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There’s a new acronym to remember when you’re talking about zero-gravity research: CASIS, The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space. CASIS is a nonprofit selected by Congress in 2011 to act as the manager for the U.S. National Lab on the International Space Station, coordinating experiments and projects to be tested in the station’s lab by astronauts.

CASIS_Contest_125x125CASIS has built public-private partnerships with companies that want to test products or materials in microgravity or the vacuum of space, offering an official “Space Is In It” tested seal to those investigators who create consumer products from their research on the ISS. CASIS also provides grants to academics to get potentially world-changing ideas properly tested.

For any research project going to the ISS, astronauts have to be trained to use it on Earth (sadly the researchers don’t get to go up with their projects), and the materials and equipment also have to be designed to fit into standardized hardware for the flight. Once astronauts begin testing in the International Space Station’s lab, the project creators have the unique opportunity to remotely watch the research being performed live.

But getting a project or idea to the ISS via CASIS isn’t just for scientists or corporations any more. Right now, CASIS is running a contest to find the next great idea to go up to the station for testing: “Any interested U.S. party may submit…an idea for use of ISS NL facilities for research or technology development to benefit life on Earth,” CASIS states. You don’t have to have a doctorate to submit a project to be considered, but you do need to have an inspiring idea that will benefit from being tested in the unique environments offered, like extreme heat and cold, direct solar access without an atmosphere to get in the way, microgravity, and an unsurpassed view of the Earth for study and data acquisition. Judging will include review by an appointed scientific review board, as well as a public vote.

The contest runs until September 16th, with notification of the winners on October 14th. The winning prize package include $10,000 for first place, and the opportunity for the winner to meet with CASIS officials and potentially have their idea developed into a space-ready project.

To read more about the guidelines and to submit your big ideas, visit the contest website.

Ken Denmead

Ken is the Grand Nagus of He’s a husband and father from the SF Bay Area, and has written three books filled with projects for geeky parents and kids to share.

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