In recognition of her ongoing support of the nation's human spaceflight program, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is the 2012 recipient of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's (NSBRI) Pioneer Award.
The senior senator from Texas was honored today during the official opening of a new 16,400-square-foot Consolidated Research Facility that NSBRI shares with the Baylor College of Medicine's Center for Space Medicine (CSM). The Facility includes office space, four laboratories, meeting rooms, and science and education collaboration areas.
NSBRI President and CEO Dr. Jeffrey P. Sutton said that Hutchison is deserving of the Pioneer Award because of her contributions to the advancement of human spaceflight, including space biomedical research.
"During her time on Capitol Hill, Senator Hutchison's leadership and commitment to strengthen the nation's human space exploration program has been exemplary," Sutton said. "Both NSBRI and CSM are grateful for her efforts on the Hill and for her support to make the Consolidated Research Facility a reality."
Hutchison, who has announced her retirement at the completion of her current term, was first elected to the Senate in 1993 and has developed the reputation of being a staunch supporter of NASA's human spaceflight program.
She currently serves as the Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees space exploration. She also held the chairship of the Science and Space Subcommittee of the Commerce Committee during the 109th Congress. In 2005, she was the primary author and sponsor of the NASA Authorization Act that designated the International Space Station as a National Laboratory.
In addition to the Pioneer Award ceremony, today's events featured demonstrations of NSBRI and CSM science, medical technology and education projects. All of the events were held in the new Facility, located in the BioScience Research Collaborative on the Rice University campus.
Among the science and technology demonstrations featured were two NSBRI-funded projects that have developed new uses for ultrasound. A research project based at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit developed techniques that streamline user training and help experts on the ground guide non-physician astronauts in space to perform ultrasound exams. The research team also developed an ultrasound imagery catalog of the human body. The techniques and a spin-off catalog are already in use on Earth.
The second ultrasound project, based at the University of Washington, developed technology that detects kidney stones with ultrasound imaging and provides treatment by pushing stones with focused ultrasound toward the kidney's exit so they will pass naturally. This technology, which is now waiting for FDA approval to begin clinical trials, could alter the way kidney stones are treated on Earth.
"As demonstrated here today, NSBRI research and technologies are not only benefiting space travelers, but they are also improving health care on Earth," said Dr. Bobby R. Alford, chair of the NSBRI Board of Directors.
NSBRI, funded by NASA, is a consortium of institutions studying the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight and developing the medical technologies needed for long missions. NSBRI's science, technology and education projects take place at more than 60 institutions across the United States.
NSBRI's Pioneer Award, in its fourth year, recognizes individuals whose efforts and accomplishments have blazed new trails on behalf of the Institute, its partnership with NASA and the space biomedical community at large.