Experts in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics and
general science proclaimed yesterday that the International Space Station moves to the "head of the class" compared to the Spacelab and Mir programs.
    "Research opportunities in the biomedical field during those past space programs have been very limited," said Dr. J. Milburn Jessup, Professor of Surgery, University of Texas Heath Science Center.  "The International Space Station will offer scientists a lab that could provide an opportunity to study and gain better
understanding of bone and muscle loss, balance disorders, and cell and tissue reproduction," he said.
    "We found in two short shuttle flights that fewer cells cultured in space died than similar cells cultured on the ground. This in essence could improve the process of understanding death of the human body," said Jessup.
    Jessup was one of five researchers participating in the first in a series of International Space Station media forums NASA will hold as the Agency and its international partners move into high gear for construction and research on the infant space platform.  The forum was held hours prior to the successful docking of
Russia’s Zvezda module.
    According to the panelists, the International Space Station will provide scientists with continual access and long-term
exposure in space, coupled with state-of-the art equipment
— a combination, they agreed, that could provide untold multiple benefits to humankind.
    "The Hubble Space Telescope is to astrophysicists as the International Space Station will be to other researchers — a
working science laboratory in space," said Dr. Julie Swain, acting NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Life and Microgravity
Science and Applications, Washington, DC, and Professor of
Cardiovascular Surgery, University of Kentucky.
    "The Mir and Spacelab programs provided only a glimpse. The International Space Station offers the opportunity to conduct
research 24 hours a day, 365 days a year," said Dr. Mary Musgrave, Associate Dean, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Professor of Biology, University of Massachusetts.
    Dr. Ron Sega, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied
Science, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and a former astronaut, noted that the International Space Station is also a research tool for engineering. "Knowledge obtained from this station will help us build the next generation of satellites,
which may lead to further commercial applications of space.
    "International Space Station engineering research will certainly enhance technology development outside the space
station," he said.
    Dr. Kathryn Clark, Senior Scientist for the International
Space Station, noted that research of this magnitude does not
happen overnight.  However, the International Space Station will be a vital platform for providing greater insight into
understanding the human body, exploring the universe, studying the Earth and atmospheric changes, and improving the overall quality of life on Earth.
    "The International Space Station is the essential test-bed in which questions in these areas may be answered," Clark said.
    The International Space Station is the largest and most
complex international project in history.  Led by the United
States, the project draws upon the scientific and technological resources of 16 nations.