PiCLS Annual Lecture
Experiments to understanding how the space environment affects biological processes are almost as old as space exploration, with the first simple biology experiments being carried onboard sounding rockets in the late 1940's. While early experiments were focussed on assessing the risks for human spaceflight, by the late 1960's dedicated basic biology research studies started to be performed on both dedicated biosatellite missions and susbsequently on the first US (Skylab) and Russian (Salyut) space stations. However, one of the challenges of biology research in space was having a sufficiently controlled environment to perform experiments. When the Space Shuttle was developed Europe provided a dedicated laboratory module called Spacelab which was carried in the Shuttle payload bay. Experiments were performed in dedicated discipline specific racks in the module, which provided many of the generic facilities needed for experiments. For example the ESA Biorack facility provided a standard interface for experiments, an incubator, a 1.g reference centrifuge, glovebox and cold stowage and was used to perform over 80 experiments on 6 different Shuttle missions. The basic operating concept of dedicated research discipline racks and experiment specific equipment was continued when the International Space Station was developed & supports the current programme of research. A large number of experiments have been performed using these facilities along with associated ground based analogues, supporting research in the areas of cell biology, microbiology, plant biology and astrobiology. An overview of the key research findings will be presented.