Provide near-term opportunities for flight and scientific advancement,
Enhance continuity of investigators within microgravity by providing near-term access to a microgravity environment,
Sustain “readiness” by maintaining active participation of the investigator base,
Demonstrate NASA commitment to support microgravity activities, and,
Provide Shuttle-based gathering of fire safety information that will be needed in support of ISS outfitting.”
The conclusions in this Phase 1 Report are based on NASA’s Space Shuttle and ISS planning that is currently in a very high state of flux. NASA’s response to the reluctance of both the Administration and the Congress to fund the latest ISS cost growth projections has not yet solidified. When these plans are firmly established, certainly in time to influence the findings and recommendations of Phase 2 of this report, the conclusions and recommendations currently held by the joint NRC/NAPA Task Group on Research on the International Space Station may well take a new direction. However, one thing is clear. The erosion of the microgravity research community has begun. It will accelerate if flight opportunities and research capabilities wane. Action is required if the nation is to maintain a strong, viable, worldclass, microgravity space-based community.
The Phase 1 conclusions basically agreed to by the NRC and NAPA task group members examine a set of boundary conditions and propose action based upon each.
Assuming Assembly Sequence F schedule and capability are achieved, then:
If ISS development monies were to be the funding source for additional microgravity shuttle flights, no additional shuttle flights should be planned for microgravity research.
If funding were to be provided from new sources, it would be highly beneficial to fly annual flights.
Assuming Draft Assembly Sequence G schedule and reduced capability are implemented, then annual shuttle flights devoted to science should be flown until the ISS reaches research capability planned for assembly complete under Sequence F.
As stated throughout this report, there are many serious issues facing the ability to conduct microgravity research. The Task Group realizes that adding Shuttle flight(s) could have a negative impact on ISS assembly. However, if the ISS operability dates continue to slip, and microgravity research capability is reduced significantly, then Shuttle flights may well be the only opportunity for research in a microgravity environment for the better part of this decade. If the nation does not maintain its microgravity research community throughout the first part of this decade, it is entirely possible that when the ISS is finally ready the ability to conduct world-class research will not be there.