As published in Toledo Business Journal - November 1, 2018

Photo of an astronaut

Space Station offers R&D for area firms

Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson to speak at St. Francis’ GSLS event

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organization that manages the International Space Station (ISS), has set up a flexible partnership model that allows organizations to leverage the unique attributes of the ISS that are most relevant to its mission in terms of research and development (R&D). According to CASIS, these include research competitions; investment opportunities; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs; and commercial services opportunities, and all types of organizations can now join in the business of space through the pathways made possible by the ISS National Laboratory.

According to CASIS, the ISS National Lab supports non-exploration research initiatives across various disciplines and sectors. The major areas of R&D include life sciences, physical sciences, remote sensing, technology development, and education. Corporations in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan can conduct R&D work on the space station.

In an interview with Toledo Business Journal, Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson, chairman of the board of directors, CASIS, said, “It was really created by Congress and the intent was to offer a greater flexibility to the whole concept of bringing researchers to the Space Station from various industries. We have some unique things that Congress put together as an incentive to increase that kind of research, and that’s a very meaningful thing because space-wide research is not inexpensive. Our job is to go out and to find research that’s meaningful to people on earth and we encourage people to find what it is like to try to do research in microgravity or weightlessness.”

Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson, chairman of the board of directors, CASIS (left) and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams conducting research in space (right)

Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson, chairman of the board of directors, CASIS (left) and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams conducting research in space (right)

Toledo Event

Abrahamson is scheduled to be a keynote speaker at the St. Francis De Sales 2018 Global Salesian Leadership Symposium (GSLS) on November 7. According to St. Francis, the goal is to ensure Salesian leadership development programs and initiatives are embraced across its network schools and beyond, to maximize its impact, and to inspire its future leaders.

“Leadership is a skill that everyone needs to develop whether or not we ever hold a formal leadership role. Opportunities like the Global Salesian Leadership Symposium allow leadership to become more relevant to our students and the community as we provide access and proximity to world-class thought leaders in diverse areas of innovation and industry,” stated Father Geoff Rose, chairman of the GSLS and president of St. Francis.

Other speakers and panelists include Dr. John Horacek from The Ohio State University, Marcy Kaptur of the US House of Representatives, Dr. Jack Hayes, and David Tressler, Esq., part of the senior counsel of Waymo.

The ISS National Lab is a functioning research lab with the tools and facilities needed to translate traditional ground-based experiments into flight-ready payloads, noted CASIS. The opportunity to investigate how gravity and extreme environment influence observations and its effect can help understand basic phenomena and advance commercial pursuits, according to the organization.

Specific features of the space environment include, according to CASIS:

“For example, in biological and medical areas including stem cell research, stem cells as a group act differently in zero gravity than they do in a laboratory on earth so you can learn different things. And it’s a wide variety of things we can research, such as industrial things, processes – there’s one group that is working on a new kind of printer – and we are the research enabler for all of that,” said Abrahamson.

Other examples that Abrahamson noted include human health, biosciences and biotechnology, energy and biofuels, physical and materials science, engineering research and technology, and earth and space imaging for observations.

“One of the companies that really wanted our photographs and imaging was McDonald’s. Now, you may wonder ‘Why would McDonald’s want to do research with pictures from space?’ It’s because they had a history and they could watch how an area would be growing. They could see which roads were coming in and they could predict growth areas around the city or even in a small town. By predicting those growth areas, they could make decisions on whether they wanted to franchise more McDonald’s locations. So there are a lot of benefits, a lot of different options, some more indirect things you can study, and again, really different things between the types of research and industries,” said Abrahamson.


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