Implementing a translational science component to ensure bidirectional interactions between basic science and the development of new mission options; and
Encouraging, and then accommodating, team science approaches to what are inherently complex multidisciplinary challenges.
In addition, as noted repeatedly by the scientific community that has provided input to this study, reasonable stability and predictability of research funding are critical to ensuring productive and sustained progress toward research goals in any program.
In the context of an institutional home for an integrated research agenda, the committee noted that program leadership and execution are likely to be productive only if aggregated under a single management structure and housed in a NASA directorate or other key organization that understands the value of science and has the vision to see its potential application in future exploration missions. Ultimately, any successful research program would need to be directed by a leader of significant gravitas who is in a position of authority within the agency and has the communication skills to ensure that the entire agency understands and concurs with the key objective to support and conduct high-fidelity, high-quality, high-value research.
The International Space Station provides a unique platform for research, and past studies have noted the critical importance of its research capabilities to support the goal of long-term human exploration in space.1 Although it is difficult to predict the timing for the transition of important research questions from ground- to space-based investigations, the committee identifies in this interim report a number of broad topics that represent near-term opportunities for ISS research. These topics, which are not prioritized, fall under the following general areas:
Plant and microbial research to increase fundamental knowledge of the gravitational response and potentially to advance goals for the development of bioregenerative life support;
Behavioral research to mitigate the detrimental effects of the spaceflight environment on astronauts’ functioning and health;
Human and animal biology research to increase basic understanding of the effects of spaceflight on biological systems and to develop critically needed countermeasures to mitigate the negative biological effects of spaceflight on astronauts’ health, safety, and performance;
Physical sciences research to explore fundamental laws of the universe and basic physical phenomena in the absence of the confounding effects of gravity; and
Translational and applied research in physical sciences that can provide a foundation of knowledge for the development of systems and technologies enabling human and robotic exploration.
This report contains discussion of various topics within each of these areas. The committee notes, however, that although the ISS is a key component of research infrastructure that will need to be utilized by a biological and physical research sciences program, it is only one component of a healthy program. Other platforms will play an important role and, in particular, research on the ISS will need to be supported by a parallel ground-based program to be scientifically credible.