight to the source.
"The biomolecule sequencer seeks to demonstrate, for the first time, that DNA sequencing is feasible in microgravity," a press release from the US press agency read.
Previously DNA testing required collecting samples and bringing them back to Earth for analysis.
The miniaturized DNA sequencer will allow researchers on the International Space Station (ISS) to determine the exact genetic blueprint of all living things and "identify microbes, diagnose diseases, monitor crew health and possibly help detect DNA-based life off the Earth."
The sequencer is currently on its way to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft piloted by astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins. It is expected to reach the ISS on Wednesday, bearing nearly 5,000 pounds (2.3 tons) of cargo.
This is the ninth cargo flight to the ISS for SpaceX, which won a supply contract with NASA once the space agency no longer had its own supply vessels following the retirement of the space shuttle programme.
Other cargo in this delivery includes the first international docking adapter, which would allow commercial spacecrafts to dock at the orbiting laboratory.
Other equipment includes a phase change heat exchanger, which helps maintain temperatures inside a spacecraft, and a 3D solar cell.
The cargo craft is scheduled to return to Earth at the end of August, bringing more than "3,300 pounds of science, hardware, crew supplies and spacewalk tools."