With its traditional bent toward physical sciences, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has never funded biological studies adequately, and biological investigators have not taken space science seriously, space agency officials say. So, to boost biology into a high-profile orbit within the space program while delivering payoffs to National Institutes of Health-funded investigators on the ground, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin and NIH director Bernadine Healy recently signed an agreement to make it easier for scientists from the two agencies to collaborate.

The agreement makes it possible for NIH-funded biologists to get experiments into orbit and to tap into NASA expertise. And, for the first time, outside investigators will have access to NASA ground facilities for their own research. In return, the agreement set up a mechanism for space agency scientists to suggest research projects that would be funded through NIH grants.

NIH officials are vague about how much money would...

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