On Wednesday, February 3, representatives from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will have the opportunity to talk with NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover via a live downlink with the International Space Station (ISS). Over the years, NSF has partnered with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to provide millions of dollars in funding to support fundamental research through the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. In fact, Rubins and Glover recently worked on multiple NSF-funded investigations on the ISS as members of the Expedition 63 crew.
During the downlink, Rubins, Glover, and NSF representatives will discuss the value of leveraging the persistent microgravity environment of the ISS to advance scientific discovery for the benefit of Earth. In total, NSF has contributed more than $11 million in funding to support projects awarded through joint solicitations with CASIS.
NSF and CASIS have partnered on six yearly solicitations in the physical sciences area of transport phenomena, with the first joint solicitation focused on fluid dynamics announced in December 2015. In 2017, CASIS and NSF expanded their partnership to also include investigations in the biomedical area of tissue engineering and have since released four joint solicitations in this area. Together, the transport phenomena and tissue engineering solicitations have resulted in the award of 27 NSF peer-reviewed projects. Several of these transport phenomena projects have already flown to the ISS, and the first NSF-funded tissue engineering project is scheduled to launch later this year.
During their time on the ISS, Rubins and Glover recently worked on two NSF-funded investigations. One experiment, from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, aims to address fundamental and technological questions in the science of colloids, suspensions, and slurries to better understand the equilibrium and dynamics of various materials used in additive manufacturing. Knowledge gained could help advance in-orbit additive manufacturing capabilities and lead to the fabrication of new functional materials. The other investigation, from researchers at Cornell University, is leveraging microgravity to study the motion of liquid drops across a solid surface to gain a better understanding of inertial spreading, which has applications in manufacturing, agricultural, medical, and other industrial processes.
A third NSF-funded project will also be taking place during Rubins’ and Glover’s stay on the ISS. This investigation, from a research team at the University of Maryland College Park, seeks to understand the physics of cool diffusion flames by observing spherical flames on porous burners in microgravity. An improved understanding of combustion processes incorporating cool flame propagation could help improve combustion engine efficiency and reduce emissions on Earth.
We invite you to watch the live downlink on Wednesday to hear Rubins, Glover, and NSF discuss the unique factors of the space-based environment that enable valuable research that benefits Earth.