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Policy

More Physical Science Needed At NASA

by Susan R. Morrissey
July 19, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 29

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Credit: NASA
ISS is gearing up to increase research activities.
8829gcon_ISScxd.jpg
Credit: NASA
ISS is gearing up to increase research activities.

NASA must elevate its support of life and physical sciences research within its programs and on the International Space Station, concludes an interim report by the National Research Council. The timing of this document is intended to aid NASA as it reorganizes its life and physical sciences microgravity programs and determines research plans for ISS, which is set to get a four-year operating extension to 2020 under the President’s new human space exploration plan (C&EN, Feb. 8, page 9). With respect to NASA’s ground-based research, the NRC report identifies several critical needs for a “successful renewed research endeavor in life and physical sciences,” including elevating the priority of research in its space exploration agenda and developing a comprehensive database that is accessible to the science community. As for ISS activities, the interim report recommends five general focus areas, including physical science research to enable human and robotic missions and to explore fundamental laws of the universe and basic physical phenomena in microgravity. The findings are part of a NASA-requested decadal survey of its life and physical sciences activities in microgravity. The final report is expected in 2011.

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