specific research projects and testbed experiments needed to support biomedical countermeasures and exploration technology development, and prioritize these in terms of such factors as mission importance, range of use, timelines, and probability of success.
The panel noted with special concern the potential long-term impact of recent decisions to eliminate delivery of certain ISS research facilities, specifically the centrifuge accommodation module and the planned animal habitats and holding racks and the life sciences glove box, and to eliminate or severely downgrade fundamental research in previously funded areas of physical and life sciences. Previous reports have emphasized the importance of areas of fundamental biological and microgravity research in the development of new technologies and the mitigation of space-induced risks to human health and performance both during and after long-term spaceflight.1-3 Chapters 4 and 5 of the present report summarize several priority areas of fundamental biomedical and physical science research that are crucial to achieving acceptable levels of risk in spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit. The panel fears that loss of these programs may limit or impede development of such technologies and biological countermeasures and it notes that, once lost, neither the necessary research infrastructures nor the necessary communities of scientific investigators can survive or be easily replaced.
Recommendation: NASA should reconsider the role of the ISS in fundamental research in microgravity and biological sciences and the facilities essential for this research, with the aim of acquiring new knowledge critical to mitigating the multiple risks of long-term spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit.
As discussed in earlier reports, neither sufficient time for research and testing nor a sufficient number of volunteers for human experimentation can be afforded by a three-person crew,4-8 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.
Recommendation: NASA should give top priority to restoring the crew size of the ISS to at least six members at the earliest possible time, preferably by 2008.
1. Institute of Medicine (IOM). 2001. Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
2. National Research Council (NRC). 1998. A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
3. NRC. 2003. Assessment of Directions in Microgravity and Physical Sciences Research at NASA. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
4. NRC. 2003. Factors Affecting the Utilization of the International Space Station for Research in the Biological and Physical Sciences. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
5. NRC. 1998. A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century.
6. NRC. 2000. Review of NASA’s Biomedical Research Program. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.