NASA PROGRAM UPDATE
The International Space Station partner agencies met Tuesday, Sept. 21, by videoconference to discuss continuation of space station operations into the next decade and its use as a research laboratory.
The Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) meeting included senior representatives from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The MCB meets periodically to ensure coordination of station operations and activities among the partners.
The MCB was pleased to learn that the government of Japan has approved continuing space station operations beyond 2016. Coupled with the approval of the government of the Russian Federation for continuation to 2020, this progress is indicative of the strength of the station partnership and the successful use of station.
ESA and CSA are working with their respective governments to reach consensus about the continuation of the station. NASA also is continuing to work with the U.S. Congress to complete the necessary procedures to extend station operations consistent with the presidential budget request.
The MCB also noted the benefits to future exploration beyond low-Earth orbit through enhanced station research, technology development and other opportunities.
Each partner agency reaffirmed its commitment to gaining the maximum return from station with increasing the operational efficiency. On-going research with potential societal impacts includes:
- NASA and the National Institutes of Health recently announced three new biomedical experiments using the station’s unique microgravity facilities to improve human health on Earth. The experiments will use the station to study how bones and the immune system weaken in space as part of NIHâ€™s new BioMed-ISS program.
- CSA will focus its life science research program on mitigating health risks associated with spaceflight. More specifically, these health experiments and activities will monitor crew health and deliver health care on space missions, develop exercise, etc.
- ESA just started a fluid physics experiment in the Microgravity Science Glovebox onboard the station’s Columbus module that is of high interest to material scientists. The experiment uses advanced optical diagnostics to investigate the transformation of particles to aggregates due to density fluctuations in a mixture. The ESA experiment demonstrates a new capability to reverse and fine-tune the aggregation process; such control may yield a significant potential impact on fabrication of micro-structured materials such as photonic crystals.
- Roscosmos continues experimental programs aimed at humanâ€™s adaptation to future long-term expeditions. Effects of the flight conditions on the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system and bones are being carefully investigated in dedicated medical experiments. Other research being conducted includes plantation of wheat and vegetables followed by genetic, microbiological and biochemical tests of plants.
- Japan’s externally mounted X-Ray camera monitors more than 1,000 X-ray sources in space, including black holes and neutron stars. The instrument scans the entire sky in X-ray wavelengths and downlinks data to be distributed through the Internet to research groups around the world. Since last October, it has issued more than 50 alerts for the X-ray transient phenomena.
All of the partners also recognize the key role of the space station in inspiring students around the world to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. More than 30 million students have participated in human spaceflight though communications downlinks and interactive experiments with station astronauts.