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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 12:31 EDT
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Working in the Greenhouse
Cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko, Expedition 7 mission commander, works with the Russian Lada greenhouse in the Zvezda Service Module on the International Space Station (ISS). Malenchenko represents Rosaviakosmos.
Learn more below about the benefits derived from the International Space Station.

Space Station Benefits Now with a permanent human presence in space aboard the International Space Station, the practical benefits to mankind are almost infinite. Not only will there be new advances in space technology, but there will be a chance for all types of different scientific fields to have new theories tested and experiments completed in microgravity.

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Combustion science is a key element of many of modern society’s critical technologies. Electric power production, home heating, ground transportation, spacecraft and aircraft propulsion, and materials processing all use combustion to convert chemical energy to thermal energy or propulsive force. Although combustion, which accounts for approximately 85 percent of the world’s energy usage, is vital to humankind’s current way of life, it poses great challenges to maintaining a healthy environment. The testing of combustion aboard the International Space Station will help humans deal better with the problems of pollutants, atmospheric change and global warming, unwanted fires and explosions, and the incineration of hazardous wastes.

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Aboard the International Space Station the field of fundamental physics has a grand opportunity. Not only will the laws of quantum theory as they pertain to mapping of the relic of quantum gravity –gravitational waves generated from the Big Bang — be tested. But the areas of high powered physics will be able to develop new, more precise atomic clocks with the combination of a new laser cooling technology and microgravity.

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According to Astronaut Dan Bursch, “The National Institute of Health has said that protein crystal growth is the number one research tool that we’ll be using in the next century…” In a normal gravity environment, protein crystals grow imperfections and impurities, though aboard the orbiting laboratories of the International Space Station protein crystals can be grown to almost perfection. This will allow the development of more pure pharmaceutical drugs, foods and an assortment of other crystalline-based products including insulin for diabetes patients.

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The ability to understand the Earth and its environmental response to natural and human-induced variations such as air quality, climate, land use, food production as well as ocean and fresh water health are some of the benefits expected from Earth science research aboard the International Space Station. The astronauts onboard, their work and the instruments used will provide a “window on the world”, enabling scientists to monitor and understand the factors affecting quality of life.

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In the fundamental field of biology, the scientists of the International Space Station will assist in answering some very basic scientific questions in a different environment. For example, what is the role of gravity in the processes of biological evolution? Also, how does acute or chronic exposure to altered gravity and other space-related factors affect normal physiology, metabolism and function of mature organisms? These are just two of a multitude of possible theories and hypotheses in the fields of biological research that the astronauts and cosmonauts could help answer.

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Many of the new engineering technologies being developed on the International Space Station will lead to improved commercial space communication systems for personal phone, computer and video use. Also, they will lead to improvements to energy use efficiencies, air and water quality capabilities in private and commercial buildings, and to improvements in automated maintenance functions and new lower-cost building construction techniques. Advancements in space technology will significantly enhance the quality of life on Earth and will help make the utilization and exploration of space safer and more affordable.

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The space station research will bring knowledge and insight about the far reaches of space down to Earth. For instance, studies of the Sun’s effects on Earth will improve forecasts of events ranging from the temporary disruption of telecommunications to the long-term alterations in climate. The practical applications here on Earth gained from space science on the International Space Station will be invaluable. This unique venue offers the opportunity to pursue investigations into solar studies, cosmic rays, the physical and chemical composition of the space environment, as well as the presence of dark matter in the universe.