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NASA and International Partners Discuss New Uses for Space Station

WASHINGTON – The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) for the International Space Station partner agencies met Tuesday, July 26, to discuss how to use the space station as a test bed for technologies that will enable missions beyond low Earth orbit.
The board will begin identifying several specific technology collaboration initiatives based on possible future missions suggested by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group. These technology developments and demonstrations on the station could support voyages to an asteroid or Mars or the development of lunar habitats.
The MCB also discussed efforts to increase station use and reported on the status of standardization efforts for rendezvous and proximity operations, interfaces for replaceable items and payloads and command protocols for spacecraft. The recently released revision of the International Docking Systems Standard can be downloaded at:

Ongoing space station research includes:
– The uses of the International Space Station as a national laboratory are growing. Memorandums of understanding are in place between NASA and other U.S. government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which is now in its second year of selecting experiments related to human health research.
Space Act Agreements also are active with private firms and universities in the areas of vaccine development for bacterial pathogens, gene differentiation for production of new plant cultivars, nanocube scale experiment systems, hyper-spectral imaging for agricultural applications and advanced propulsion technologies. Earlier this month, NASA formally selected the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space for negotiation of a cooperative agreement to stimulate, develop and manage uses of the station by organizations other than NASA.
– The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has collected more than 2 billion observations of galactic cosmic rays since its launch and installation on the space station in May. The astrophysics instrument is a partnership of hundreds of scientists and sixteen countries led by Nobel laureate Samuel Ting.
– Robotic technologies developed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) for the station have been used to improve the dexterity of surgeons in fine scale surgery. NASA will be testing a humanoid robot, Robonaut, developed in partnership with General Motors in the coming months. The first test of robotically controlled refueling in orbit, developed jointly by NASA and CSA, launched earlier this month aboard Atlantis’ STS-135 flight.
– The space station partnership is working to share data from remote sensing instruments mounted on the orbiting outpost and to increase the application of such data to disaster response. The Hyperspectral Imager for the Coastal Ocean has collected more than 3,510 images, providing unprecedented spectral resolution of difficult-to-map coastal waters. The International Space Station Agricultural Camera collected its first images on June 10. Its data is used to assess crop health and rapid changes during the growing season.
– NASA’s studies of crew health have identified relationships between diet and bone loss that offer important insights for future studies. Recently published data on chemical changes in pharmaceuticals identified that low-dose ionizing radiation in orbit degrades many medications, and that additional development of space-hardy medications will be needed for human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit.
– The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, continues experiments aimed at human adaptation to future long-term expeditions. Effects of the flight conditions on the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system and bones are being investigated in dedicated medical experiments. Wheat and vegetables are being planted, followed by genetic, microbiological and biochemical tests of the plants. Four different long-duration Russian astrobiology experiments from Expose-R returned after two years of open space exposure.
– In addition to astronomical and Earth observations, Japan promotes biotechnological research by analyzing structures of high-quality protein crystals created on the station leading to treatments for muscular dystrophy. Japan also continues experiments related to future long-term human spaceflight missions such as investigating bone loss mechanism, the effects of radiation and countermeasures of those. Scientists have gained insight to the fields of fundamental life and materials science from research conducted in the Kibo laboratory.
– With the return of European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Paolo Nespoli in May, ESA successfully concluded a focal set of research known as the “MagISStra” mission. Recently returned long-duration experiments include: a year-long radiation exposure experiment conducted with Roscosmos, nine different European astrobiology experiments after two years of open space exposure and the CFS-A study of fungi after five months in space. The completion of the ZAG and Otolith experiments by shuttle crew members gives new, unexpected insight into human balance. The Materials Science Laboratory now has the ability to cool rapidly metal alloy samples, with new cartridges expanding its use by the research community. These experiments are being performed in collaboration with the station’s international partners.
– Educational activities on the station reach thousands of students around the world. In May and June, hundreds of thousands of students watched the adaptation of spiders to a space environment and compared their behavior to spiders in classrooms on Earth through the website The spiders returned to Earth on Thursday, July 21. Students in the U.S., Europe and Japan had the opportunity to propose investigations for the space station and astronauts conducted the winning activities.
The MCB includes senior representatives from NASA, CSA, ESA, Roscosmos and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The MCB meets periodically to ensure coordination of station operations and activities among the partners. The board is working to tabulate station utilization metrics and document accomplishments for a publication to be released by September.
For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

For more information about the Canadian Space Agency, visit:

For more information about the European Space Agency, visit:

For more information about the Russian Federal Space Agency, visit:

For more information about Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, visit:

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Joshua Buck
Headquarters, Washington