THE ROLE AND TRAINING OF NASA ASTRONAUTS
Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations
Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study is based on work supported by Contract NNH10CC48B between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agency that provided support for the project.
Cover: Design by Tim Warchocki. Images courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-21869-6
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-21869-1
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Copyright 2011 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.
The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
OTHER RECENT REPORTS OF THE AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ENGINEERING BOARD
An Interim Report on NASA’s Draft Space Technology Roadmaps (Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2011)
Limiting Future Collision Risk to Spacecraft: An Assessment of NASA’s Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs (ASEB, 2011)
Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era [prepublication version] (Space Studies Board [SSB] with ASEB, 2011)
Summary of the Workshop to Identify Gaps and Possible Directions for NASA’s Meteoroid and Orbital Debris Programs (ASEB, 2011)
Advancing Aeronautical Safety: A Review of NASA’s Aviation Safety-Related Research Programs (ASEB, 2010)
Capabilities for the Future: An Assessment of NASA Laboratories for Basic Research (Laboratory Assessments Board with ASEB, 2010)
Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth-Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Final Report (SSB with ASEB, 2010)
Final Report of the Committee to Review Proposals to the 2010 Ohio Third Frontier (OTF) Wright Projects Program (WPP) (ASEB, 2010)
America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
An Assessment of NASA’s National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (ASEB, 2009)
Final Report of the Committee for the Review of Proposals to the 2009 Engineering and Physical Science Research and Commercialization Program of the Ohio Third Frontier Program (ASEB, 2009)
Fostering Visions for the Future: A Review of the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (ASEB, 2009)
Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Radioisotope Power Systems: An Imperative for Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Space Exploration (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Assessing the Research and Development Plan for the Next Generation Air Transportation System: Summary of a Workshop (ASEB, 2008)
A Constrained Space Exploration Technology Program: A Review of NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program (ASEB, 2008)
Launching Science: Science Opportunities Provided by NASA’s Constellation System (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Managing Space Radiation Risk in the New Era of Space Exploration (ASEB, 2008)
NASA Aeronautics Research: An Assessment (ASEB, 2008)
Review of NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program: An Interim Report (ASEB, 2008)
Science Opportunities Enabled by NASA’s Constellation System: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Wake Turbulence: An Obstacle to Increased Air Traffic Capacity (ASEB, 2008)
Limited copies of ASEB reports are available free of charge from
Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
National Research Council
The Keck Center of the National Academies
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COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT CREW OPERATIONS
FREDERICK D. GREGORY, Lohfeld Consulting Group, Inc., Co-Chair
JOSEPH H. ROTHENBERG, SSC, Co-Chair
MICHAEL J. CASSUTT, University of Southern California
RICHARD O. COVEY, United Space Alliance, LLC (retired)
DUANE W. DEAL, Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies, Inc.
BONNIE J. DUNBAR, Dunbar International, LLC
WILLIAM W. HOOVER, Independent Consultant
THOMAS D. JONES, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
FRANKLIN D. MARTIN, Martin Consulting, Inc.
HENRY McDONALD, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
AMY R. PRITCHETT, Georgia Institute of Technology
RICHARD N. RICHARDS, Boeing Corporation (retired)
JAMES D. VON SUSKIL, NRG, Texas
DWAYNE A. DAY, Senior Program Officer, Study Director
CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Editor
LEWIS GROSWALD, Research Associate
AMANDA R. THIBAULT, Research Associate
DIONNA WILLIAMS, Program Associate
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ENGINEERING BOARD
RAYMOND S. COLLADAY, Lockheed Martin Astronautics (retired), Chair
LESTER LYLES, The Lyles Group, Vice Chair
ELLA M. ATKINS, University of Michigan
AMY L. BUHRIG, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group
INDERJIT CHOPRA, University of Maryland, College Park
JOHN-PAUL B. CLARKE, Georgia Institute of Technology
RAVI B. DEO, EMBR
VIJAY DHIR, University of California, Los Angeles
EARL H. DOWELL, Duke University
MICA R. ENDSLEY, SA Technologies
DAVID GOLDSTON, Harvard University
R. JOHN HANSMAN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
JOHN B. HAYHURST, Boeing Company (retired)
WILLIAM L. JOHNSON, California Institute of Technology
RICHARD KOHRS, Independent Consultant
IVETT LEYVA, Air Force Research Laboratory, Edwards Air Force Base
ELAINE S. ORAN, Naval Research Laboratory
ALAN G. POINDEXTER, Naval Postgraduate School
HELEN R. REED, Texas A&M University
ELI RESHOTKO, Case Western Reserve University
EDMOND SOLIDAY, United Airlines (retired)
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director
CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Administrative Coordinator
TANJA PILZAK, Manager, Program Operations
CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate
CHRISTINA O. SHIPMAN, Financial Officer
SANDRA WILSON, Financial Assistant
The United States has been launching astronauts into space for five decades. During that period, the size of the Astronaut Corps has grown and shrunk periodically in accordance with various program demands. The training facilities required to support the Astronaut Corps have also changed over time to meet the new demands placed on it. NASA has retired the space shuttle but is still operating the International Space Station and adopting a new approach to transporting astronauts to low Earth orbit and eventually beyond. These changes are affecting the role and size of the activities managed by the Flight Crew Operations Directorate of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and of the ground training facilities and the fleet of training aircraft used by the Astronaut Corps.
In May 2010, the National Research Council (NRC) was asked by NASA to address several questions related to the Astronaut Corps:
1. How should the role and size of the activities managed by the Johnson Space Center Flight Crew Operations Directorate change after space shuttle retirement and completion of the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS)?
2. What are the requirements for crew-related ground-based facilities after the Space Shuttle program ends?
3. Is the fleet of aircraft used for training the Astronaut Corps a cost-effective means of preparing astronauts to meet the requirements of NASA’s human spaceflight program? Are there more cost-effective means of meeting these training requirements?
The NRC was not asked to consider whether the United States should continue human spaceflight, nor whether there are better alternatives for achieving the nation’s goals than launching humans into space. Rather, the NRC’s charge was predicated on the assumption that U.S. human spaceflight would continue.
The NRC was asked in its task to establish requirements for the role and size of the activities managed by the Flight Crew Operations Directorate and the crew-related ground-based test facilities but was not asked to conduct cost analysis of different requirements. That analysis can be performed by NASA as it chooses whether and how to implement any of the recommendations in this report.
In response to the request, the NRC appointed the Committee on Human Spaceflight Crew Operations. The committee held its first meeting at Johnson Space Center in January 2011 and then met in Washington, D.C., in March and finally in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in May. The committee received input from a diverse group that included NASA’s Astronaut Office, NASA Headquarters officials, and representatives of the Federal Aviation
Administration, the commercial airline industry, the Navy Nuclear Propulsion Office, and companies seeking to provide commercial crew access to the ISS. NASA’s Astronaut Office responded to the committee’s many requests for information by providing extensive details on the office’s activities, on the Flight Crew Operations Directorate’s training resources, and on the role of high-performance aircraft training in the overall astronaut training portfolio. The committee acknowledges the extensive cooperation provided by the chief astronaut and the staff of the Astronaut Office.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Michael Bloomfield, Oceaneering Space Systems,
Kenneth D. Bowersox, Space Exploration Technologies,
John E. Boyington, Jr., DRS Technologies,
Daniel C. Brandenstein, United Space Alliance, LLC,
Eileen Collins, U.S. Air Force (retired),
N. Wayne Hale, Jr., Special Aerospace Services,
Scott Pace, Space Policy Institute and George Washington University,
Richard H. Truly, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (retired),
Jim Voss, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and
Steven Weinberg, University of Texas, Austin.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Alton D. Slay, Slay Enterprises Incorporated. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.