Day 1 of the 2023 International Space Station Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) kicked off in Seattle yesterday morning with the theme “Innovation in the New Space Age: Accelerating Commercialization and Science in Space Through 2030.”
The morning began with a welcome address from Ray Lugo, CEO of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, Inc. (CASIS), manager of the ISS National Laboratory; Dana Weigel, NASA’s ISS Program Deputy Manager; John Mulholland, Boeing VP and program manager for the ISS; and Megan McArthur, NASA astronaut, scientist, and explorer.
In the day’s first keynote address, Michael Roberts, chief scientific officer for the ISS National Lab, announced the upcoming Igniting Innovation ISS National Lab Research Announcement (NLRA) in collaboration with NASA’s Biological and Physical Science Division. The solicitation seeks experiment series focused on the cure of human diseases on Earth, such as cancer. “This is a different sort of NLRA than we’ve had in the past,” Roberts said. “This one affords the community the opportunity to identify multiple flight experiments to reach an end state to help accelerate the pace of discovery and innovation here on Earth.”
Yesterday’s technical sessions ranged from talks about ISS experiments aimed at improving human health to presentations on in-space production applications, physical science studies, and technology development. During the Human Health in Space technical session, Nicola Di Trani with Houston Methodist Research Institute discussed his team’s research to develop a remotely controlled drug delivery implant.
In her luncheon keynote, scientist and science communicator Ainissa Ramirez discussed the importance of using storytelling to engage the public, including “science phobics” and “science fans” alike, in innovations happening on the ISS.
Katy Martin, outreach and communications lead for miniPCR bio, gave a Lightning Talk about stimulating workforce development in the space industry through creative STEM education programs like Genes in Space. “To say that Genes in Space is a team effort is a massive understatement,” she said, emphasizing government, higher education, and commercial partnerships.
A panel on the future of R&D in low Earth orbit (LEO) discussed national strategy and policy objectives to successfully transition from the ISS to commercial LEO destination platforms of the future. Robin Gatens, NASA’s director of the ISS, talked about the agency’s involvement in the strategic planning. “How do we keep this work going and the momentum created by the ISS National Lab? How do we provide continuity for our research community, because that’s critically important during this transition. We want to get all we can out of this incredible space station platform through the decade, and it’s exciting to be here and see all the results from the research, but we also want you to know that we’re working hard to plan for that future.”
In a Lightning Talk, Ken Savin, chief scientific officer for Redwire Space, compared commercial space to the Gold Rush that transformed California in the 1850s. During the Gold Rush, entrepreneurs made money digging for gold, selling tools to dig, and providing transportation to move people, gold, and money. “Space will be like the Gold Rush,” he said. “What the ISS affords us is the chance to find the gold.”
Day 2 of the conference is packed with more exciting sessions, including a keynote address from Christie Canaria, interagency policy specialist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Lightning Talks from innovative companies Vast and Leidos; and a Fireside Chat with Alessandro Grattoni of the Houston Methodist Research Institute and Maurizio Reggiani from Automobili Lamborghini. Learn more at www.issconference.org, and stay tuned for more highlights from ISSRDC 2023!