The first two principal findings could not be clearer: "The ISS
[International Space Station] Program's technical achievements to date,
as represented by on-orbit capability, are extraordinary." However,
"The existing ISS Program Plan for executing the FY 02-06 budget
is not credible."
These were two of the findings of the ISS Management and Cost Evaluation
Task Force that were contained in a 40-page report to the NASA Advisory
Council. The report was released on November 2. Thomas Young, former
president and Chief Operations Officer at Martin Marietta Corporation,
chaired the task force.
The task force was announced in late July, following revelations in
April of a projected $4+ billion increase in space station construction
costs in the 2002-2006 time period. Space station development costs
are capped, by law, at $25.0 billion. The result points to a downsized
station with downsized research.
This report recommends significant management changes. Of perhaps greater
interest to the research community are the task force recommendations
regarding research. NASA now envisions the station having a three-person
crew instead of the original seven-person crew. The report states, "The
scientific community is confused and considers the reduction to a three-person
crew, from the seven-person crew baseline, to have a significant adverse
impact on science."
To mitigate this impact, the task force found "There are opportunities
to maximize scientific research on the [three- person] core station
with modest cost impact." It suggests: "The crew time available
with a permanent crew of three persons can be effectively doubled by
extending sortie mission crew time aboard the ISS. This can be accomplished
by overlapping planned Soyuz exchange periods so that the visiting crew
is aboard ISS for a period of 30 days every 5 months. Using existing
Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) capability could allow for Shuttle docked
time of up to 14 days. The increased research benefit derives primarily
from offloading ISS maintenance tasks to the visiting Shuttle crew.
However, there will be significant microgravity constraints due to the
Shuttle being docked to the station, as well as crew transfer and maintenance
Looking ahead, the Task Force stated that the "end state"
for the program "should be defined in terms of the science priorities
"Establish research priorities. The Task Force is unanimous
in that the highest research priority should be solving problems associated
with long-duration human space flight, including the engineering required
for human support mechanisms, and
"Provide the Centrifuge Accommodation Module (CAM) and centrifuge
mandatory to accomplish the top priority biological research. Availability
as late as FY 08 is unacceptable, and
"Establish a research plan consistent with the priorities, including
a prudent level of reserves, and compliant with the approved budget.
"Provide additional crew time for scientific research through
the use of extended duration shuttle and overlap of Soyuz missions.
"Create a Deputy Program Manager for Science position in ISS
Program Office. Assign a science community representative with dual
responsibility to the Program and OBPR [Office of Biological and Physical
Initial reaction to the Task Force report by House Science Committee
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ranking Minority Member Ralph
Hall (D-TX) was favorable. The committee will hold a hearing on this
Richard M. Jones
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics