Welcome Message from the Editor-in-Chief

Introducing npj Microgravity

Several landmark events have occurred in the past few years that have enabled tremendous advances in spaceflight research. First, the International Space Station has been completed providing an unprecedented internationally available laboratory (a portion of which has been designated as a U.S. National Laboratory), which is currently being outfitted with an array of sophisticated equipment to accomplish long and short duration research in a variety of scientific fields, including life sciences, astronomy, physics, material sciences, observational sciences, astrobiology and biochemistry. Second, the rapidly growing commercial spaceflight sector is beginning to expand both with NASA-associated and independent missions. These companies are seeking robust avenues to promote their current and develop new research capabilities. Finally, several countries, including China, Israel and India have begun developing their own spaceflight programs and investing heavily in spaceflight research. Collectively, these events are dramatically increasing the quantity and quality of both spaceflight scientific experiments and spaceflight analogue studies on Earth.

To provide scientists and science enthusiasts alike a way to stay at the vanguard of the latest cutting edge research findings in this rapidly emerging field, we designed npj Microgravity as a stringently peer-reviewed platform dedicated to publishing the most important scientific advances applicable to a diverse readership. Indeed, npj Microgravity is a truly cross-disciplinary, open access journal that serves as a novel platform for scientific exchange by capturing the discoveries made not only in the reduced gravity environment of spaceflight, but also findings in the normal gravity of Earth using spaceflight analogue systems. The scope of this journal reflects the research focus outlined in the National Research Councils’ recommendations to NASA, Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era, by covering “Research that enables space exploration” and “Research enabled by access to space”. This includes both true spaceflight research and studies using a myriad of spaceflight analogue systems on Earth, including unique suspension cell culture systems, bed rest studies, drop towers, parabolic flight, and closed habitats. 

Microgravity is an extreme environment in which gravity is greatly reduced. As with studies in other extreme environments, research in spaceflight and ground-based spaceflight analogue systems provides a unique opportunity to not only enhance future spaceflight exploration missions, but also provides novel insight to advance our understanding of biological, physical and engineering sciences on Earth with practical applications to benefit the general public, in ways which cannot be observed using traditional experimental approaches. In this regard, spaceflight and spaceflight analogue research has already produced major advances in science and technology, impacting diverse areas including human health, performance and disease prevention, animal, plant and microbial research, physics, materials and combustion sciences, Earth observations, instrumentation, and human exploration, all of which have had a lasting impact on our global scientific capabilities and economic competitiveness.

With the International Space Station, commercial spaceflight entities, and increasing international participation from spacefaring nations, we are in a Renaissance period for spaceflight research that has tremendous potential for breakthrough advances in diverse scientific and technological domains to benefit life on Earth and exploration of space.  In common with other visionary commitments to support highly ambitious, innovative scientific endeavors that will expand the frontiers of human knowledge, successful utilization of the spaceflight platform holds the potential to ignite a paradigm shift to help solve major human challenges and initiate efficient partnerships between academia, government and commercial sectors.

As the first Editor-in-Chief for npj Microgravity, I am delighted to be a part of this new cross-disciplinary initiative, which I believe is exactly the type of platform needed to highlight and broaden microgravity and ground-based microgravity analogue research into widespread mainstream acceptance with the highest values of scientific integrity historically defined by the Nature brand.

Cheryl A. Nickerson, PhD
Editor-in-Chief, npj Microgravity