According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, astronauts are sent into space to operate the International Space Station, help develop commercial spaceflight, investigate the possibilities of human exploration of deep space, develop new technologies and conduct research in a wide range of scientific fields. Many aspects of scientific studies of the Earth and the rest of the universe are easier to conduct from space.
Some of the specific areas of study astronauts explore in space include the Earth's atmosphere and climate change, the origins of the solar system and the universe, the Earth's magnetic field, the composition of the planets and asteroids, dark matter, black holes and other galaxies. Astronauts also aid in developing innovative technology in areas such as satellites, spacesuits, spacecraft, robotics and many other fields of cutting-edge research.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station use the special low-gravity environment to conduct research in vaccine development, disaster relief and farming, water purification technology, neurosurgical medical technology, ultrasound and remote telemedicine. For the future, astronauts are devising technology and techniques to ship cargo from the Earth to space and back, to build more environmentally friendly spacecraft, to land a person on an asteroid and eventually land people safely on Mars.