The Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) Division’s mission is two-pronged: to pioneer scientific discovery and enable human spaceflight exploration. We achieve this by conducting experiments on biological and physical systems in ground-based laboratories, on aircraft and balloons, in sub-orbital flight, and in and beyond low-Earth orbit. Our purpose is to drive advances in science, technology, and space exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation and economic vitality, as well as support exploration in space.
Working with academic, commercial, agency and international partners is central to our mission. We therefore make data available across the spectrum of research areas that BPS supports.
The Division collects and shares data through a range of platforms:
Task Book – An online database of research projects includes project descriptions, annual research results, research impacts, and a listing of publications resulting from this NASA-funded research
Life Sciences Data Archive – Includes data collected on biological systems including some data from astronauts.
GeneLab – An interactive, open-access resource where scientists can upload, download, store, search, share, transfer, and analyze omics data from spaceflight and corresponding analog experiments
Physical Sciences Informatics – Experimental data from the following six research areas: 1) Biophysics; 2) Combustion Science; 3) Complex Fluids; 4) Fluid Physics; 5) Fundamental Physics; and, 6) Materials Science. These investigations have been conducted on the International Space Station (ISS), the Space Shuttle (Space Transportation System), Free Flyers, and commercial cargo flights to and from the Space Station’s Commercial Resupply Services.
Explore Opportunities in Open Science and Open Data at NASA
NASA’s Open Science and Open Data initiatives strive to help scientists discover and access datasets to perform primary, secondary, and meta-analyses. Open Science is a model that maximizes community participation in the formulation of investigations, collection of tissues, and dissemination of data.
Hundreds of studies can then be conducted from just one flight experiment’s data, exponentially increasing the body of knowledge. The Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) Division recognizes the importance of collecting tissues and archiving data, metadata, computational tools, and samples from both spaceflight and ground studies to enable Open Science and future experiments.
These initiatives dovetail with NASA’s efforts to implement the “FAIR” principles to ensure all data are:
- Findable – consistent and persistent descriptions make scientific data easy to find by both humans and computers
- Accessible – use of standard, open protocols ensure data and metadata can be accessed by all.
- Interoperable – formal, accessible, and widely adopted semantics and vocabularies are used to expand data usability across systems and communities
- Reusable – data are richly described according to standards to ensure they can be combined or replicated, and usage rights are clarified
NASA’s BPS Division is defining policies and procedures to implement the FAIR principles within its Open Science data repositories and archives, with the primary goals of increased, collaborative scientific data sharing and analysis and more rapid scientific advancement.
With NASA’s suite of open BPS repositories, scientists can use existing datasets to make new discoveries, propose future investigations, or influence research trends. These groups ensure that data and biospecimens are preserved and accessible for re-use by the science community. Read on for a description of several ways that investigators can participate in biological and physical open science research using BPS Division resources.
Life Sciences Data Sharing/Mining
Ames Life Sciences Data Archive (ALSDA)
The Ames Life Sciences Data Archive (ALSDA) is the official repository for non-human data generated by NASA’s Space Biology Program and Human Research Program. ALSDA data and information is searchable in The NASA Life Sciences Data Archive (LSDA), the primary source of all life sciences research data and information from decades of spaceflight and ground-analog research involving human, microbe, plant, and animal subjects.
A central repository of NASA’s life sciences data allows users to compare data across missions, experiments, and disciplines; and support queries for locating, retrieving, or requesting data. The goal of this effort is to collect, curate, and make findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) all non-human space-relevant biological data.
ALSDA includes NASA’s Space Biology mission data. The main objective of Space Biology research is to build a better understanding of how spaceflight affects living systems in spacecraft, such as the International Space Station (ISS), or in ground-based experiments that mimic aspects of spaceflight, and to prepare for future human exploration missions far from Earth. The mission data captured by ALSDA include subject characteristics, behavior, environmental conditions, and research activities in flight and on the ground.
GeneLab: Open Science for Life in Space
GeneLab is a comprehensive, multi-component, entirely open-access resource where scientists can upload, download, search, share, analyze, and visualize omics data from spaceflight and analog experiments. From the database, users can:
- explore GeneLab datasets in the Data Repository
- analyze data using the Analysis Platform
- interact with data using the Visualization App
- create collaborative projects using the Collaborative Workspace.
To enable interpretation of data by a general audience, GeneLab provides higher order data using standardized processing pipelines, transforming raw data into visualizations.
The GeneLab-initiated Analysis Working Groups, which are now led by the scientific community at large, are responsible for researching the optimization of the processing of raw omics data from the GeneLab repository to maximize the gain of new knowledge from such complex datasets, along with assessing and improving the effectiveness of GeneLab Data Systems (GLDS).
To maximize the return of spaceflight experiments, GeneLab acquires omics data through its Sample Processing Laboratory using state-of-the-art technologies and a set of sequencing standards for sample extraction, library generation, internal and external controls, and sequencing parameters. With diligent adherence to these standards, followed by careful data curation, users can more easily discover and combine GeneLab datasets to gain new insights into the effects of spaceflight on biology.
GeneLab also leads two training courses to teach space genomics to future scientists—an undergraduate program called GeneLab for College and Universities (GL4U) and a high school training program called GeneLab for High Schools (GL4HS). Trainees analyze GeneLab’s data to gain new and more comprehensive insights about the effects of spaceflight on biology and develop and propose new hypotheses to be investigated.
Space Biology Biospecimen Sharing Program (BSP)
The NASA Space Biology Biospecimen Sharing Program (BSP) collects non-human biospecimens and coordinates dissections to maximize the scientific return of high-quality tissues from spaceflight and ground biological investigations. The team is staffed by experienced and knowledgeable personnel who provide expert guidance in developing management plans for the dissection, collection, and preservation of the biospecimens not utilized from the originating investigation. This program encourages broader participation of the research community in space biology-related research to maximize the output of a valuable resource.
NASA Biological Institutional Scientific Collection (NBISC)
NBISC is a biorepository of non-human samples from NASA-funded spaceflight investigations and correlative ground studies. The primary purpose of the NBISC is to identify, document, preserve, and make the collection available to the public community. Dating back to 1937, the NBISC contains samples from the International Space Station and Space Shuttle flight investigations, samples brought back to Earth from collaborative NASA/Russian COSMOS missions, and from spaceflight-analog ground studies.
Since 1995, NASA has fostered gravitational biology research by providing access to these rare and unique samples to generate new scientific knowledge. Samples not utilized by primary investigations are made available through an open science approach and are searchable on the LSDA Biospecimen Portal.
Physical Sciences Data Sharing/Mining
Physical Science Informatics (PSI)
NASA has conducted thousands of experiments in space to understand the effect of reduced gravity on physical and chemical systems. The Physical Science Informatics (PSI) is an online database of past and current space station, Shuttle and free-flyer flight experiments in physical science, as well as related ground-based studies. The PSI makes microgravity physical science data available to the public without restriction in accordance with open science and NASA’s Open Data Policy.
The PSI was initiated in 2014 with 17 investigations and has grown to include data from more than 70 investigations in the following six research areas and subtopics:
- Biophysics: biological macromolecules, fluids for biology, biomaterials, and biological physics
- Combustion Science: spacecraft fire safety, droplets, gaseous – premixed and non-premixed, solid fuels, and supercritical reacting fluids
- Complex Fluids: colloids, liquid crystals, foams, gels, and granular flows
- Fluid Physics: adiabatic two-phase flow, boiling and condensation, capillary flow and interfacial phenomena, and dusty plasmas
- Fundamental Physics: space optical/atomic clocks, quantum test of equivalence principle, cold atom physics, critical point phenomena, and dusty plasmas
- Materials Science: glasses and ceramics, granular materials, metals, polymers and organics, semiconductors, and composites
The PSI collects and publishes data from concluded science investigations. Though the kinds of data available for each investigation differ, they generally include raw and analyzed flight data, ground analog data, experiment design and requirements, test plans and procedures, numerical models, software, presentations, publications, and reports.
The PSI is a resource for researchers to mine and expand upon the valuable, once-in-a-lifetime experiments that investigators perform in space and extend their findings to further the science developing technologies critical for the successful exploration of space.
Browse Current and Past Research Projects (NASA Task Book)
To learn more about past, current, and upcoming research projects, search the Task Book: Biological and Physical Sciences Division and Human Research Program. This database provides project descriptions, annual research results, research impacts, and a listing of publications resulting from NASA-funded research.