The commercialization of space is a busy field today, with an array of businesses conducting research aboard the International Space Station and flying resupply ships and now even astronauts, but 20 years ago it was a lonely road occupied by only a scarce few organizations, including the University of Colorado Boulder's BioServe Space Technologies, founded in 1987. Director Stefanie Countryman reflects on how the exploration of space has changed in a special blog on the ISS National Lab website:
Twenty years ago, I was one of the few people out knocking on doors of the pharmaceutical, biotech, agricultural, and even forestry industry peddling space life science research. I cannot sugarcoat it. It was an incredibly challenging task, and I had my share of puzzled looks, smirks, laughs, and jokes at my expense.
BioServe launched its first experiment to space onboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-37) in 1991 and its first mission to the ISS on April 19, 2001. The experiment launched to the ISS was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, was the first commercially supported life science experiment to launch to the ISS, and occurred just five months after the first crew arrived there! It was also almost exactly one year after this groundbreaking launch that I found myself working for BioServe. Now, almost 20 years after we launched our first mission to the ISS, I look back realizing I never dreamed I could be a part of such an historic milestone—20 years of human-tended presence onboard the ISS and 20 years of BioServe-supported and commercially sponsored research onboard the ISS!