Colgate-Palmolive sent an oral care experiment to space in early June in what could be considered a small step for humans and a big leap for the beauty and skincare industry. personal.
The experiment was aboard the 22nd Space X supply reloading mission to the International Space Station. The experiment, one of dozens launched with support from the ISS National Laboratory, is part of a larger effort by both the ISS National Laboratory and NASA to commercialize space. This is notably not the first entry into the space of the beauty industry or other private sector companies. In September 2020, as part of NASA’s Low Earth Orbit Commercialization Program (which is separate from the efforts of ISS National Laboraties), EstÃ©e Lauder sent 10 of its Advanced Night Repair bottles into space in order to be photographed by astronauts. These assets will then be used as marketing materials. Outside of beauty, other private sector companies have collaborated with the ISS National Lab to send experiments to space, including pharmaceutical company Merck, Adidas and tire company Goodyear.
Christine Kretz, vice president of programs and partnerships at the ISS National Laboratory, said the commercialization of space, including experiments and marketing, is part of a new frontier that will have a huge impact on space exploration and Earth over the next decade before the decommissioning of the ISS in 2030. Space colonization, including planetary exploration and interplanetary travel, requires more experiments and undertakings from the private sector to try new things.
Colgate-Palmolive’s experience centers on learning about the growth and metabolism of oral biofilms, which when in our mouths take on the form of dental plaque that can lead to cavities and gum disease. To conduct the experiment, the ISS crew will use microfluidic devices developed by professors at the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and microbiologists at Colgate to simulate bacterial growth on a surface similar to a tooth. After 45 days of exposure to microgravity, the devices will be returned and scientists at Colgate will analyze and compare the results with the corresponding control experiments conducted on Earth.
âWhat this experience allows us to do is create new toothpastes and other types of [oral] therapies. [It] could impact 60% of the population who contract gum disease. This is a huge opportunity for us to learn more about the formation and prevention of dental plaque, âsaid Patricia Verduin, CTO of Colgate-Palmolive. âFrom a brand perspective, we see it as consistent with our brand. People trust Colgate and what [is] a better relationship [to convey to consumers] than to send Colgate into space? The space program is the ultimate representation of optimism and confidence.
Kretz said sending experiments to the ISS is currently subsidized by U.S. taxpayers and costs private sector companies like Colgate-Palmolive nothing. However, companies must pay for the costs of creating the experiment, such as equipment, and “implementation partners,” who are responsible for ensuring that the experiment meets NASA regulations for the experiment. ‘shipping. Colgate-Palmolive worked with Teledyne Brown Engineering as an implementation partner. Verduin declined to comment on the costs associated with the experiment. Verduin said the ISS National Laboratory contacted Colgate-Palmolive directly to assess interest in space experiments. The Colgate team took three years to develop theirs.
âWhat’s exciting is that companies like Colgate have their own research teams, but there’s more sharing. It’s part of what we do, which is to bring organizations together. We are still pushing for publication and information sharing [from experiments]”said Kretz.
But going into space is not without its challenges. Although the commercialized cargo represents only 5% of a resupply mission (ISS supplies represent 50% of the cargo, while the ISS National Laboratory experiments represent the remaining 45%), there are had some concern about EstÃ©e Lauder going into space. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) remarked during a hearing by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in September 2020: âI guess I have a hard time understanding how EstÃ©e Lauder’s efforts are going to support NASA’s marketing efforts.
According to The Space Review in an April article, “In February, NASA quietly and dramatically increased prices for commercial uses excluding research and education, such as marketing.” The initial price list for sending commercial cargo into space included a large subsidy meant to stimulate demand. But the February amendment increased freight from $ 3,000 per kilogram to $ 20,000. One hour of crew time on the station went from $ 17,500 to $ 130,000. When EstÃ©e Lauder sent her bottles into space, it cost $ 128,000.
In a written comment, Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters, said in part: âNASA has opened up the International Space Station to business as part of the agency’s efforts to save money. strong in low earth orbit. NASA’s goal is to ultimately purchase services as one of the many clients. As more businesses and people fly in space and do more things during their spaceflight, it attracts even more people and more activity to low earth orbit, a growing market that we had. envisioned when we launched the commercial crew program 10 years ago. This year is truly a renaissance for human spaceflight. “
Kretz said she views the EstÃ©e Lauder initiative positively and that the economy of space is similar to the economic realities of Earth. She added that EstÃ©e Lauder is funding research and experiments unrelated to her brands that will be heading to space in the fall. EstÃ©e Lauder Companies said in September 2020 that the bottles would return to Earth this spring and that at least one bottle would be auctioned off later in 2021, with the proceeds going to charity.
In a statement, a spokesperson for EstÃ©e Lauder Companies said, in part: âAs the beauty industry leader in science and innovation, EstÃ©e Lauder is always looking to the next frontier in skincare. skin and we were inspired by the work NASA is doing to lead space innovation. â¦ The response from our consumers has been overwhelmingly positive, and the brand will continue to seek innovative opportunities in the future to strengthen our beauty leadership.
Colgate-Palmolive, which also owns skincare brand Filorga, Tom’s of Maine and PCA Skin, among others, plans to send a second skin-related experiment to space in the fall. Prior to the experiment’s launch, Colgate-Palmolive posted a promotional graphic (with the tagline âZero gravity. Zero cavity.â), An animated graphic on their corporate Instagram account, and a video. However, the marketing plans have not been formalized, since the results of the initial experimentation have not been concluded. Verduin said the experience and all marketing plans are considered at the company level rather than the brand level.