The Space Shuttles have all been retired. The International Space Station (ISS) is expected to be decommissioned in 2020. Research on the ISS slowed with the end of the Space Shuttle era. With the new SpaceX Dragon capsule, NASA wants to increase the research taking place in space. NASA picked the non-profit Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to recruit and manage half of the research on the ISS.
When the Space Shuttles were mothballed, there wasn’t a good method for carrying experiments to and from the space station. Unmanned rockets were able to take supplies into space, but burned up on reentry. The Russian Soyuz rockets were fine for getting astronauts to and from the ISS but didn’t have the necessary facilities to transfer scientific experiments back and forth. According to Scientific American, the SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will be able to resume ferrying scientific experiments, researchers and astronauts to the ISS.
NASA has scheduled four trips to the ISS each year for the next several years using the Dragon capsule and Orbital Sciences Cygnus capsule if it passes its test flights later this year. The ISS is supposed to be in business for only eight more years and trying to get a research project vetted through all of the red tape has previously taken years. CASIS should be able to shepherd research proposals through the system in a matter of months.
Because so many areas of ISS research wound up sidelined by the loss of two shuttles and reduced shuttle flights, CASIS is going to have to woo them back. Currently, CASIS personnel are attending a variety of scientific conferences and visiting Pharmaceutical companies looking for suitable research projects for the ISS. They are concentrating first on “materials science and remote Earth observations.”
The potential research projects will be judged on two criteria. The first criteria is, does the research have scientific merit? The second criteria is, can the scientific results be commercialized? A panel set up by CASIS will judge the submitted projects starting in June of this year. Researchers who do decide to submit projects can look forward to a number of freebies provided by NASA and the ISS crew.
Solicitations for research, planned for June, will offer $3 million of CASIS’s own seed money to researchers, although the centre hopes that the attraction of free flights and free space on the station, along with the free labor of station crew members, will be so enticing that proposers will bring their own grant money to the table. That money could come from other US science agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, or from private sources.
If you were ever interested in conducting scientific experiments on the ISS, now is the time to submit your proposal. A free space flight, free space on the ISS and free labor from trained astronauts is remarkable. You don’t have to haggle over lab space or apply for grants to cover the cost of grad students and lab personnel. Grants will still be needed, but they may be easier to get with the amazing “in kind” services offered by CASIS and NASA.
A few commentators have wondered if the results of all of these research projects will be available for everyone or if we as taxpayers will be funding the research that will become proprietary patents of various different corporations. After all, if we are paying for transportation, space and personnel, we ought to be able to take advantage of the potential breakthroughs and solutions of the research results.
Above picture courtesy of SpaceX. This article originally appeared at Blorge.com, all copyrights are reserved by their respective holders