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NRC Report: Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station

Status Report From: National Research Council
Posted: Monday, November 28, 2005

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Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station (Full Report)

Review of NASA Strategic Roadmaps: Space Station Panel, National Research Council

Executive Summary Excerpts

"The panel saw no evidence of an integrated resource utilization plan for use of the ISS in support of the Exploration Missions. Presentations that covered some elements of criteria and processes for determining priorities for utilization of ISS for different exploration missions demonstrated poor definition of those criteria and processes. In particular, the materials presented to the panel did not seem to take into account the effects that high priorities assigned to one mission would have on factors such as the ability to complete another, perhaps later mission, through depletion of necessary resources or limitation of necessary lead times."


"The ISS represents a unique R&D platform with which to conduct enabling R&D for exploration missions, particularly a Mars mission. Enabling research was not noted as an objective for the ISS support for exploration missions. The panel noted with concern this apparent gap in understanding the value of the ISS for exploration missions. Even in an era of extremely limited resources, for R&D that is necessary to solve exploration problems and reduce crew and missions risks, the ISS may well represent the only timely opportunity to conduct this R&D prior to a Mars mission."


"The ISS represents a unique platform with which to conduct operational demonstrations in microgravity. For a Mars mission, where significant periods of the mission will occur in microgravity, due to the long travel times enroute to and returning from Mars, the ISS may prove the only facility with which to conduct critical operations demonstrations needed to reduce risks and certify advanced systems. The panel is concerned that no evidence of definition of operations demonstrations requirements for exploration mission was shown, and such requirements do not appear to be a part of the exploration utilization plan for the ISS."


"As discussed in previous NRC reports neither time for necessary research and testing, nor the number of available volunteers for human experimentation can be supported by a three person crew, much less the current reduced number of two. Completion of ISS research and testing essential for human missions to Mars and beyond will require a full six person crew to enable astronauts to give adequate time and effort to these activities."


"Given that shuttle flights are being delayed and that each future shuttle flight schedule is unsure, it is possible that the planned ISS configuration will not be completed by 2010, putting the ISS exploration objectives at risk. It appears that there are no plans to provide a back-up alternative to the shuttle launch of ISS structural components and research modules, if the shuttle does not complete this process by 2010."


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