The International Space Station didn't just make the cover story of the latest publication of NASA's Technology Innovation magazine, the entire issue was devoted to this amazing feat of collaboration and technology.
With assembly complete, the station can now fulfill its purpose as a testbed for research, innovation and technology development in microgravity, according to Joseph Parrish, NASA's deputy chief technologist. In the "Upfront with…" introduction to the magazine, Parrish shared the importance investment plays in moving forward as a global leader in aerospace technology.
"America is the nation we are today because of the technological investments made in the 1960s, because of the engineers and scientists of that generation and those policy makers who had the wisdom and foresight to make the investments required for our country to emerge as a global technological leader," said Parrish.
This sense of excitement as the investment in the space station turns to utilization echoes in the various articles from the issue. Contributors, such as Mark Uhran, NASA's International Space Station assistant associate administrator, shared their perspective on the space station's past and future, including opportunities available for research, technology and partnership.
In a piece titled "An Era of Opportunity, the International Space Station Begins its Next Stage of Partnership and Innovation," Uhran looked back at the developmental timeline that ultimately led to the station's creation. "While the design, assembly, and operations of the station to date are remarkable human achievements in their own right, the opening of the utilization era over the next decade presents unprecedented opportunities for partnerships to advance the research and development of space resources," said Uhran.
Other articles in the publication delve into the areas of scientific focus for research on the orbiting laboratory. These include biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, physical science, human research, technology and educational opportunities. The space station environment, which includes microgravity, extreme temperatures and radiation, provides a unique testing area with tremendous potential for discovery.
The feature titled "Biology in Orbit, How Research Partnerships Growing Plants, Cells, and Animals, and Testing New Drugs on the ISS Pays Off on Earth," spotlights how investigations in space can lead to real changes in everyday lives on the ground. From vaccine development to cell therapy, studies like Space Tissue Loss hold potential that is just starting to be tapped.
"This research helps us better understand adult stem cell biology and how to optimize our regenerative cell population," said Tom Cannon, vice president and co-founder of Tissue Genesis Inc. "This same cell population recovered from adipose tissue (fat) is currently in FDA clinical trials as we begin to translate its tremendous therapeutic potential into the clinic."
The space station's technological developments also can pay off with partnership dividends via industry products for Earth. For instance, a chemical sensor technology originally developed for aerospace fuel delivery safety found a second life as a "Lick and Stick" leak detection system. This technology is a core part of the Advanced Life Support System on the station, and on the ground is used to monitor hydrogen-powered concept cars, measure emissions and detect fires. You can read more in the related article "Innovative Research, 'Lick and Stick' Sensor Systems Enhance Safety and Performance."
Developments such as this sensor generate a ripple effect in related industries, according to Benjamin Ward, Ph.D., with Makel Engineering. "Our partnership with NASA in the development of the lick-and-stick technology has resulted in a wide range of sensor and smart systems products, which have generated a large percentage of company revenues and supported multiple engineering jobs," said Ward.
Inspiration, however, is not limited to corporate developments from station research. In fact, some of the greatest inventions and discoveries may result not from direct innovations, but from the inspirations generated from the educational efforts of the space station crew and their ground counterparts. Learning opportunities take center stage in the feature "Pen Caps and Nanoparticles, Inspiring, Engaging, and Educating the Next Generation through ISS Research."
"As you read about the wonders taking place now on [the] world's orbiting laboratory -- the International Space Station -- dare to dream about where these opportunities will take us over the next 10 or 25 years," said Parrish. "The possibilities are limitless!"