As a high school student in Germany, Tobias Niederwieser participated in a science competition that led to his development of an improved bobsled design, which, with BMW sponsorship, he ultimately patented. Through CU-Boulder's bioastronautics graduate program, Tobias is applying this same innovativeness in the promotion of human spaceflight. A researcher for LifeLab and Bioserve Space Technologies, Tobias is helping to create scientific payloads and experiments for use on the International Space Station.
To Tobias, human spaceflight is not just about empowering mankind with the ability to explore and perhaps colonize the heavens; it is also about improving technology available to those on Earth: "if we have the opportunity to eliminate gravity, we may see results [from experiments] that allow us to explore new principles and technologies." For example, by observing that iron melts in a different structure in the absence of gravity, more homogenous structures can be developed in space that make stronger, more robust materials on Earth.
For his graduate thesis, Tobias analyzed the viability of using to algae to create biological ventilation systems that produce the oxygen astronauts need while absorbing the carbon dioxide they produce - all without producing waste! Currently, Tobias is working on SABL (Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory), an improved incubator that astronauts will use on the ISS to conduct cell culture and other biological experiments. SABL is the brain-child of CU's bioastronautics program - designed, constructed and tested through BioServe - and is due to launch aboard a Dragon capsule this September.
Fundamentally, Tobias believes that his research will enable humans to tap into their basic need to explore the unknown. For Tobias, "humans are explorers and they will eventually want to get somewhere other than Earth. We saw it when Columbus came to America. We will see it when humans go to Mars.
-Written By: Ari Sandberg, Intern