Press Release

The National Laboratory That Soars Above

By SpaceRef Editor
May 14, 2010
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The National Laboratory That Soars Above

As America celebrates National Lab Day on May 12, astronauts are helping scientists expand and execute research on the only National Laboratory in microgravity — the International Space Station.

As the nation’s newest national laboratory, the station will further strengthen relationships among NASA, other federal entities and private-sector leaders in the pursuit of national priorities for the advancement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

For years, NASA has helped connect students and astronauts in orbit through interactive events and video downlinks. The station’s National Laboratory education activities are opening new paths for student exploration, and using the station’s resources to inspire, engage and educate students and teachers. A number of programs are providing access for students already:

  • The InSPIRE (ISS SPHERES Integrated Research Experiments) Program includes a grand challenge competition where high school students design software to control the on orbit SPHERES hardware, which looks at improving automatic spacecraft docking technology. The Pathfinder ZERO Robotics competition ran in December 2009 with 2 schools successfully executing SPHERES control software on the station. SPHERES is a NASA/Massachusetts Institute of Technology partnership.
  • The Commercial Generic Bio-processing Apparatus (CGBA) Science Inserts (CSI) project includes a kit in which plants, spiders, and caterpillars/butterfly experiments have flown from 2006 through 2009. This activity is a partnership with CGBA payload developer Bioserve. Educational materials that enable students to conduct ground based control groups following flight experiment studies are available though Orion’s Quest educational non-profit organization. Website:
  • The Kids in Micro-g! Challenge is a nation-wide competition for grades 5-8 students to design microgravity experiments or demonstrations. Selected winners’ experiments will be tried on the station through the latter half of the 2009/2010 academic school year.
  • The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project helps connect students in elementary, middle and high schools, and universities with astronauts in space using a worldwide network of amateur radio satellite ground stations. ARISSat is a deployable payload developed in partnership with the Radio Amateur Satellite Corp. (AMSAT) that will carry university level experiments with data transmission via amateur radio downlink.
  • The High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) project lets students in middle and high schools get hands-on experience designing and building flight and training hardware for the station in 8 states in at least 31 schools. In addition, HUNCH students also are editing videos for NASA use.
  • Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM) is an educational outreach program that allows middle school students to take pictures of Earth from a digital camera on board the International Space Station. The images are used to support student research projects in their classrooms.
  • The Education Payload Operations project allows demonstration items to be flown to the station for astronauts to use while conducting microgravity demonstrations for K-12 students and educators.
  • Microsoft Bliink is a collaboration between NASA and Microsoft on education competitions. The initial agreement is for the Bliink competition targeted for Texas high school students to design web pages addressing station-related subjects.

The station is becoming a novel resource for education, strengthening the future workforces of NASA and the nation, attracting and retaining students in core disciplines and engaging Americans in NASA’s mission. Experience has shown that NASA’s compelling mission inspires the next generation in a unique and powerful way, and the station is an invaluable educational investment.

For more information about NASA’s National Lab activities, visit:

For more information about National Lab Day, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.