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Biomedical Researchers and NASA Meet on International Space Station Science Experiments
06.01.09
As construction of the International Space Station nears completion, NASA and its national laboratory partners are preparing to utilize the unique environment in space for science. The science community with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NASA's space station research facilitators are scheduled to meet at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on June 16. This will be the first opportunity for researchers to explore the logistics of flying their experiments on the space station.

Under the national laboratory initiative, the NIH is designing experiments for the orbiting laboratory to improve human health on Earth. The NIH announced to scientists at universities, medical centers, and companies across the U.S. in March 2009 its willingness to fund biomedical experiments on the space station. This funding will encourage health researchers to incorporate the space environment into their experiments, and support them as they prepare their experiments for launch and analyze their data following a mission.

The NIH was the first agency to partner with NASA to utilize a portion of the space station as a national lab. In September 2007, the two agencies signed an agreement to facilitate biomedical research on the space station for a better understanding of human physiology and human health on Earth.

"The ISS is an extraordinarily capable laboratory in a unique environment that has not previously been available for widespread medical research. NASA strongly supports the NIH's leadership in this promising opportunity," said Mark Uhran, NASA's assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station.

The space station provides a special microgravity and radiation environment that Earth-based laboratories cannot replicate. Congress, recognizing the immense promise the facility holds for American-led science and technology efforts, opened the U.S. portion of station to other federal agencies and university and private sector researchers when it designated the U.S. resources as a National Laboratory in 2005.

NASA also partnered with other government agencies and the commercial sector to utilize a portion of the space station as a national lab. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, signed an agreement with NASA in July 2008 for plant- and animal-related research.

In the private sector and education sectors, the University of Colorado's Bioserve Center for space station-based research, SPACEHAB, and Zero Gravity Inc. partnered with NASA. Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas, signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA in December 2008 that could lead to the testing of a new plasma-based space propulsion technology on the space station. The VASIMR project will pave the way in demonstrating a new class of larger, more complex science and technology payloads to be installed on the station's exterior.