NASA’s operations and development programs. FCOD will not have the luxury of hiring new people to deal with a serious failure aboard the ISS or in the early stages of the development and oversight of commercial spacecraft and spacecraft beyond LEO.
NASA’s Astronaut Office, which includes both the Astronaut Corps and such additional personnel as management astronauts no longer qualified to fly on space missions, supports several tasks. During its study, the committee noted that the Astronaut Office did not explicitly identify providing operational knowledge and corporate memory of human spaceflight as among its tasks, although this responsibility is implicit in the work that the Astronaut Office does. As a result, the committee specifically identified provision of operational knowledge and corporate memory of human spaceflight as one of the Astronaut Office’s tasks, but it notes that maintaining this capability does not drive the minimum manifest requirement for members of the Astronaut Corps.
NASA plans to make periodic selections of a relatively small number of new astronaut candidates over the next few years. The committee believes that that is appropriate and that it is up to NASA to determine how often to make such selections; the committee’s recommendation concerns only the model for calculating requirements.
Findings and Recommendations on the Role and Size of the Activities Managed by FCOD4
Finding 2.1a. NASA’s current Astronaut Office’s role is to support six tasks (in priority order):5
1. Provide well-trained spaceflight operators to support the NASA flight manifest.
2. Provide ground support personnel for tasks required specifically to support the NASA flight manifest.
3. Provide support for new program development, ranging from development of relatively small payloads and equipment to development of whole new spacecraft designs.
4. Provide operational knowledge and corporate memory of human spaceflight.
5. Provide for collaboration with other government and private organizations as needed and directed by NASA.
6. Provide support for public and educational outreach to society.
The first task is the one in FCOD’s model that drives the size of the Astronaut Corps—the number of astronauts qualified to fly in space. But the demands of tasks 2 through 6 add to the workload. The committee supports these roles as a proper use of an important core capability both now and into the future.
Management (inactive) astronauts serving in civil service positions in the Astronaut Office provide supplemental support for tasks 2 through 6. They do not use training assets except as instructors, evaluators, mentors, or providers of expertise; are ineligible for flight; and do not provide a reserve capacity for flight assignments.
Finding 2.1b. Although NASA’s human spaceflight program and its post-shuttle crew requirements have not been well defined beyond operation of the ISS, the sizing of the Astronaut Corps to meet ISS crew requirements has been well modeled by using ISS crew selection, training and flight recovery times, and a plan for post-shuttle force reduction.
Finding 2.1c. Astronaut anthropometric (physical size) limitations for flying in the Soyuz limit flexibility in crew assignments in response to contingencies.
Conclusion 2.1. On the basis of its assessment of known and potential needs, the committee concluded that the currently projected minimum staffing target size for the active Astronaut Corps poses a risk to the U.S. investment in human spaceflight capabilities. The committee concluded that given the array of potential crew assignment constraints and uncertainty in future requirements, the Astronaut Corps appears
4 The numbering of the findings and recommendations mirrors their numbering in Chapters 2 and 3.
5 NASA identified tasks 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6; the committee has added task 4.