ISS Enters New Era As Space Laboratory

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16 (UPI) — The International Space Station is to become a center for biological science in orbit, offering facilities to partners new to NASA, the U.S. space agency says.

New biomedical experiments to study how bones and the immune system weaken in space, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, will make use of the space station’s unique orbital facilities and weightless environment, reported Thursday.

The NIH program takes advantage of the space station’s 2005 designation by Congress as a U.S. National Laboratory for scientists from academia, the private sector and various government agencies.

The NIH effort is a landmark for NASA, Marybeth Edeen, manager of the space station’s National Laboratory Office in Houston, said.

“This is the first research sponsored by a government agency that’s a non-traditional partner of NASA,” Edeen said. “We expect things to keep building from here.”

Begun in 1998 and nearly complete, the outpost is being built by 15 countries and space agencies from the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan.

The NIH plan is the first step to opening up the space station to research sponsored by other federal agencies.

The new experiments will be paid for and directed by NIH, with NASA helping out with logistics, officials said.

“It’s NIH’s technical review, their decision on the science,” Edeen said. “We work with them to make sure what they want to do is feasible.”

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