national labs

Five Ways the International Space Station’s National Lab Enables Commercial Research

A growing number of commercial partners use the International Space Station National Lab. With that growth, we will see more discoveries in fundamental and applied research that could improve life on the ground.

Space Station astronaut Kate Rubins was the first person to sequence DNA in microgravity.

Since 2011, when we engaged the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the International Space Station (ISS) National Lab, CASIS has partnered with academic researchers, other government organizations, startups and major commercial companies to take advantage of the unique microgravity lab. Today, more than 50 percent of CASIS’ experiments on the station represent commercial research.

Here’s a look at five ways the ISS National Lab is enabling new opportunities for commercial research in space.

1. Supporting Commercial Life Sciences Research

One of the main areas of focus for us in the early origins of the space station program was life sciences, and it is still a major priority today. Studying the effects of microgravity on astronauts provides insight into human physiology, and how it evolves or erodes in space. CASIS took this knowledge and began robust outreach to the pharmaceutical community, which could now take advantage of the microgravity environment on the ISS National Lab to develop and enhance therapies for patients on Earth. Companies such as Merck, Eli Lilly & Company, and Novartis have sent several experiments to the station, including investigations aimed at studying diseases such as osteoporosis, and examining ways to enhance drug tablets for increased potency to help patients on Earth. These companies are trailblazers for many other life science companies that are looking at how the ISS National Lab can advance their research efforts.

2. Enabling Commercial Investigations in Material and Physical Sciences

Over the past few years, CASIS and the ISS National Lab also have seen a major push toward material and physical sciences research by companies interested in enhancing their products for consumers. Examples range from Proctor and Gamble’s investigation aimed at increasing the longevity of daily household products, to Milliken’s flame-retardant textile investigation to improve protective clothing for individuals in harm’s way, and companies looking to enhance materials for household appliances. Additionally, CASIS has been working with a variety of companies to improve remote sensing capabilities in order to better monitor our oceans, predict harmful algal blooms, and ultimately, to better understand our planet from a vantage point roughly 250 miles above Earth.

3. Supporting Startup Companies Interested in Microgravity Research 

CASIS has funded a variety of investigations with small startup companies (in particular through seed funding and grant funding from partnerships and funded solicitations) to leverage the ISS National Lab for both research and test-validation model experiments. CASIS and The Boeing Company recently partnered with MassChallenge, the largest startup accelerator in the world, to fund three startup companies to conduct microgravity research.

4. Enabling Validation of Low-Earth Orbit Business Models 

The ISS National Lab helps validate low-Earth orbit business models. Companies such as NanoRacks, Space Tango, Made In Space, Techshot, and Controlled Dynamics either have been funded by CASIS or have sent instruments to the ISS National Lab that the research community can use, and that open new channels for inquiry. This has allowed the companies that operate these facilities to validate their business models, while also building for the future beyond station.

5. Demonstrating the Commercial Value of Space-based Research

We have been a key partner in working with CASIS to demonstrate to American businesses the value of conducting research in space. Through outreach events such as our Destination Station, where representatives from the International Space Station Program Science Office and CASIS select cities with several major companies and meet with the companies to discuss how they could benefit from space-based research. Over the past few years, this outreach has proven to be a terrific example of building awareness on the benefits of microgravity research.

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World War I: Now in HD

It is almost eerie to watch the silent black-and-white footage, panning over the rubble remaining from small villages of France and Belgium, seeing cannons fire, and watching a zeppelin drop bombs on London rooftops, all without a sound. These are just some of the haunting images captured on the reels of recently digitized footage of World War I.

The National Archives houses the largest repository of World War I documents in the United States, and it encompasses not just paper records but also still pictures, microfilm, and motion pictures related to the conflict.

Many of us undoubtedly associate the harrowing feats of the World War II with footage of the action we’ve seen in 1940s-era films and documentaries, but most people do not associate World War I with moving pictures.

One may be surprised to learn, however, that we hold more than 1,600 reels of documentary film regarding World War I.  Now more than 75 years since the footage arrived here, staff in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab are working hard to preserve and digitize the moving pictures.

Once the footage is properly mended, it will be scanned in high definition and made available on the National Archives’ YouTube channel, where the public will be free to access it.

It has been more than 100 years now since the United States entered World War I in April 1917. We have come quite a way technologically from a time in which horses were used for warfare and films did not yet capture sound. Now anyone can view the American infantry training grounds at Camp Meade or the trenches of France on their smartphone from half a world away in just a few seconds.

Read more about the preservation efforts underway at World War I: Now in HD | Pieces of History


Uncover more World War I Centennial Resources at the National Archives

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Planning America’s Best Idea: Master Plans for National Parks

On the 101st anniversary of the National Park Service, explore this collection of vintage Master Plans of Parks and Monuments from the @usnatarchives Cartographic Branch:


On August 25, 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Organics Act, creating the National Park Service (NPS), a new federal bureau responsible for protecting the existing 35 national parks and monuments. In 1933, the National Park Service greatly expanded when all parks, monuments, and historical areas overseen by the government were transferred to the National Park Service’s administration. Today, over 400 diverse units make up America’s National Parks, protecting areas of scenic, natural, historical, and cultural significance.

During the 1930s, a series of acts and executives orders expanded the reach of the National Park Service and  planning began to develop many of these national park areas. The NPS’s Branch of Plans and Design began creating master plans that showed proposed developments of areas of the parks. These master plans included both a textual descriptive statement and a set of maps and drawings showing the proposed developments.

The Cartographic Branch holds most of the National Park Service Master Plans within a series called Master Plans of Parks and Monuments, 1931 – 1941 (NAID 591991). They are part of  Record Group (RG) 79, Records of the National Park Service. Plans exist for some of the most popular national parks that had been created by the 1930s, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Great Smokey Mountains, and Shenandoah. Plans also exist for many notable historical parks, including Civil War battlefields like Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Vicksburg, and Antietam, along with other historical sites like Fort McHenry, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace, and Colonial National Historical Park. Many smaller and lesser known parks also have plans within this series. Plans also exist for parks that have since changed names or become parts of other national parks.

Master Plan sets typically consist of a decorative cover, an index, and various plans relating to the existing and proposed developments within a park. The covers are often very artistic, featuring drawings and photographs that are often hand colored.

While the covers are often the visual highlight of the plans, the sets of plans also contain valuable information about the development of our national parks. The plans include both existing developments and proposed roads, trails, and facilities. Most plan sets include maps showing roads and parking areas designed to allow visitors to easily access points of interest by car. The plan sets also typically include maps showing hiking or walking trails, which are common elements in both natural and historical parks.

We invite you to take a closer look at RG 79, Records of the National Park Service. Cartographic not only holds the Master Plans, but also many other maps and architectural plans relating to the National Capital Region Parks and other records relating to the development of America’s National Parks. Other special media branches also hold records on the National Park Service. You never know what you might discover!

Read more via Planning America’s Best Idea: Master Plans for National Parks | The Unwritten Record

More posts from last year’s 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.

It’s #TypewriterDay!

Excerpted from:  We Are All Artists, 1936
Series: Motion Picture Films on Community and Family Life, Education, Religious Beliefs, and the Art and Culture of Minority and Ethnic Groups, ca. 1930 - ca. 1953Collection: Harmon Foundation Collection, 1922 - 1967

Part of the Harmon Foundation Collection, the 1936 film “We Are All Artists”  illustrates the improvements in early 20th century design through use of classic artistic composition theory and a movement away from the cluttered design of the late 19th century.  Read more about the film and the Harmon Foundation Collection at:  Harmon Foundation Film “We Are All Artists” | The Unwritten Record

1,400 Miles in Three Weeks

We received word this spring from the National Banding Lab that a young male ruby-throated hummingbird banded at Powdermill Nature Reserve on September 18, 2014 was recaptured three weeks later (October 10) in Lake Jackson, Texas. 

A journey of 1,425 miles in three weeks is pretty astounding when one considers that this male weighed in at just 3.5 grams, not much more than a penny. His wings measured 42 mm (a little over 1.5").

The hummingbird’s wing beat has been measured at 50 times per second. Now we’re not sure exactly when he left our banding area or if he was caught the day he arrived in Texas, but if he used every day in the interval to fly south, he would have averaged 65 miles per day. Pretty impressive! 

Once the data was collected in Texas, the bird was released and probably spent a few days fattening up for the next leg of its migration—a nonstop crossing of the Gulf of Mexico!


Powdermill Nature Reserve’s avian research center is part of Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s biological research station in Rector, Pennsylvania.  The research center operates a bird banding station, conducts bioacoustical research, and performs flight tunnel analysis with the goal of reducing window collisions. 

Seeing a supernovae within hours of the explosion

For the first time ever, scientists have gathered direct evidence of a rare Wolf-Rayet star being linked to a specific type of stellar explosion known as a Type IIb supernova. Peter Nugent of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says they caught this star – a whopping 360 million light years away – just a few hours after it exploded.

Hear more about this discovery →

Heard back on the final draft of my next paper from the one coauthor I was most concerned about (a very big name in the pure-research world; he missed my talk at the last conference, so this was all new material for him), but he replied and said that so far he had zero objections to my submitting it as-is, and then included several paragraphs about how valuable this work will be to tornado forecasting and nowcasting efforts in an immediate, operational setting, and ended with “This work strikes me as a very positive example of academic and operational collaboration, and we’re grateful to be included in the process!”

I am so happy about this, because that’s always been my goal–I’ve discovered that, while I love theoretical research in a lot of areas, when it comes to tornado stuff my margin of patience for all things hypothetical is just razor-thin because I always feel like this stuff needs to get applied and out there to the public yesterday, there’s always that urgency. And this guy works in a very important national lab (…which, I find out in three days whether my application to work there for a year as a postdoc made it through the review process), and he’s the boots-on-the-ground getting-this-to-the-public-quickly guy. He’s got concrete ideas about how to apply this in a way that are basically word-for-word the “Exhibit A” AI I was toying around with a couple years ago, so we’re gonna be playing with that once I have a little time to breath (two more papers and a dissertation to write in… like two months, it’s cool).

Because I’m the first author and my adviser stepped back and let me take care of all the authorship negotiations on it, these really feel like my contacts, and it’s reassuring to know that no matter where I end up, these are people who are excited about my research and want to keep working with me.