x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Innovative space

For many high-tech products, the new label "Made in Space" is true in spirit, if not literally.

If you like to read the small print on product labels, you will soon start seeing something new: a discreet label reading "Made in Space."

It won't be true, of course. So far only knowledge, not actual merchandise, is being produced on the International Space Station (ISS). But the European Space Agency, along with NASA in the US, is working up the "Made in Space" campaign to remind earthlings of the value that is already making the 370km descent from orbit.

The ISS, almost 12 years old now, will cost an estimated Dh480 billion to expand and operate over the next 10 years. NASA and ESA administrators, worried about budget cuts, are promoting the "Made in Space" label to remind the world's taxpayers of the fruits of weightless research.

There are many. Metallic foams, better turbines, laser advances, new ways to sterilise surgical tools, packaging improvements and other advances of practical use down here are already flowing from experiments done up there. And as the station expands, research keeps widening.

That 370km step up from the ground to the ISS is just mankind's first stage of the ultimate voyage. But for all the romance and adventure of the final frontier, it's evident that space will have to pay its way. This campaign will remind us how that is happening already.