The International Space Station (ISS) was launched 15 years ago. Since then over 1700 experiments have been conducted. Scientists on board the space station interact with their earthbound colleagues every day to use their unique space lab to maximum effect.
A lot of the research done in the lab benefits not only NASA and other space agencies, but has direct uses here on earth. Here are the top 7 coolest things that were invented as a consequence of research conducted on the ISS:
1. Thanks to the scientists we know a lot more about about basic stuff that happens on earth every day. This includes combustion, the behavior of fluids, and many other natural processes that can be better researched in space.
2. The ISS has empowered entrepreneurs like Elon Musk to go to space. Building a company like Space X, would not be possible without the ISS. The need for supplies on a permanent space station has opened up a race to get the job done a cheaply and efficiently as possible thereby giving a proverbial boost to market-based space exploration.
3. Water purification. On a space station clean water is hard to come by. This means that the water carried up has to be reused several times. The exact same technique to clean the precious commodity that was developed for the ISS is now being used here on earth.
4. Protein crystal growth. This involves delicate crystals that grow a lot faster in space. Japanese scientists have figured out how to use this effect for medical purposes and the first drugs that were made possible by ISS research are now in the process of being licensed.
5. Eye movement trackers developed for astronauts are now being used by surgeons all around the world.
6. Robotic arms. Technology developed for the ISS now makes it possible to operate on brain tumors while the patient is still inside an MRI. This makes it possible to tackle tumors in parts of the brain that were previously of limits to doctors.
7. Monitoring water quality from space. The ISS uses hyper-spectral imagers to determine whether water is safe to drink, or to swim in, from space.