National Lab Plan for Station Moves Forward

The International Space Station is seen from space shuttle Endeavour.
Backdropped by Earth's horizon and the blackness of space, the International Space Station is seen from space shuttle Endeavour as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation on March 24, 2008 during NASA's STS-123 mission. Japan's new Kibo ("hope" in Japanese) storage module appears as the squat cylinder atop the central module in this view. (Image credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Among the preciouspayloads set to launch tomorrow aboard the space shuttle Discovery is one ofthe first experiments as part of a NASA plan to use the International SpaceStation (ISS) as a U.S. National Laboratory.

The plan, put intoaction by the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, will open up about half ofthe outpost's U.S. science facilities for outside use by non-NASAresearchers by 2010.

As part of theinitiative, NASA announced today new partnerships with the University of Colorado at Boulder's Bioserve Space Technologies Center and with SPACEHAB ofWebster, Texas, and Zero Gravity Inc. of Stevensville, Md. The pairings willfurther NASA?s initiative to make ISS research facilities available to non-NASAscientists, said John J. Uri, deputy manager of NASA?s Space Station PayloadsOffice, in a briefing today here at NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in CapeCanaveral, Fla.

"With the NASAAuthorization Act of 2005, it has really opened up the door to multiple otherusers besides NASA and besides NASA scientists to utilize this facility," saidLouis S. Stodieck, director of Bioserve Space Technologies and a professor ofaerospace engineer sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "As alaboratory, it is absolutely unique and unparalleled."

An experiment from SPACEHABis already packed aboard Discovery, which is slatedto launch Saturday at 5:02 p.m. EDT (2102 GMT). The project aims to developa vaccine against salmonella by taking advantage of the effects of null gravityon bacterial virulence.

NASA says it hasalready seen interest from other government agencies, universities and private commercialcompanies in using the new orbitingnational laboratory.

"I?m sure you?ve heardthe expression, 'Build it and they will come,'" Uri said. "Well, we?re stillbuilding it, and they?re already coming."

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.