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Assembling a World-Class Orbiting Laboratory
Science Activities and Future Exploration

Phase One of the International Space Station Program 
Phases Two and Three 
Launches of Early Station Components and the First Crew  
Science Activities and Future Exploration  
Fun Facts 

The assembled space station will provide the first laboratory complex where gravity, a fundamental force on Earth, can be controlled for extended periods. This control of gravity opens up an unimaginable world where almost everything grows differently than on Earth.

For example, purer protein crystals can be grown in space than on Earth. By analyzing crystals grown on the space station, scientists may be able to develop medicines that target particular disease-causing proteins. Such crystals for research into cancer, diabetes, emphysema and immune disorders grown on the Space Shuttle have already shown promise. New drugs to fight influenza and post-surgery inflammation are already in clinical trials, and future research will benefit from the extended exposure to weightlessness available on the station.

Many of the changes in the human body that result from space flight mimic those seen on Earth as a result of aging. These changes include bone and muscle loss, sleep disorders and hypertension. Better understanding of the causes of these changes may lead to the development of countermeasures against bone loss, muscle atrophy, balance disorders and other symptoms common in an aging population.

In addition to its capabilities as an unprecedented, world-class orbital research facility, the space station will provide the infrastructure for humans to learn to live and work in space with ever increasing productivity. This will be essential for future human space travel away from Earth.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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