Status Report

Statement of William Readdy at Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space Hearings on International Space Station Research

By SpaceRef Editor
April 20, 2005
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Statement of William F. Readdy
Associate Administrator for Space Operations
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Science and Space Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation United States Senate

April 20, 2005

Madam Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the benefits of the International Space Station.

On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush announced the Vision for Space Exploration. The President’s directive gave NASA a new and historic focus and clear objectives. The fundamental goal of this directive for the Nation’s space exploration program is “…to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program.” In issuing this directive, the President committed the Nation to a journey of exploring the solar system and beyond, returning humans to the Moon, and sending robots and ultimately humans to Mars and other destinations. He challenged us to establish new and innovative programs to enhance our understanding of the planets, to ask new questions, and to answer questions as old as humankind.

Returning the Space Shuttle to flight and completing the International Space Station are the first steps in the Vision for Space Exploration, a stepping stone strategy toward new exploration goals. Using the Station to study human endurance in space and to test new technologies and techniques, NASA will prepare for the longer journeys to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Today marks the 1,630th day of continuous human presence on the International Space Station. That is 11 international crews and over four years of research, discovery and experience in orbit. I am here today to tell you that NASA is progressing towards making the Vision a reality.

Just a few days ago NASA passed another important milestone for the Space Station. Expedition 11, Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer John Phillips, docked to the Station this past Sunday to begin their six month stay on board. European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori traveled with them to the Station, and will return with the Expedition 10 crew, Commander Leroy Chiao and Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov. Chiao, Salizhan and Vittori will return home next Sunday, April 24. The Expedition 10 crew spent 191 days on board the Station.

In addition, the Space Shuttle is in final preparations to fly again next month. Our return to flight also positions us to return to station assembly. NASA will complete the International Space Station by the end of the decade and meet its obligations to our international partners.

NASA will utilize the ISS to perform the necessary research and testing to help fulfill our exploration objectives. The very character of exploration and discovery begins with the ability to observe. We send humans into space because they are our best tools for observation. Crews on the International Space Station have gained firsthand knowledge of space-based life and they are bringing that information back to all of us.

While we can to some extent simulate living conditions in space here on the ground, there is no substitute for experience in the actual space environment. Simply put, to learn how to live in space, we must live in space. Every experiment, every spacewalk, every repair and every piece of hardware assembled teaches us something new. A full time human presence aboard the ISS offers us a tremendous opportunity to study human survival in the hostile environment of space and assess how to overcome the technology hurdles to human exploration beyond Earth orbit.

Assembly & Transportation

The development of ISS elements and systems is virtually complete; only the assembly process remains. The return to Space Shuttle operations means that NASA can once again begin construction work on the International Space Station. The first two Space Shuttle flights will focus on carrying cargo to the Station and testing new techniques for Orbiter repair. Following those two flights, the crew of STS-115 will restart the assembly of the International Space Station by carrying truss elements to orbit. From there, already completed Station elements will be sent into orbit on the Space Shuttle. The assembly sequence will complete the Station as efficiently and economically as possible, and with the minimum number of Shuttle flights necessary. As we make progress on construction of the Station, we will also work towards increasing the number of crew on board to three members as soon as possible and working towards a six-person crew capability.

The President’s Commission on Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy recommended that “…NASA recognize and implement a far larger presence of private industry in space operations with the specific goal of allowing private industry to assume the primary role of providing services to NASA, and most immediately in accessing low-Earth orbit.” Consistent with this recommendation, NASA is seeking to acquire commercial services as soon as practical and affordable to fulfill its transportation requirements for cargo to and from the ISS. NASA is developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to be released in 2005. The RFP will seek to develop an initial operating capability for commercial services for cargo transportation to the ISS as soon as practical and affordable. NASA will also utilize partner capabilities for cargo transportation. The European Automated Transfer Vehicle will make its first visit to the ISS in 2006. The Japanese H2A Transfer Vehicle will also visit the ISS by the end of the decade. Operational Experience

The International Space Station is more than just a science laboratory. The Station is critical to understanding human health, system performance and logistical support in the real environment of space.

Moreover, operating the Station with a limited re-supply capability has taught us much about how NASA might plan missions to more distant destinations where cargo re-supply options are limited. In any risky venture, experience and practice are vital. A mission to Mars will take at least 6 months in one-way transit; our Space Station crews experience that duration of exposure during each of their stays. Through the process of building and living on the Station, NASA has learned the following, all of which are vital to exploration:

  • Assembly of Large Structures – Example: Automated and manual docking with various vehicles, including those built by other countries
  • Extensive Extravehicular Activity – Example: Performance of two types of Space Suits
  • Behavior of Crews – Examples: A range of crew sizes (two, three, and eventually six), genders, ethnicities, citizenship, and lengths of time in space — in various stages of ISS assembly/capabilities
  • Responses to Situations That Threaten Mission and/or Life– Examples: solar storms; loss of gyroscope; Elektron oxygen generator malfunctions; gradual depressurization episodes; water usage restrictions
  • Health Maintenance of Crew – Examples: nutrition; sleep; exercise; human physiological adaptation
  • Long-Term System and Subsystem Performance and Maintenance – Example: Environmental Control and Life Support Systems built in various combinations of systems from various nations
  • Practice of Operational Medicine – Example: majority of crew take some medication in flight; we and they rely on telemedicine and monitoring with limited onboard supplies and capabilities
  • Training for Long-Term Missions – Examples: efficacy of preflight versus onboard training; skills versus task training
  • Emergency Awareness and Preparedness – Examples: Depressurization Alarms and Repairs; Fire Alarms and Drills

ISS Research: Knowledge Gathering and Validation

U.S. research activities aboard the Station will be focused to support the new exploration goals, with an emphasis on understanding how the space environment affects astronaut health and capabilities, and on developing appropriate countermeasures to mitigate health concerns. We will also use the Station to develop and demonstrate improved life support systems and medical care.

Human space flight research to date has identified a series of significant threats to human health associated with space travel. These health risks include bone loss and muscle atrophy; radiation exposure; and changes to fluid balances and blood pressure regulation. These changes may represent significant challenges on return to gravity and are of particular concern for future space travelers who will travel beyond access to Earth-based medical care. Behavioral and human performance concerns also exist. NASA’s focused research program accelerates the evaluation of remediation methods for crew health problems and enables a better understanding of the requirements for health care systems for providing medical care during long duration human space exploration.

For example, NASA is using portable ultrasound equipment in new ways on the Space Station that are already translating to use back on Earth. Ultrasound is a fast and safe method to diagnose conditions inside the body. It uses sound waves to gain information about medical conditions ranging from gallbladder disease to kidney stones. What we are testing is a way to monitor and diagnose patients remotely by non-specialists working with an expert on Earth. Through such an approach, portable ultrasound machines can also be used to extend medical care into challenging areas such as remote rural or military locations. The remote procedure already has been tested on members of the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League. The Red Wings conducted a test of these techniques to diagnose player injuries in the team’s locker room rather than transporting athletes to a local hospital for an X-ray, CT or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Among the most vital technological systems for any future space exploration mission is the life support system that must provide space travelers with a controlled Earth-like environment within the hostile environment of space. Any planned mission beyond Low Earth orbit will need to include a system for recycling water and air that is both very reliable and highly efficient. The ISS research program will test critical technologies in the design of such a closed-loop type system.

NASA research also benefits those of us here on Earth. One of the most important needs for the ISS is access to clean water. The Marshall Space Flight Center is currently developing a Water Processor Assembly (WPA) as part of the US Enhanced Crew Life Support System. This system will reclaim waste waters from fuel cells, from urine, from oral hygiene and hand washing, and by condensing humidity from the air. It will produce recycled water that will be cleaner than what we drink presently on Earth. Fresh water is an exceedingly scarce commodity in many locations around the world and the U.S. Now, the same technology we are using to build the WPA is being used to develop recycling systems for humanitarian purposes in nations lacking a reliable water supply, such as those Asian countries affected by the December 2004 tsunami. A source of clean, inexpensive and readily available water is just as important here on Earth as it is on the ISS, and as it will be on the Moon or the journey to Mars.

Future crews going to the Moon or Mars will need to be self-sufficient. Access to clean water is just one thing they will need in their journeys beyond Low Earth orbit. Others include monitoring and recycling air, waste sterilization procedures, longer shelf life for food products and renewable food sources. These applications can be tested on the ISS before we apply them to longer trips to the Moon and Mars. After all, it is better to learn 240 miles up than 240,000 miles out.

During long-duration missions in space and on planetary surfaces, crews must be able to live and work productively in safe and habitable environments. Performance of tasks by isolated crew – individual and teams – must be efficient, teachable, and reliable. These processes yield potential Earth benefits as well, including:

  • Advances in emergency habitat and shelter deployment for a wide range of purposes (e.g. natural disaster, war refugee relief, temporary emergency safe haven for rescue crews)
  • Evaluation and design of self-contained, remote, and hazardous environments
  • New clinical methods for human reaction and interaction in isolated and confined environments
  • Advancement for process controls, tele-operations, and robotic systems development
  • Human performance modeling applies to the medical community’s enhanced rehabilitation and therapeutic practices
  • Identification, measurement, analysis, mitigation and tracking of programmatic risks

The International Space Station and Exploration

Led by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, NASA is currently in the process of focusing and prioritizing International Space Station research and technology development efforts on areas that best contribute to the Vision for Space Exploration. Through rigorous examination by technical and program managers at Headquarters and NASA field centers, we have identified 22 areas of research and technology that can take advantage of the Station as a testbed to reduce the risk associated with future human exploration missions. The Station will specifically contribute to the Vision for Space Exploration in areas such as: testing and validating performance of closed loop life support systems; testing and validating both pharmaceuticals and new exercise systems to maintain astronaut health, and; demonstrating technologies necessary for future space systems such as thermal control, power generation, and management of cryogenic fuels in space.

In order to best utilize limited resources, NASA is phasing out some activities that do not directly support the Vision for Space Exploration and reallocating resources to the higher priority areas. The Agency is emphasizing applied research and technology development in the following areas: space radiation health and shielding, advanced environment control and monitoring, advanced Extra Vehicular Activities suits and tools, human health and countermeasures, advanced life support, and space human factors and behavioral health. NASA’s highest priorities for research on the Station have been identified as medical research with human subjects and microgravity validation of environmental control and life support technologies.

NASA also currently has a Space Shuttle Program/International Space Station (SSP/ISS) Scenario Study underway to examine alternate scenarios for the SSP and ISS as first steps to the Vision for Space Exploration. The study has been providing assessments that will support decision making for research, engineering, international and fiscal considerations. Two cycles have already been completed. The third cycle involves assessment of specific scenarios for US exploration research mission requirements. It is currently in the final stages of being documented for review and decision by Agency leadership.

NASA also studied long-term plans for Station utilization. In 2003, the Agency began to look at how it might turn some of the tactical operations of the Station research management over to a consortium. Because of the realignment of Station science and research to focus its activities to support the Vision for Space Exploration, the Agency chose not to further develop those plans. However, NASA has retained all of the studies and guidelines for use should it decide to move in that direction in the future.

International Partnership

The International Space Station is a cooperative effort. International crews work together daily – not just to keep the Station running, but to perform groundbreaking research. Joint research activities include the completion of a record-breaking 31-day experiment called PromISS-3 that utilized the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox, a sealed laboratory with built-in gloves for conducting experiments in space. International crews have also worked together to deploy a microsatellite during a spacewalk, install research equipment onboard the Station, perform medical experiments and test on orbit systems. They also work together to inspire the next generation of explorers through programs such as:

  • Amateur Radio on the ISS (ARISS) – an international project that allows students to talk by amateur radio with ISS crewmembers
  • Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle School Students (EarthKAM) – allows students to control a digital camera mounted in a window on the Station; photos are available on the internet for viewing and study by students around the world
  • High School Students United with NASA to Create Hardware (HUNCH) – High school students build training hardware that meets a specific need in NASA’s Space Station payload training program

At the recent International Space Station Partnership Heads of Agency (HOA) meeting on January 26, 2005, the Partners reviewed the status of ongoing Space Station operations and NASA’s plans for Space Shuttle return to flight. The partners reaffirmed their agencies’ commitment to meet their ISS obligations; to complete Station assembly by the end of the decade; and to use and further evolve the ISS in a manner that meets their research and exploration objectives. Our Space Station partnership is strong, as demonstrated by the fact that Space Station operations and research have continued without interruption throughout our significant preparations for return to flight.

The Station is preparing us for future human exploration in many ways. It is an exploration research and technology test bed. It is a platform that represents an unprecedented accomplishment for space engineering and on orbit assembly of unique and complex spacecraft. The Station is a model of space operations, linking mission control centers on three continents to sustain 24/7 space flight on-orbit operations by an international team speaking several different languages. Perhaps the most significant contribution of the ISS is that it is a foundation for international partnerships and alliances between governments, industry, and academia in space exploration. In this regard, the ISS was assembled on orbit with modules and other elements from Canada, Russia and the U.S. that were never connected on the ground. Additional elements from Europe and Japan will join the on-orbit structure when assembly resumes. The success of the assembly is a tribute to the engineering excellence and successful cooperation of the international team.

As the United States implements the Vision for Space Exploration, the Administration recognizes the value of effective cooperation with Russia to further our space exploration goals. At the same time, we have to appropriately reflect U.S. nonproliferation policy and objectives in our relationship with Russia. The Administration is thus interested in seeking a balanced approach that continues to protect our nonproliferation goals while advancing potential U.S. cooperation with Russia on the Vision for Space Exploration. Such a balanced approach must consider the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 (INA), which currently complicates cooperation with Russia on the International Space Station, and will also have an adverse impact on cooperation with Russia on our future space exploration efforts related to human space flight. To that end, the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that the Vision for Space Exploration is able to succeed while remaining fully consistent with broader U.S. national security and nonproliferation goals.


As stated at the beginning of my testimony, returning the Space Shuttle to flight and completing the International Space Station are the first steps in the Vision for Space Exploration, a stepping stone strategy toward new exploration goals. Using the Station to study human endurance in space and to test new technologies and techniques, NASA will prepare for the longer journeys to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I look forward to responding to any questions you may have.

SpaceRef staff editor.