Opening NASA’s Data Archive to Augment Space Life Science Research


18th IAA Humans in Space Symposium (2011)

Opening NASA’s Data Archive to Augment Space

Life Science Research

Lealem Mulugeta, Christopher Gerty and Nick Skytland

The ambitious exploration goals to send long duration manned missions beyond low earth orbit (LEO) in the next decade pose significant biomedical challenges. Addressing these challenges will require substantial time and resources to conduct flight and ground based experiments. In addition, there is substantial archived data from past spaceflight and ground experiments that can provide further insight into the biomedical challenges of long duration spaceflight missions beyond LEO. However, much of the archived data is often not easily accessible, there is uncertainty regarding the type and quality of data available, and NASA researchers are often inundated with ongoing research with limited funding.

Consequently, life science data archive is not used effectively. In light of this, we propose to address this dilemma through Open Data collaboration to parse, categorize and analyze the available data.

Currently there are over 500 000 people around the world freely contributing to space science projects such as Zooniverse, Stardust@home, SETI@Home and MilyWay@Home among others. By engaging the common citizen, these organizations have been able to parse and decipher an immense amount of data with exceptional accuracy with small fraction of time, budget and resources. Although most of the Open

Data projects are in the areas of astronomy, astrophysics and planetary sciences, there are some initiatives in human spaceflight like the NASA InnoCentive challenges and Copenhagen Suborbitals that have demonstrated the value of open collaboration.

In our presentation we will discuss how NASA can augment space life science research by tapping into the enthusiasm of the common citizen. Moreover, we will outline how allowing the public to actively contribute to NASA’s mission can strengthen public support and promote STEM education.