Industry Leaders Explain How The ISS Makes Life Better on Earth

Three experts discussed how research onboard the ISS impacts life on earth.
Jessica Miley
The ISS is a critical laboratory for developing new technologies that have the potential to seriously impact life on EarthDepositphotos

The Consumer Electronics Show presented its open panel on ‘Exploring Technology and Advanced Materials Innovation in Space’ today. Hosted by Jeremy Wilks, Correspondent Euronews, the panel explained how some of the worlds most recognizable companies in the world are leveraging the International Space Station to enhance their technological endeavors. 

The panel was comprised of Dr. Mark Fernandez, Americas HPC Technology Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Andrew Rush, President, and CEO, Made In Space Inc. Liz Warren, Associate Program Scientist, International Space Station U.S National Laboratory The International Space Station or ISS is a habitable satellite in low earth orbit. 

National Laboratory is available for business and academia

It was launched in 1998 and has been inhabited continuously since 2000. It is expected to operate until 2030.

The ISS serves primarily as a laboratory for crew members to conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.

Industry Leaders Explain How The ISS Makes Life Better on Earth
Source: CES

It circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day. The ISS is a collaboration between the United States space agency, NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos, Japan's JAXA, the European Space Agency known as ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency, CSA. 

Microgravity environment opens possibilities for manufacturing

Liz Warren started the discussion explaining how the ISS is the perfect environment for disruptive Research and Development. It provides a unique microgravity environment as well as an incredible advantage point to study the Earth. 

Warren went on to explain that the major technological achievement of the ISS is simply building and operating the spacecraft itself. She went on to say the ISS is also an incredible international relations example, that requires many countries to overlook borders and politics to do something for all mankind. 

The United States part of the ISS is known as the ‘national lab’, this lab is available to small and large business and academia for use. One of those business taking advantage of the national lab is Made in Space. 

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Made in Space wants to colonize the solar system

Made in Space is an in-space manufacturing company. The companies CEO, Andrew Rush, explains the company's core values revolve around getting people sustainable living and working in space. 

Simply put they are proponents of colonizing space. Rush says this colonization hasn’t happened yet, not because we can’t overcome the technological challenges, but because we don’t have an economic motivator. Rush says there are lots of opportunity for manufacturing in space that has economic possibilities. 

One such example is the manufacturing of high-quality optic fiber. NASA has done over twenty years of research on how to best produce fiber optics and they have found the low-gravity environment of space is perfect.

Made in Space is now working time the National Laboratory and NASA to make a fully operational manufacturing facility in the ISS. 

Supercomputer proves itself in a high-stress environment

One thing all scientific research needs is computational power. Dr. Mark Fernandez, Americas HPC Technology Officer explained how he managed to put a supercomputer in space and what that means. Fernandez spoke about the challenges in getting an off the shelf commercial supercomputer into space and operating.

He explains that NASA has a saying, ‘we need to know before we go’ his project tests supercomputers under the high-stress environment of space to ensure that when missions head off to Mars and the Moon they can safely know that their equipment will stack up. 

The panelists discussed the challenges of working in space and working within the parameters of government agencies.

Rush explained that the lifetime of the ISS is obviously finite but no matter how much longer it lasts it has already created an enduring legacy on ‘two flavors’. The first is that it is the most magnificent machine that humankind has ever built. 

It also has a legacy of being a sustainable commercial entity. This is a recent development and is already changing space exploration generally. In the last decade space exploration and aspiration has radically changed and for the first time in history commercial entities are influencing and assisting government agencies.

This collaboration will continue into the future as the cost of space travel diminishes the opportunity for small business will grow. The panel ended with a series of thoughtful questions from the audiences who were concerned with issues of the environment, sustainability, and ethics.

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