FIGURE 2.2 The Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV (left), and the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, or HTV (right), orbiting Earth. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.
Although the retirement of the space shuttle has reduced some of the training requirements for NASA astronauts, the operation of the ISS has imposed many complicated new ones, such as the requirement for Russian language proficiency. Astronauts are now required to be familiar not only with the U.S. equipment aboard the ISS but European, Japanese, and Russian station modules and equipment. They are also required to be knowledgeable about the Soyuz spacecraft and the Progress, Japanese HTV, and European ATV robotic resupply spacecraft (Figure 2.2). They must be proficient in using space station software, conducting extravehicular activities, operating the space station’s robotic arm, and numerous other tasks. Furthermore, astronauts are no longer trained for focused, limited duration missions with clearly defined skill sets (as they were with the shuttle) but instead are required to have the knowledge and skills to live in space for a long duration, respond to an eventuality that may arise (and fix it there rather than return to Earth), and conduct a large array of science experiments.
Since 2009, there has been considerable debate and disagreement between Congress and the White House about the future direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program. There is no clear plan to send U.S. astronauts beyond low Earth orbit in the foreseeable future, but it remains a possibility, particularly in light of NASA’s recent announcement of its intention to develop a Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle for the follow-on exploration of space.
In many ways, crew roles, tasks, and skills for human exploration are the same as those currently required for the ISS and Soyuz operations: long-duration spaceflight, on-orbit crew stay; ascent and entry; rendezvous and docking; undocking and de-orbit; maintenance and repair; robotics operations; EVA operations; and scientific research and payload operations. For human exploration and operations beyond low Earth orbit, the ISS task and skill set will need to be augmented by training for planetary surface operations, mission-specific operations and landing requirements, and science operations. Although the specific missions have not been approved, the potential mission set includes the Moon, Mars, near-Earth asteroids, and spacecraft servicing.
NASA is also planning to use commercially procured crew transfer services for the ISS, which may or may not involve use of NASA astronauts for operations. However, even if the NASA astronauts are not used to pilot the commercial vehicles, the committee believes that NASA’s Astronaut Corps will be involved in various aspects of development and certification of commercial service provider pilots to provide an oversight role and to ensure safety.
NASA’s Astronaut Corps of active, flight-eligible astronauts is managed by the Astronaut Office, an organization in Johnson Space Center’s Flight Crew Operations Directorate. FCOD manages both the Astronaut Office and aircraft operations and training at Ellington Field several miles north of the Johnson Space Center. FCOD manag-