First Annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Review
Roughly 400 scientists, engineers, students, industry leaders and business representatives gathered last week to participate in the 1st Annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference
, organized by the American Astronautical Society and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Inc., or CASIS, in cooperation with NASA.
The event took place June 26-28 in Denver, Colo., showcasing the full breadth of research and technology development on the space station; past, present and future. Because most scientific conferences focus on one discipline, this was a highly anticipated opportunity for attendees to hear results from multidisciplinary space station studies in the areas of physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and spacecraft technology.
Space station crew members Don Pettit and Joe Acaba kicked off the conference with a video message from on orbit, describing the unique microgravity environment and research capabilities of this remarkable laboratory.
Opening remarks and keynote speakers included NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier, NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati, and International Space Station Program Manager Michael Suffredini. Their presentations echoed the three major themes
of new knowledge resulting from space station research. Those themes include benefits to life on Earth, benefits to future space exploration, and basic discovery.
Throughout the conference, 19 parallel technical sessions provided investigators an opportunity to share the results of their space station experiments and update attendees on significant accomplishments in their field to date. These sessions kept the community informed on findings, while also providing inspiration for future areas of research.
International Space Station Program Scientist Julie Robinson
moderated a discussion panel that highlighted some of the top research and technology results from the assembly and early utilization phases of the station. Varied topics discussed included protein crystallography
that has led to potential drug therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, mechanisms and treatments of infectious diseases such as salmonella
, hyperspectral remote sensing
of Earth, spacecraft fluid management via capillary flow
and recent developments in astronaut vision health
Astronaut Mike Fincke and cosmonaut Sergey Adveev entertained attendees with their first-hand accounts of living and working in space. Fincke concluded with an inspiring message for the audience, "Do something amazing!" A little over a year ago, Fincke helped to install the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
(AMS) on the outside of the space station during the STS-134 space shuttle mission. One of the featured speakers at the conference presented a status on results from the first 18 billion cosmic rays that have been detected by AMS.
In a panel discussion entitled: "Enabling Exploration Beyond Earth Orbit," moderated by International Space Station Technology Demonstration Manager George Nelson, presenters described exploration technologies in development and testing on space station, such as the Robotic Refueling Mission
, which is paving the way for robotic refueling and repair of satellites and vehicles. Other presentations included spacecraft life support technologies and testing of new modes of communication between Earth and space station using lasers.
Panels also discussed upcoming space station research opportunities through both NASA and CASIS U.S. National Laboratory research programs that will enable researchers from all over the world to put their talents to work on innovative experiments that could not be done anywhere else.
Workshops were held specifically to help new investigators understand how to build partnerships and get their experiment to the space station. NASA and CASIS co-conducted a workshop for potential users of the orbiting laboratory. Marybeth Edeen, deputy chief of the Research Integration Office, explained that there are two approaches to getting research onto station. NASA manages investigations related to exploration and NASA's missions, while CASIS manages all other studies. Investigators learned how to identify which route was right for them, and how to follow each path to get their studies to the unique orbiting laboratory. The Small Business Innovation Research Technologies workshop provided insight into collaborations and implementation partners that develop spaceflight experiment hardware.
The 1st Annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference showcased some of the remarkable results obtained so far through space station research. NASA hopes that new investigators came away inspired and armed to generate new studies to conduct on the space station. If the previous decade’s results are any indication, the potential for discovery in the era of space station utilization is limitless.
Liz Warren, Ph.D.
International Space Station Program Science Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center