NASA has marked two decades of experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS) with the release of a short video highlighting the important role that it plays in the field of science.
The video (below) also includes footage of the early days of the space station as it was being transformed from an orbital outpost where astronauts could safely live, into an orbital laboratory where those same astronauts could carry out complex — and not so complex — experiments in the unique microgravity conditions.
That transformation involved sending up equipment such as freezers, glove boxes, microscopes, and other necessary science paraphernalia. The actual experiments could then be sent on regular supply missions to the space station about 250 miles above Earth.
The ever-changing crew aboard the space station has conducted thousands of experiments for scientists back on Earth in its 20-year existence, covering everything from biotechnology and physical science to human research and educational activities.
“It’s been an extraordinary journey to watch over the last 20 years how this has all come together,” space biologist Anna-Lisa Paul of the University of Florida says in the video.
Another contributor, Eugene Boland of Indiana-based Techshot, says he thinks most people don’t realize the extent to which space research has impacted society.
Indeed, the more than 3,000 space-based experiments that have taken place so far have helped in the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as bone conditions such as osteoporosis, to name just a few successes.
With its eye on crewed missions to Mars and possibly beyond in the coming decades, the research has also included work on finding effective ways of growing food in microgravity conditions so that astronauts can provide for themselves during long voyages to places far from Earth.
The video includes plenty of praise for those living and working aboard the space station, too.
“Having the astronauts there to help us was a critical part of being able to do more complicated science, to get higher science yield out of the science that you were doing,” says Sharmila Bhattacharya, program scientist for space biology at NASA, adding, “They were incredible as people who could troubleshoot your experiment should you need anything.”
Those astronauts have included the likes of recent visitors Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who arrived on the first astronaut flight of the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, with future inhabitants currently being hired and trained by NASA.
You can find out more about the space station’s ongoing research and science work on NASA’s website.