Press Release

ISS National Laboratory to Host Event Focused on Plastics Alternatives Through Space-Based R&D

By SpaceRef Editor
March 21, 2022
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On Friday, March 25 at 1:00 p.m. ET, the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory will host a virtual event to discuss how the orbiting platform can facilitate and support plastics alternatives research and development. The event will include an all-female panel addressing advancements and opportunities in plastics alternatives, an exclusive interview with retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts, and finalist highlights from the ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics.

In 2021, the ISS National Lab debuted a Sustainability Challenge seeking novel plastics alternatives in partnership with leading global prestige beauty brand Estée Lauder. Researchers were invited to propose potential projects that could utilize the unique environment of the space station to investigate environmentally responsible biopolymers or plastics alternatives.

This virtual event will provide a forum to address how the microgravity environment of the orbiting laboratory can open pathways for research and development not possible in ground-based settings, leading to advancements that improve our planet. The event will feature an all-female panel of industry leaders and experts:

  • Ashley Strickland, Science and Space Writer, CNN (Moderator)
  • Christine Kretz, Vice President, Innovation Programs & Partnerships, ISS National Lab
  • Stefanie Spodek, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Estée Lauder
  • Erin McCluskey, Managing Director, Ocean Plastics Leadership Network
  • Karen Hagerman, Director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Directly following the panel, CNN’s Ashley Strickland will interview retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts, who spent more than 200 days in space. Virts will talk about life and work in space and will explain the impact of pushing the boundaries of research and innovation in low Earth orbit for the benefit of humankind. 

After these discussions, viewers will get to preview ISS National Laboratory Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics finalists that have been invited to submit full proposals for this funding opportunity. This inside look will provide the public with a better understanding of some of the ways investigators could utilize the space station to seek novel avenues for the development of plastics alternatives and environmentally responsible plastics. Prior to this virtual event, the public was also encouraged to go to the ISS National Lab’s YouTube channel to select their favorite pitch video from initial proposed concepts. At the conclusion of the event, one pitch will be selected from the votes and recognized as the “Viewers’ Choice Award” winner. 

Proposed Event Agenda:

  • 1:00 p.m. ET – Introduction and Welcome
  • 1:15-2:00 p.m. ET – Fireside Chat on the ISS and Sustainability
  • 2:00-2:30 p.m. ET – An Astronaut’s Perspective with Terry Virts
  • 2:30-2:45 p.m. ET – Viewers’ Choice Award and Closing

Registration is required to join this live event. To learn more and to register, please visit the Sustainability Challenge virtual event page.

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About the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory: The International Space Station (ISS) is a one-of-a-kind laboratory that enables research and technology development not possible on Earth. As a public service enterprise, the ISS National Lab allows researchers to leverage this multiuser facility to improve life on Earth, mature space-based business models, advance science literacy in the future workforce, and expand a sustainable and scalable market in low Earth orbit. Through this orbiting national laboratory, research resources on the ISS are available to support non-NASA science, technology and education initiatives from U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS) manages the ISS National Lab, under Cooperative Agreement with NASA, facilitating access to its permanent microgravity research environment, a powerful vantage point in low Earth orbit, and the extreme and varied conditions of space. To learn more about the ISS National Lab, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.