At a Glance
- In FY21, ISS National Lab representatives participated in more than 75 virtual speaking engagements to highlight valuable R&D done on station and raise awareness of research opportunities available through the orbiting laboratory.
- The 10th annual ISSRDC was held virtually this year, bringing together researchers, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and the public to discuss the benefits of space-based R&D on the ISS.
- ISS National Lab-sponsored research was highlighted by several high-visibility media outlets, including CNN, Scientific American, USA Today, Fortune, CNBC, and The Today Show.
- Targeted outreach efforts resulted in strong responses to FY21 ISS National Lab solicitations, with a record-breaking number of proposals received this year.
In FY21, the ISS National Lab continued to evolve digital-friendly ways to engage with researchers, stakeholders, and the general public amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Insight gained in 2020 on how to conduct virtual outreach initiatives led to several impactful engagements this year that served to further our mission priorities and objectives. Additionally, virtual opportunities allowed the ISS National Lab to collaborate with NASA in new ways to communicate the critical research being done on station and the ISS capabilities available to investigators. Moreover, increased cooperation between the ISS National Lab and NASA led to several media engagements, many of which included astronauts who helped execute research on station, garnering national and worldwide coverage.
In FY21, CASIS commemorated the 10-year anniversary of its creation with a retrospective article looking back on a decade of managing the ISS National Lab. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, amplified the article through their channels, further streamlining NASA and ISS National Lab communications efforts. Additionally, the ISS National Lab celebrated the five-year anniversary of Upward magazine in FY21. Over the years, in-depth Upward features have showcased both the breadth of R&D enabled by the ISS National Lab and how the results of this valuable research have impacted on life on Earth.
2021 ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) and Additional Events and Outreach
This year marked the 10th annual ISSRDC, held virtually due to continuing safety concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. In working with a vendor that specializes in virtual engagements, the ISS National Lab provided viewers with an enhanced virtual conference experience. The theme of ISSRDC this year was “Challenge. Partnership. Transformation.” The three-day virtual conference, which generated nearly 3,000 registrations, featured sessions with luminary science figures, NASA astronauts, ISS researchers, space investors, Implementation Partners, and other notable leaders and innovators.
ISSRDC 2021 kicked off with a welcome address by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, followed by a keynote session with NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and NASA astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins. The two talked about the benefits of conducting biomedical research on the space station and the NIH-funded Tissue Chips in Space investigations that Rubins worked on during her time onboard the ISS. The conference also featured NASA’s Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen and the Smithsonian Institute’s Ellen Stofan, who discussed the value of space-based R&D and the importance of communicating that science to the general public. On the final day of the conference, the focus shifted to STEM education. Emmy-nominated television host Emily Calandrelli and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor joined young female researchers for a conversation about the power of leveraging the ISS for education initiatives. During the panel session, the group discussed diversity in STEM, the future of STEM education, and additional transformation that is needed.
Over the course of the fiscal year, ISS National Lab representatives participated in more than 75 virtual speaking engagements to highlight impactful ISS National Lab-sponsored R&D and increase awareness of research opportunities available through the orbiting laboratory. Examples of key events and outreach include the following:
- NASA and the ISS National Lab held two virtual Destination Station outreach events. Traditionally, Destination Station has been a valuable tool for driving demand and interest among targeted companies to utilize the space station to advance their R&D objectives. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual platforms were used this year to engage a more general audience, providing meaningful information on ISS research capabilities and funding opportunities. One of this year’s Destination Station events focused heavily on reaching educators and students to communicate the many STEM education resources available through the ISS National Lab and NASA.
- The ISS National Lab pitched, secured, and coordinated a panel session at the Consumer Electronics Show, the largest technology gathering in the world, which was held virtually this year. The all-female panel, moderated by CNN’s Rachel Crane, included NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, along with representatives from Commercial Services Provider Space Tango and Fortune 500 company Lockheed Martin.
- The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics ASCEND conference featured several panels with ISS National Lab representatives. In a session on ISS National Lab partnership opportunities, Estée Lauder announced the company’s plans to partner with the ISS National Lab on a Sustainability Challenge addressing the plastics dilemma, expected to launch in early FY22.
- The ISS National Lab hosted a panel at the World Stem Cell Summit, which has been a valuable avenue to reach potential investigators in the area of regenerative medicine. The session, held virtually, discussed health, aging, and human survival research on the orbiting laboratory and the impact of such research on the development of therapeutics for patients on Earth.
- The ISS National Lab also hosted two sessions of Women Defying Gravity, a virtual space industry women’s networking event. One session featured guest speaker Ellen Stofan, under secretary for science and research at the Smithsonian Institution, and the other featured Hanna Steplewska, founder and CEO of Eva Strategies.
Targeted Outreach and High-Visibility Media Coverage
Over the course of FY21, the ISS National Lab tailored its press releases to include more in-depth storytelling of specific research projects as they launched and were carried out on station. This robust content provided potential investigators, our stakeholders, and the public with impactful stories highlighting the value of ISS National Lab-sponsored R&D. Greater emphasis was placed on targeting specific research audiences to bring enhanced visibility to ISS National Lab strategic areas of focus. Also, in FY21, with the release of multiple NLRAs, outreach efforts focused on developing relationships with societies and associations that could disseminate information on these valuable opportunities to their communities. This resulted in a strong response to ISS National Lab research solicitations this year, with a record-setting 185 proposals received.
In FY21, high-profile media coverage brought visibility to the many ways in which the ISS National Lab is be leveraged to advance research, technology development, and educational outreach. Examples include the following:
- Consumer goods company Procter & Gamble made big waves when the company announced its plan to launch Tide to the space station under sponsorship of the ISS National Lab. The announcement coincided with the company’s Space Act Agreement with NASA. The resulting visibility drew worldwide coverage from outlets including The Today Show, USA Today, Ad Age, CNBC, Fortune, and others.
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise put forth robust marketing and communications on the launch of its Spaceborne Computer-2 to the ISS. A feature article from Microsoft highlighted the power of SBC-2 to provide in-space data processing, enabling quicker results and the potential for iteration of experiments on station.
- Colgate-Palmolive’s public awareness campaign on the company’s oral care investigation that launched this year drew a lot of attention. Colgate-Palmolive plans to launch a second investigation in FY22, providing additional opportunities to highlight this collaboration.
- A student-led Genes in Space investigation grabbed headlines when results were published in the peer reviewed journal PLOS ONE. NASA astronaut Christina Koch (who worked on the investigation on station) engaged in media opportunities to discuss both the exciting science as well as the educational opportunities provided through the Genes in Space program. This led to an article from CNN’s Ashley Strickland emphasizing the importance of student research on the ISS.
- CNN also covered an event facilitated by CASIS that brought together Emory University researchers and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir to discuss the Emory team’s heart stem cell investigation.
- Scientific American published a comprehensive feature on a first-of-its kind ISS microbial survey that “swabbed” multiple locations within the ISS to understand the distribution of microbes and their metabolites (chemicals produced by bacterial growth). A Boeing-funded microbial investigation was also cited in the Scientific American piece and featured in a United Press International (UPI) story.