Press Release

Construction of ISS Progressing, Subcommitee Explores Research Capabilities

By SpaceRef Editor
April 24, 2008
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Construction of ISS Progressing, Subcommitee Explores Research Capabilities

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today in a hearing of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, witnesses discussed the progress that has been made in the construction of the International Space Station (ISS), as well as the research opportunities that the facility will provide.

“The International Space Station is well on its way to completion and, if NASA successfully flies out its remaining schedule of flights over the next two years, it will be capable of conducting a wide array of world class science,” said Full Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX). “The United States and its international partners have invested tens of billions of dollars to assemble the most complex and largest laboratory and living facility ever to fly in space, and the fruits of this investment are only now capable of being realized.”

The ISS is the most complex international scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken. In 2004, President Bush announced his Vision for Space Exploration, making completion of the ISS an important part of NASA’s overall initiative.

Testifying on behalf of NASA, Dr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Space Operations said, “Recent ISS assembly accomplishments are the direct result of years of careful planning, diligence through tragedy and challenges, and the efforts of a worldwide human space flight community dedicated to the completion of a goal — to build and operate a world-class research facility in low-Earth orbit.”

Gerstenmaier continued, “The ISS has played a key role in advancing U.S. leadership in space operations and has the potential to provide an even larger role in the commercialization of space transportation and research. ISS is an invaluable training ground for the next generation of space explorers and researchers.”

Construction of the ISS has faced many challenges. In addition to schedule delays of its own, the ISS was severely impacted by the loss of the Shuttle Columbia and its crew. The retirement of the Shuttle, scheduled for 2010, will cause the U.S. to rely on partners such as Russia to provide routine transportation and emergency crew return from the station. This period between the Shuttle retirement and the completion of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, scheduled to fly in 2015, is referred to as the “gap.”

This gap in servicing capability represents a challenge to both NASA and the research community in fully utilizing the ISS as a research laboratory. Dr. Louis Stodieck, Director of BioServe Space Technologies, spoke of the great research potential of the ISS, once complete. “It will indeed be unfortunate if the ISS remains substantially under-utilized once it is completed in 2010,” he said. “I hope instead that with proper planning and strategic investment now, the ISS will be able to live up to its fullest potential as a unique laboratory the like of which has never before been available and possibly never again will be in our lifetime.” Stodieck went on to explain that “the period of actual use of the ISS after assembly complete may be only 5 to 10 years.”

Witnesses at today’s hearing also outlined numerous exciting research opportunities to be performed on the ISS. Examples of such research includes: growth of plant and animal cells in cultures to explore development in specialized ways; studying the responses of microbial pathogens to spaceflight, such as Salmonella; as well as a multitude of microgravity research opportunities.

Also testifying at today’s hearing were: Ms. Cristina Chaplain, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office; Dr. Jeffrey Sutton, Director of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute; Dr. Edward Knipling, Administrator of Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Thomas B. Pickens III, CEO of SPACEHAB, Inc; and Dr. Cheryl Nickerson, Associate Professor at the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

SpaceRef staff editor.