Despite NASA Claims, The Primary Purpose (Today) of the Space Station is Operations – Not Science

By Keith Cowing
December 20, 2010
Filed under
Despite NASA Claims, The Primary Purpose (Today) of the Space Station is Operations – Not Science

According to Space.com, space.com: “Now that we have a six-person crew, we’re going to try to average 30 hours a week on various types of science,” station commander Scott Kelly said in an interview conducted before the Soyuz launch. “Hopefully we’ll have great results from the scientific experiments that we’re able to do onboard.”

The six-person ISS crew takes one day off a week. If you assume 6 work days for 6 crew at 8 hours a day you get 288 work hours from the crew every week. 30 hours represents 10.4% of the overall crew work time devoted to “science”. If you were to assume that the crew “works” 12 hours a day (432 work hours a week for the entire crew), then the percentage of their time devoted to “science” is 6.9%.

The avowed purpose of the ISS as NASA SOMD’s Mark Uhran and others will tell you is to do “science”. Up until now the task facing NASA was to assemble the ISS – not an insignificant endeavour – however you look at it. Well, the ISS is all but completed.

When will NASA actually start to honor the premise upon which the ISS has been marketed and justified for more than 20 years, i.e. to do “science”?

The ISS is an utterly amazing and unprecedented base camp sitting at the cusp of the human exploration (and exploitation) of the solar system. Right now, based on time spent by the crew, the primary purpose of the ISS is not “science” – it is operations i.e. keeping itself going. Its time for NASA to adjust its marketing to reflect that reality – unless, that is, it is ready to truly open this facility up to the world outside of NASA to utilize. So far, it has fallen flat on its face in that regard.

NASA used to announce the name of the crew member whose job aboard the ISS was “Chief Science Officer” Unless I have missed something, this has not been announced in quite some time (Thanks to Jim Muncy for pointing this out).

Where Are Mark Uhran’s Five ISS Research Results Papers?, earlier post
NASA: It’s Our Space Station – Not Yours, earlier post
NASA’s ISS National Lab Concept: Flawed Plans – Closed Thinking, earlier post
How NASA Plans to Drag Its Feet in Implementing the ISS National Laboratory, earlier post
NASA’s Not So “Public” Day for ISS National Lab Plans, earlier post
NASA CAN for ISS National Lab Released, earlier post
Another Stealth NASA Report, earlier post

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.