ESA has sponsored a variety of life sciences activities since its first such mission in 1985. These endeavors have been both in concert with other agencies, namely USSR/Russia and NASA, and as strictly European initiatives. Those missions entirely administered by ESA often have one member country or more as the principal participant or lead state. In some cases, the distinction between international and national programs may be somewhat blurred.
For example, the first major ESA life sciences experiments were the Biorack, Anthrorack, and Vestibular Sled flown on Spacelab D1, which was primarily funded by Germany. Of the three European astronauts who flew on that mission, two were German and one was Dutch. While Germany is a strong participant in ESA, its two astronauts were official representatives of DARA on Spacelab D1. The Dutch astronaut was a representative for ESA (Section 5.1.3).
ESA plans to continue its life science experiments on Russian (Mir, Photon, and Bion) and American (STS) spacecraft while preparing for its role in the International Space Station program with emphasis on its own Columbus Orbital Facility. ESA's Microgravity Advisory Committee in 1994 defined 15 high priority research areas in life sciences for future investigations.
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