Members will hear testimony on issues regarding the safety, cost, and scientific merit of the International Space Station. Senator Brownback will preside. Following is a tentative witness list (not necessarily in order of appearance):
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Allen Li
Mr. Arthur I. Zygielbaum
Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: I am honored to have been invited to testify with regard to the safety of the International Space Station. Although I am testifying as a private citizen, I am a member of the administrative faculty, an associate professor of computer science and engineering (a courtesy title) and head of a research center in educational technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). My testimony does not reflect any position or opinion of University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I joined UNL in January 1998 after spending nearly 30 years at the NASA/CALTECH Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While at JPL I held positions in electronic and software engineering as well as in line and program management. In August 2001 I was appointed as a consultant to the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP). Three days after the Columbia tragedy, the NASA Administrator appointed me as a full member of the Panel. As you are aware, I resigned that appointment about a month ago. In presenting my view of space station safety, I will first address the International Space Station (ISS) program within the context of NASA safety. Second, I will address specific issues impacting ISS safety and some over-sensationalized headlines attributed to me. My major points will be to recommend the establishment of independent safety oversight for NASA and the creation of a centralized, but international, management structure for the International Space Station. Is ISS safe? The answer cannot be “yes” or “no”. For an enterprise as complex as space station, or the space program, or even driving to work, the answer is “probably.” We can only act to reduce the risk of an accident – a bad day. The actions proposed in this testimony are designed to reduce risk by providing a back-stop function for safety and by reducing the pressure to cave in to the ever present pressures of limited time and resources. I. ISS Safety as a part of NASA Safety The International Space Station program exists within the organization and culture of NASA. Its safety organization and assignment of safety responsibilities is similar to that in other NASA programs, including the Space Shuttle. The Challenger and Columbia disasters can be traced, at least in part, to allowing safety margins to erode in the face of budget and schedule pressure. The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel has repeatedly called for independence of safety organizations and for clear and clean lines of safety responsibility, accountability and authority to provide the checks and balances that resist such erosion. Independent Safety Oversight The call to establish greater independence for NASA’s safety organization is not a new one. The 1999 Shuttle Independent Assessment Team stated “NASA’s safety and mission assurance organization was not sufficiently independent.” The Rogers Commission investigating the Challenger disaster called for independent oversight. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report included the following, “NASA’s safety system lacked the resources, independence, personnel, and authority to successfully apply alternate perspectives to developing problems. Overlapping roles and responsibilities across multiple safety offices also undermined the possibility of a reliable system of checks and balances.” The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel could not provide the needed oversight. The Panel’s $500,000 annual budget only allowed panel members to spend 2-5 days per month in meetings or in the field. In 1978, Herbert Grier, ASAP Chairman, testified to this very Senate Subcommittee, “The Panel's objective, and the limitation on the members' time, indicate that we can be expected to review NASA operations only to the extent necessary to judge the adequacy of the NASA management system to identify risks and to cope with them in a safe, efficient manner.” In the words of the CAIB, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel was “not very often influential.” Despite the fact that ASAP’s Annual Reports had for at least three decades identified technical problems and deficiencies in safety organization authority, accountability, responsibility, independence and funding, an attempt was made in a Senate Appropriations Committee report to hold ASAP accountable for not identifying the cultural problems found by the CAIB. ASAP was an advisory group – by definition to answer questions asked of it – to give advice. When my colleagues and I resigned from ASAP it was to facilitate the establishment of a safety oversight group with needed independence and authority. It was to establish an oversight group whose authority matched its responsibility. An independent oversight board can provide effective checks and balances against the forces that erode safety – changing culture, budget, schedule, aging equipment, inadequate processes, etc. The Navy’s technical warrant process, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are all examples of oversight organizations providing strong checks and balances to implementing organizations. Unlike ASAP, the, for want of a name, NASA Safety Board should be full-time and include a small staff of researchers to aid in field work, reviews, and investigations. It should have sufficient funding to hire its own research personnel and to task NASA safety experts for specific studies. The Board must have the ability to communicate with all levels of NASA management in order to ask questions and examine safety-related processes and standards. While the Board could report to the NASA Administrator, it could be chartered under Congress, like the NTSB and the National Research Council, to achieve greater independence. It would act as a final authority in issues related to safety. From our experience in ASAP, this Board must be constituted outside the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). While FACA’s purpose in controlling committees is laudable, it has several provisions that would weaken an oversight group. In particular, FACA requires that a Federally Designated Official accompany committee members in any fact finding activities. The act also requires that all recommendations to the government be first aired in a public meeting. These restrictions impede investigation and effectively prohibit dealing with sensitive programmatic or personnel issues. Waiver Authority In response to a request by the NASA Administrator during our March 2003 annual meeting, ASAP began a study of NASA’s safety organization and culture. I headed the Safety Organization and Culture Team (SOCT) that was assigned that task. The Team’s initial findings and recommendations were presented publicly at Kennedy Space Center last September. The report, which was approved by ASAP as a whole, is appended to this testimony. Although there were many initial findings, the Team reached one clear initial conclusion: isolate the obligation to meet safety critical requirements from the pressures to meet schedules and budgets. Issued before the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report, the single initial recommendation was nonetheless strongly in concert. Quoting from the Team report: “It is traditional in NASA for project and program managers to have the authority to authorize waivers to safety requirements. Safety critical waiver authority should reside with an independent safety organization using independent technical evaluation. Moving this authority would increase the management oversight of safety-related decisions and would strongly support the creation of a well-respected and highly-skilled safety organization. Recommendation: ASAP recommends that NASA institute a process change that requires that waiver requests to safety critical requirements be submitted by project and program managers to a safety organization independent of the program/project. That organization would have sole authority, excepting appeal outside the program/project potentially moving up to the level of the Administrator.” In the present NASA organization, if safety personnel identify a safety critical problem, they report it to a project manager who has the authority to ignore or waiver the requirement. The safety organization could appeal to the next level of project or program management to override the waiver. ASAP proposes that safety is paramount. Under the proposed recommendation, once a safety critical problem is identified by safety personnel, the project manager would have to apply to the safety organization for a waiver. If it is not granted, he or she would appeal to the next higher level in the safety organization. The project manager’s responsibility for setting and enforcing technical requirements would remain unchanged. The authority to issue waivers to safety critical requirements would move to a safety organization. The responsibility to meet safety critical requirements would thereby not be easily weakened in response to cost, schedule, or other influence. This process is similar to the Technical Warrant process used in the US Navy Sea Systems Command. A technical authority is created who holds final authority for waivers and changes to technical requirements. The technical authority is an expert who is isolated from the project manager’s schedule and budget pressures. (I am now part of an Independent Review Team examining the state of this process for the Navy.) Caveat Nothing in the suggestions for an oversight board or independent waiver authority should be construed to remove responsibility for safety from project and programs. Oversight boards or independent authorities cannot replace safety functions integral to the engineering, management, and operation of NASA’s projects and programs. Accountability for safety must remain with those who have implementing authority. II. International Space Station: An Accident Waiting to Happen? Several weeks ago headlines appeared world-wide stating that I, as an ex-NASA advisor, declared that the International Space Station (ISS) was in critical danger. In fact, what I stated, at a public ASAP meeting in September, was that incidents had occurred that might be a trend indicating problems with Space Station safety and operational processes. The 2002 ASAP Annual Report included this statement, “Several events during the past year triggered the Panel’s concern. For example, shortly after the docking of STS-113 with ISS, there was loss of ISS attitude control due to lack of coordination of the system configuration. In another case, lithium thionyl chloride batteries were used on board ISS over the explicit objection of several partners. Although this occurred within appropriate existing agreements and without incident, the precedent is potentially hazardous. The Panel notes that differences exist in the safety philosophies among the partnering agencies. There is the potential for hazardous conditions to develop due to disagreements.” In September a Russian controller sent commands to fire thrusters before American controllers disengaged the Control Moment Gyroscope system. The result was one attitude control system countering the actions of the other. Both attitude control incidents resulted in a relatively short loss of attitude control. Although ISS was not seriously endangered by any of these incidents individually, the concern of the Panel was that miscommunication or misunderstandings about the system configurations could lead to extremely hazardous conditions. The Panel indicated that it would investigate this trend to understand if it was real and if actions were being taken to improve the situation. The Russian and American organizations involved in ISS have cultural differences that impact safety. These differences are manifested in several ways. In a briefing by ISS managers, we were told that Russian safety organizations tend to fit hierarchically into their operational organizations. This differs from the American philosophy of parallel safety organizations that offer at least some level of independence. Of greater concern, however, is the sensitive nature of the interface between the American and Russian agencies. Clouded by issues of international protocol, national pride, security, and technology transfer, it was difficult for ASAP to obtain hard information about the Russian side of the command and control incidents. ISS is a complicated spacecraft. It is a remarkable achievement. As an engineer I appreciate the difficulties that have been overcome in developing interfaces that function well across physical, electronic, and electrical connections. As a manager I am concerned about the highly decentralized management that operates space station. Had I remained with ASAP I would have argued for a 2003 recommendation to investigate mechanisms to create a centralized international ISS management structure and an independent international safety oversight board. As ISS builds toward “core complete” and beyond, complexities will increase, coordination will become more critical, and the chance for accident will grow exponentially. A stronger management and safety structure is, in my opinion, the only means to salve this concern. I am pleased to note that in a recent conversation with the Space Station Program Manager, William Gerstenmaier, he indicated that the Columbia tragedy had been a “wake-up call” to both the Russian and American teams. The result was improved communication and better exchange of technical information. Despite my concerns, I am amazed and in awe of how much has been accomplished by Bill, his people, and their Russian counterparts. III. Other Issues For the record, in its 2002 Annual Report and during meetings with NASA officials, ASAP expressed concerns and made specific recommendations that impact ISS. The recommendations included: · Assure adequate funding for the development and maintenance of micrometeoroid/orbital debris (MMOD) software. · Continue priority efforts to find a solution to the lack of a crew rescue vehicle in the period from 2006 to 2010, between the planned end of Soyuz production and the availability of the Orbital Space Plane. · Review crew performance in light of apparent crew fatigue during EVA. This recommendation was sparked by a near miss collision between the ISS remote manipulator system and a docked space shuttle. · Assure that American and Russian segment control computers can each operate safety critical functions in all segments to mitigate hazards caused by computer failure in any segment. (American computers cannot control the propulsion system in the Russian segment, for example.) The Panel was concerned about the availability of Russian Soyuz spacecraft and Progress supply vehicles. ISS is still a developmental vehicle. As such, the reliability and interoperability of systems and components is being learned. Sufficient “up” and “down” mass capability must be available to support hardware replacement and crew consumable resupply. While a crew can turn off the lights and come home in an emergency, that is not the best answer in terms of protecting the ISS investment nor lives and property on the ground if ISS makes an uncontrolled atmospheric reentry. IV. Final Comments The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel effectively came to an end when all of its members and consultants resigned last month. I am very proud of my short tenure with ASAP. Over its 36 year history, ASAP was populated by individuals outstanding in their fields of expertise and in their commitment to space exploration. As a group they identified significant safety issues that ranged from organizational problems through major technical flaws. If we were really “often not very influential” it was not for lack of technical expertise or tenacity in attempting to get a point across. We grieved with NASA and the world at the loss of Columbia and her gallant crew. We tried to understand our role with respect to the tragedy. At no time did we attempt to identify individuals who might be responsible. Rather we focused on processes that failed and on organizational structures that were faulty. We are convinced that no one within NASA wants to be unsafe or to unnecessarily endanger people or property. Given the enormity of the disaster it is easy to forget that NASA is fundamentally safe. There are thousands of potentially dangerous processes, such as moving heavy machinery and working with caustic chemicals, accomplished safely every day by NASA personnel and contractors. Our single-minded purpose as a Panel was to assure the safety of ongoing and future NASA projects. It is up to those who follow to assure that safety remains the number one concern of the NASA family. Appendix Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel Safety Organization and Culture Team Initial Findings and Recommendations August 20, 2003 This paper documents initial findings of the Safety Organization and Culture Team. This paper also includes an initial recommendation worthy of consideration for immediate action. The Team will continue to develop these findings and issue recommendations through the Panel by benchmarking outside organizations, reviewing documents, interviewing individual NASA personnel, and discussing issues with NASA management and safety organizations. For purposes of this study, the Team is organizing its investigation and review into three categories: Culture, Formalism of Safety, and Safety Organizations. Initial Findings 1. Culture: Attitudes, Behavior, and Identity. The NASA “safety culture” includes safety attitudes and behavior evidenced by individuals and organizations. In addition, safety culture includes a sense of community and responsibility for that community among all individuals involved in NASA. NASA is focused on safety throughout the agency. Notwithstanding the Columbia disaster, NASA personnel deal daily with hazardous materials, processes, and procedures. Accidents are infrequent, and, safety is explicitly prized by the agency as a whole. However, NASA’s “can do” attitude could motivate projects to continue despite resource and schedule constraints. ASAP is concerned that safety is treated as a “consumable” in the same sense as schedule and budget in the push to meet flight commitments and schedules. Work-arounds, “within family” rationale, acceptance of out of specifications conditions, etc., have became standard practice. By contrast, the U.S. Navy submarine force and nuclear reactors programs, as shown in the Navy Benchmark Study, vest safety authority in independent organizations that oversee all programs and projects. There are no waivers to safety-critical requirements in any circumstances short of dire emergency. The Panel also notes that in its review of the Orbital Space Plane (OSP) program, safety requirements did not appear at the upper levels of program requirements documents. The program made a conscious decision to leave the formulation of those requirements to the contractors. In the absence of high level safety requirements, there is little basis for a safety comparison among proposals. Without recording such requirements, there is risk that schedule and funding pressures may lead to degradation of safety. OSP acceleration could compound this problem. As indicated in the ASAP 2002 Annual Report, many jobs in safety organizations are not held in high regard. There is a general belief that individuals in those positions are not useful in “getting the job done.” 2. Formalism of Safety. Safety formalism at NASA includes documentation of requirements and guidelines, defined processes, training and certification of personnel, and ongoing assessment and evaluation. NASA has compiled large numbers of safety requirements and guidelines, which are published in a hierarchy of documents. The Panel is concerned that “requirements” and “guidelines” seem to be used interchangeably. While many NASA Standards and Guidelines are useful, they have been weakened over time to accommodate project constraints. Standards and guidelines must be kept vital in both senses of the word. They must be considered a necessary part of all development efforts. They must be kept updated, current, and appropriate to their intent. Safety engineering at the systems level needs to be improved. System safety can best be achieved by eliminating and controlling hazards through specific design and operating approaches. It is compromised by inadequate systems engineering practices, and is characterized by bottom-up analysis and an over-emphasis on component engineering. While the Panel supports the use of Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), the Panel cautions that the PRA is not a substitute for a rigorous system safety design process. The NASA process for assuring compliance with safety requirements is weak. This derives from the ability to waive requirements at the program level. It is exacerbated by inadequate safety organization authority. Because safety compliance may degrade over time, strong trend analysis capability is needed. The Panel is concerned that there is insufficient authority, responsibility and accountability vested in safety organizations. NASA needs to have stronger processes or structures in place to keep technical requirements current and validated. Similarly, the certification of systems against those requirements can diminish over time. In Shuttle, there are examples where components and procedures have changed without requisite recertification against safety and system level requirements. 3. Safety Organizations. The NASA safety organization includes implicit and explicit safety organizations spanning Headquarters, the Centers, and contractors. These organizations interrelate with each other, and with programs, projects, technical, and support organizations through lines of responsibility, authority, and accountability. Safety organizations and related authority, responsibility, and accountability, vary from Center to Center, project to project, and program to program. The organizational architecture is constructed on an as-needed basis rather than through a defined and approved process. Standards on how to develop and operate safety organizations do not always exist or are not rigorously followed. There is no single assignment of responsibility for compliance with safety requirements (technical and procedural). In most cases, this lies with the program/project manager. It is not likely that that manager has a strong background in safety analysis, standards, or methods. Because the manager has full authority, recommendations from safety officials can be easily over-ridden. In the Navy, for example, safety issues are under the full authority of the safety organization. The Panel is concerned that the OSP program shows no clear ownership of system safety requirements. These requirements are caught up in a struggle between safety and systems engineering organizations. OSP safety is weakened by the lack of cooperation and clear authority and responsibility. In some cases, safety organizations receive base funding independent of projects. In others, safety organizations depend solely on project funds. In all cases examined by the Panel, safety organizations do not have real authority in terms of control of funds spent by the project. At best, their approval is advisory to the project manager. There is, therefore, little independent assessment of safety and minimal impetus to attract top-level, highly-qualified, and well respected system safety engineers. Initial Recommendation Comment: It is traditional in NASA for project and program managers to have the authority to authorize waivers to safety requirements. Safety critical waiver authority should reside with an independent safety organization using independent technical evaluation. Moving this authority would increase the management oversight of safety-related decisions and would strongly support the creation of a well-respected and highly-skilled safety organization. Recommendation: ASAP recommends that NASA institute a process change that requires that waiver requests to safety critical requirements be submitted by project and program managers to a safety organization independent of the program/project. That organization would have sole authority, excepting appeal outside the program/project potentially moving up to the level of the Administrator.
Dr. Robert L. Dr. Park
Click here for a PDF version of Mr. Park's remarks.
Dr. James Pawelczyk
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: Good afternoon. I thank you for the opportunity to discuss the progress that NASA has made in strengthening research on board the International Space Station. I have been a life sciences researcher for 20 years, including my work as a payload specialist astronaut, or guest researcher, on the STS-90 Neurolab Spacelab mission, which flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1998. I am a standing member of NASA's Life Sciences Advisory Subcommittee, and last year I served as a member of the Research Maximization and Prioritization (ReMAP) Taskforce. My area of expertise is blood pressure regulation. Without the nervous and cardiovascular systems that are so uniquely tuned to humans, none of us would be leaving our chairs today without passing out. Similar problems affect up to 500,000 Americans, and develop in as many as 70% of astronauts after spaceflight. Nationwide, only a handful of laboratories are capable of studying this problem by inserting microelectrodes in humans to record signals from nerve fibers, or by measuring the release of neurotransmitters from nerve terminals. Five-years ago, we made the space shuttle one of those laboratories. I offer you personal testament, and the incredible success of the Neurolab mission, as evidence that cutting-edge research can be performed in space. Based on the favorable response from the scientific community toward Neurolab, Congress authorized preliminary funding to develop another research mission, which became STS-107. Like the rest of the NASA family, I lost friends and colleagues on February 1, 2003. We owe the crew of STS-107 our very best efforts to assure that their dedication, their sense of mission, will continue. Translational research: the goal of the ISS A popular "buzzword" in the biological research community has been the word "translational." In this context, research elucidates molecular and genetic mechanisms, and scales, or translates, these principles to larger and more complex structures. In the life sciences, translational research spans the distance from molecular biology to medicine, with the steps of cell biology, organismal biology, and integrative physiology lying somewhere between. It's a journey of discovery from small to large; from studying a single process in isolation to a large organism where many processes interact. Complexity exists at each and every step along the path, illuminated by techniques that let us see further, and with greater clarity. A corollary to this description is that single experiments rarely, if ever, change the course of science. A robust research program includes all elements of translational research, delivering the fruits of the lab bench to everyone. Translational research is the "gold standard" of the NIH, and it is what the research community, and the American people, should expect from the ISS. The challenge of simultaneous operations and construction While I was training for STS-90 in 1996 and 1997 I learned of NASA's plan to provide an early science capability on board the ISS. The simple analogy is moving into a house while it is still under construction; although it's possible, it's not optimal. At the time I wondered about the wisdom of this decision, but in hindsight I must agree that it was a sensible, albeit challenging, approach to provide rapid return on taxpayer investment. It was a calculated gamble that left NASA open to criticism. As research hours began to accumulate, some scientific groups complained vociferously that the research on the ISS was neither "world class" nor "cutting edge." ISS costs were creeping out of control, culminating in a $981 million realignment of research funding from the Office of Biological and Physical Research to the Office of Spaceflight for continued ISS construction. Fiscal accounting was cumbersome, and research success was in jeopardy. The ISS Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force chaired by Tom Young was a direct response to these problems. The most important impact to the scientific community was the proposal of a "core complete" configuration that controlled near-term costs by reducing the ISS crew complement from 6-7 to 3 and postponing or eliminating the infrastructure necessary to support the larger crew. The IMCE Task Force further recommended that NASA constitute a review group to prioritize the remaining ISS resources for the best research possible. To return to the building analogy, some bedrooms were deleted, other rooms were left partially finished, and NASA needed to get the house inspected before the money ran out. The ReMAP Process In response to the IMCE report, NASA adopted the core complete milepost and launched the Research Maximization and Prioritization Task Force, commonly known as ReMAP, in the spring and summer and 2002. Chaired by Rae Silver of Columbia University, the Task Force included two National Medal of Science awardees, one Nobel prize winner, and more than a dozen members of the National Academy of Sciences, representing the full breadth of translational research in the biological and physical sciences. ReMAP affirmed two broad, often overlapping, top priorities for the type of research that should be conducted on board the International Space Station. Both are consistent with the historical mission of NASA. One is the category of intrinsic scientific importance or impact, research that will illuminate our place in the universe, and the nature of that universe at the most fundamental levels. In the other category we valued research that enables human exploration of space, the logical outgrowth of the National Aeronautics and Space Exploration Act of 1958. It should be no surprise to you that over the past 15 years other review panels, both internal and external to NASA, have named similar goals. What was unique to ReMAP was our challenge to consider both the physical sciences and biological sciences simultaneously. This resulted in spirited debate and intellectual foment of the highest caliber. The ReMAP Task Force, in my opinion, was well constituted. Despite some dissent, the vast majority of participants supported our primary recommendation: "If enhancements to ISS beyond 'US core complete' are not anticipated, NASA should cease to characterize the ISS as a science driven program." The ISS, would not be, in the Task Force's opinion, a world-class science facility. Three constraints led us to this conclusion: The first was up-mass: a shuttle schedule of four flights per year, as proposed by the IMCE for cost containment, was simply not sufficient to carry the equipment and research samples necessary to sustain a translational research program while assembling and maintaining the ISS. The second was power on the shuttle: Some experiments, such as those that utilize animal surrogates, require power while they are transported to the space station. An insufficient amount of powered space was available. Finally, there was the issue of crew time. Normal space station operations were estimated to require the full time effort of approximately 2-1/2 crewmembers, leaving just 20 person-hours per week available for research. Progress since ReMAP The ReMAP report was well received, and NASA is using it as a blueprint for changing ISS research. Since the Task Force's conclusion in June of 2002, NASA has made excellent progress in the areas of management and prioritization that will optimize research on the ISS. In September 2002, the NASA Advisory Council endorsed NASA’s response to ReMAP. At that time no federal agency ranked worse than NASA on the Executive Branch's Management Scorecard. Today, only 10 of 27 agencies rank better overall. People in this agency understand the need to improve, and they're responding. The NASA culture is evolving, in favor of safety and science. Allow me to cite a few examples: First, several low priority research efforts have been descoped or eliminated, and unfunded, higher priority items have received Phase I funding. Most notable is the restoration of limited funding for the core of the Advanced Animal Habitat, which houses mice and rats for microgravity and variable gravity research. These habitats can be mounted on the life sciences centrifuge, scheduled for delivery in FY07 or FY08, and will provide for the first time in human history the ability to study the long-term effects of fractional (moon or Mars-like) microgravity conditions on a variety of biological organisms. Second, integrative research has been revitalized, including renewed collaboration with the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems. A Joint Working Group meeting is taking place in Moscow today and tomorrow. Within NASA, a joint Cell Sciences and Genomics Council has been formed between the Physical Sciences and Fundamental Space Biology Divisions of OBPR to coordinate genomic and cell biology research. The need for such coordination is acute. Recent cell culture experiments by Timothy Hammond at Tulane University suggest that the activity of more than 15% of the human genome changes during microgravity exposure. This is not just a simple statistic; it's a profound demonstration that gravity alters gene expression of cells, which must affect our basic structure and composition. We’ve barely begun to explore what these changes mean. This is a research area where biology, physical sciences, and informatics naturally blend, and NASA's problem-based approach is a model for NIH and NSF to emulate. Third, research that can be done without reliance on the shuttle has been relocated to other platforms in a renewed effort of international collaboration and cooperation. A biological version of the hitchhiker payload experiments has been developed, which can be placed on Progress or Foton rockets. This move alone reduces the backlog of flight experiments in the Fundamental Space Biology Division of OBPR by more than 25%. Fourth, NASA is working proactively to reduce the time required to prepare an ISS scientific payload for flight. Earlier this year NASA constituted a Station and Shuttle Utilization and Reinvention Team. Comprised of representatives of the scientific community and senior management from seven NASA centers, this group was tasked with developing a set of recommendations that strengthen NASA's emphasis on the research community and remove impediments to ISS utilization. The eight top recommendations, which will be implemented in coming months, represent an enlightened view that puts research investigators in direct contact with payload developers, engineers, and ISS crewmembers. The investigator is the customer, and NASA has taken a crash course in customer service. Fifth, the program of ground-based research has been reinvigorated, with no less than 7 solicitations for research proposals in the life and microgravity sciences announced in FY03. The final complement of proposals will depend on funding of the Human Research Initiative that is part of the President’s FY04 budget submission to Congress. Sixth, the seeds of a science-driven culture are being sown at every level of the Agency. A Deputy Associate Administrator for Science has been established in the Office of Biological and Physical Research. The ISS now has a full-time program scientist on the ground who represents the research community on issues related to ISS budget, construction, and maintenance. A crew science officer, currently Ed Lu, takes ownership for the science experiments in-flight. Satisfaction of the research community is to become part of the performance plan of all Associate Administrators, Center Directors, and the ISS and Shuttle Program Managers. The message is simple and powerful: throughout NASA, science deserves a seat at the table. Challenges for the future I am pleased with NASA’s recent efforts to increase science productivity, and Sean O'Keefe and his senior management deserve credit for their leadership during such trying times. The international partners have helped NASA continue its flight research programs despite the shuttle stand down, and they are to be applauded for their commitment. The ISS program has concluded that at least five shuttle flights can be supported with a three-orbiter fleet, which should ameliorate the upmass constraint identified by ReMAP. Estimates for crew time available to conduct research continue to hover at 10 hours per week, and this situation needs to be corrected. The assembly complete configuration, which supports a six-person crew, should increase research time by an order of magnitude or more. If there's one type of technology that is revolutionizing biology today, it is imaging technology. Fluorescent tags permit us to visualize the movement of ions in living cells, computerized tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound allow us to reconstruct deep anatomy with unprecedented detail, and magnetic and electron spin resonance spectroscopy allow us to track the flux of energy and molecules in living systems. NASA-funded researchers employ all of these techniques, but investigators and the American public need better access to this imagery when such approaches are used in space. The goal should be remote operation of experiments by ground investigators, concurrent with preparation of samples by trained astronauts in space, and real-time delivery of images that are sure to inspire and educate the American public much like the Hubble Space Telescope has done. We need to embellish translational research on the ISS, and one example stands out. Osteoporosis afflicts astronauts at rates 10 times greater than post-menopausal women. Using astronauts as human subjects, research now being conducted on the ISS will determine stresses in the hip, a common location for osteoporosis. In December 2003, NASA will host a subgroup discussion at the American Society of Cell Biology to discuss the mechanisms by which cells sense mechanical force. NASA’s celebrated bioreactor program, a revolutionary way to culture cells, is sure to be a part of this conference. Working from both the “beginning” and “end,” these efforts make serious headway on a path of translational research. But we need to fill in the missing pieces by extrapolating the cell and human findings to reference organisms and mammalian models such as mice and rats. We need the capability to house these organisms on the ISS and that's expected within five years. But equally important, we need time for crew members to prepare and conduct these experiments, and that time can be found only when the ISS moves beyond the core complete configuration. The potential return is immense; the application of this research to our aging public could become one of the most important justifications for an International Space Station. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, given sufficient resources, I am convinced that NASA will deliver the rigorous translational research program that the scientific community expects, and the American people deserve. I sincerely thank you for your vigilant support of the nation's space program, and the opportunity to appear before you today.
Mr. William F. ReaddyAssociate Administrator, Space Operations and Mission DirectorateNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, my colleagues Bryan O’Connor, Associate Administrator for Safety and Mission Assurance, Mary Kicza, Associate Administrator for Biological and Physical Research, Dr. Richard Williams, Chief Health and Medical Officer, and I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the status of the International Space Station (ISS) and the impact the Columbia accident has had on ISS operations. On February 1, 2003 we lost the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia. These were my friends and colleagues. I, along with the entire NASA family, will work tirelessly to honor their memory. We are dedicated to improving our programs and our Agency, while we safely return the Shuttle to flight and maintain the ISS in orbit. We will continue the mission of human exploration and discovery, to which the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia committed their lives, and continue to learn through this tragic experience, so that one day the risks of human space flight will be reduced to a level similar to conventional transportation vehicles. I also want to recognize the families of the Columbia crew for their strength and continued support of our historic endeavor. Their contribution to the mission has been the most dear and their fortitude is exemplary to all of us who will press onward in respect for their courage. Current Status As a result of the Columbia accident on February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle fleet has been temporarily grounded. The International Partnership has fully embraced the challenge of keeping the ISS crewed and supplied while the Space Shuttle Program works through and implements the needed changes. The Partners have met frequently at the technical and management levels to coordinate efforts toward maintaining a safe, functional research platform. These meetings have focused the resolve of an international community engaged in one of the most illustrious models of global cooperation for peaceful purposes. In late February, the ISS Partnership agreed to an interim operational plan that will allow crewed operations to continue. This plan called for a reduction of the crew size to two and for crew exchanges to be conducted on the previously scheduled semi-annual Soyuz flights. This reduction was required to keep adequate food and water reserves and live within the consumables that could be supplied by Progress vehicles. It also called for additional Progress vehicles over the 2003-2004 timeframe. In response, Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles have succeeded in providing reliable crew and cargo access to and from the ISS to date. We remain confident these vehicles will continue to carry out their critical mission until the Space Shuttle Fleet returns to flight. On orbit, the ISS is demonstrating its capability to operate safely. The sub-system redundancies that have been fundamental to the design since its earliest phases, in combination with the orbital replacement unit (ORU) architecture, have consistently proven their worth. We have found the ISS to be a highly reliable and maintainable platform that is exceeding our originally conservative engineering projections. ORU failures are lower than first projected and backup sub-systems are reliably coming on line in response to need. Numerous specific examples are available to substantiate this experience. On occasion, we have experienced anomalies with lower criticality level components; however, the Progress resupply missions have enabled replacement in such instances. With respect to consumable commodities, our conservation efforts have been very successful. Original conservative projections indicated water to be our most critical consumable. This condition arose because the visiting Space Shuttles previously supplied surplus water to the ISS as a by-product of their on-board fuel cell electrolysis process. Water remains our most critical consumable; however, close management and periodic Progress re-supply missions have alleviated the severity of this challenge. Our current estimates for future water consumption are now based on actual operating experience since the Columbia accident. We are closely monitoring this key provision and plan to adjust our Progress re-supply mission requirements in CY 2004 to reflect the improved conditions. All experience clearly indicates the ISS is operating in a reliably stable and consistently safe mode. On October 20, the Expedition 8 crew, U.S. Commander Michael Foale and Russian Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri, arrived at their new home orbiting at about 230 miles above the Earth. They were joined by European Space Agency taxi astronaut Pedro Duque, who spent 8 days aboard the Station engaged in a variety of research tasks. The Expedition 7 crew, Commander Yuri Malenchenko and U.S. Science Officer Ed Lu, along with Pedro Duque, were returned safely to Earth on October 28. Lu and Malenchenko traveled nearly 73 million miles during their six-month stay aboard the ISS, 22 million miles further than the distance between the Earth and Mars. NASA and its International Partners continue to build, integrate, and prepare flight hardware according to the Program’s original schedules. This past Summer, NASA’s European-built Node 2 and the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) arrived for processing at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and by Fall, these important elements had successfully completed the third stage of Multiple Element Integration Testing. With these arrivals, the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) at Kennedy Space Center is once again packed to capacity with ISS flight hardware, much the same as it was during the 18-month gap that occurred following ISS First Element Launch (FEL). Today there are more than 80,000 pounds of ISS flight hardware waiting for Space Shuttle integration and an additional 102,000 pounds in preparation for integration at the SSPF. The ISS Program will once again be at an extraordinarily high state of readiness to resume assembly when the Space Shuttle fleet resumes service. With these arrivals, we look forward to the day when the ISS is completed and allowed to demonstrate its research potential. In the meantime, all of the International Partners continue to collaborate on how to best support near-term ISS on-orbit operations until the Space Shuttle returns to flight. The first two Shuttle flights, STS-114, LF-1 and STS-121, ULF-1.1, will carry out key activities related to Shuttle return to flight, as well as support ISS logistics and utilization. Once we have completed these two missions and fully implemented any necessary changes to ensure risks have been minimized to the lowest possible level, assembly will resume with Shuttle flight 12A. The Space Shuttle fleet is essential for completing the construction phase of the ISS. Nonetheless, we are assessing long-term options for alternate crew and cargo access to the ISS. Activities in Response to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) addressed the causes of the Columbia accident and has thoroughly documented its findings. The Space Shuttle Return to Flight Planning Team is now focused on the necessary changes to the Space Shuttle Program based on the CAIB’s comprehensive report and our own efforts to “raise the bar.” The CAIB report also contains areas applicable to NASA activities broader than the Shuttle Program. Recognizing this, the ISS Continuing Flight Team (CFT) was chartered, immediately following release of the report, to review all CAIB recommendations, observations, and findings for applicability to the ISS Program. This team will ensure that all necessary steps are taken to apply the lessons learned from the Columbia accident to the ongoing operation of the ISS. Representatives from all NASA field centers supporting human space flight, as well the astronaut and safety assurance offices, are members of the team. The ISS Program Office will also serve as the liaison to the International Partners, in order to draw all parties engaged in ISS operations into the effort. While the CAIB was conducting its investigation of the Columbia accident, the ISS Program had already begun an intensive effort to examine its processes and risks with the objective of identifying the existence of any risk that has not already been reduced to the lowest possible level and ensuring focused management attention on the residual risks that cannot be eliminated. As the findings of the CAIB emerged, they were continuously assessed by the ISS Program for applicability. Some of these continuous improvement initiatives already underway since the Columbia accident were consistent with CAIB findings, while some were a direct result of the experience the ISS Program has gained from three years of crewed operations. The first release of the CFT Implementation Plan documents the status of responses to the CAIB Recommendations, as well that of the ISS Continuous Improvement initiatives. Flight Readiness for ISS Expedition 8 A Stage Operations Readiness Review (SORR) routinely precedes all ISS Flight Readiness Reviews (FRRs). During the increment 8 SORR a wide range of cost, schedule and technical elements were examined in depth. Included among these was the status of the ISS on board environmental monitoring system, which provides very high accuracy information on atmospheric composition and presence of trace elements. The current system is not operating at full capacity and the need to replace it on an upcoming Progress re-supply mission was discussed. This requirement was formally accepted, without issue, at the subsequent FRR. The associated risk level was determined acceptable, since prior atmospheric measurements indicated no deviations from normal; Russian on-board monitoring systems indicated no deviations; and the crew was not experiencing any indication of changes in the cabin environment. In addition, the status of crew health countermeasures was reviewed at the SORR. These countermeasures include the use of an on board treadmill and associated resistive exercise devices. Each of these devices was operating at various degrees of reduced capacity and needed to be repaired, upgraded or replaced. Evaluations weighing potential equipment maintenance actions against upcoming replacement opportunities were underway. At the October 2 Expedition 8 FRR, each subsystem was reviewed for safety and performance capability. During this free and open review, individuals with dissenting opinions were encouraged to come forward with all information pertinent to the decision process. Those who did were commended for their diligence and participation. Their positions were taken very seriously and analyzed in the total context of the decision by experienced subject area experts. Based on the review process, the FRR culminated in a Certification of Flight Readiness, which validated that the Expedition 8 was ready for launch and the Increment. In addition to the multilateral FRR process, a special task force of the NASA Advisory Council independently reviewed the safety and operational readiness of the ISS, the flight readiness of the Expedition 8 crew, and the Russian flight control team’s preparedness to accomplish the upcoming mission. This U.S. – Russian Joint Commission, chaired by Lieutenant General T.P. Stafford and Academician N.A. Anfimov, found the crew to be fully trained and medically certified. They also reported the ISS to be safe and operationally ready to support crew arrival. Subsequent to these comprehensive reviews by subject area experts, the ISS Program conducted yet another full program review in the final days before 7S Soyuz launch. The purpose of this additional review was to check the progress of actions underway and ensure all possible steps were in motion to guarantee a successful and hazard-free mission. As a result of these multiple reviews, we are highly confident that mitigation plans are proceeding as planned to reduce and closely manage the remaining risks. The entire ISS team has participated in these open communications forums and all are in agreement that the most judicious and effective path to maintaining crew safety and spacecraft survivability is the path we are currently pursuing. ISS Research Progress The ISS Program is taking advantage of every opportunity to manifest research, supplies, and experiments on the Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles. The opportunities have allowed investigations to continue in bioastronautics and physical sciences. We have collaborated with our International Partners to share hardware, in order to optimize the overall research output on the ISS under the constrained conditions that resulted from the grounding of the Space Shuttle fleet. Despite these conditions, the research program continues to progress. As of the end of August 2003, approximately 1,551 hours of combined crew time have been dedicated to research and approximately 74 investigations have been initiated or completed. During Increment 7, the ISS crew averaged 10 hours per week performing research tasks. Today, undergraduate and graduate students and academic and industrial scientists at U.S. research institutions around the country are at work developing approximately 1,000 projects in support of the ISS research program. These students are the U.S. scientists and technologists of the future working under the tutelage of experienced scientists with a vision for the future. Our objective is to reach out still further, through avenues like a new research institute that will one day manage an investigator cadre for the ISS similar to that which Space Telescope Science Institute currently does for the Hubble. This planned development will open direct participation in the space program to more Americans than ever and transform young people’s fascination with space into longstanding careers in innovative science and technology. The International Space Station is not only a platform for research, but also a demonstration of the potential for international cooperation, exploration and discovery. Indicative of this are experiments currently underway in the Granada Crystallization Facility. This facility was built in Europe, has a principal investigator funded by Japan, and is housed under temperature-controlled conditions in the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus, which is provided by a U.S. commercial research partnership. Such collaborative endeavors are increasing as the ISS comes of age and the research potential is revealed with each stage of growing capability. Projects like Peter Cavanaugh’s experiments on astronaut bone loss in space, and the effectiveness of exercise in reducing the tendency to lose mass from bones that on Earth bear our weight, but in space have very little to do. Professor Cavanaugh is the chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at the Cleveland Clinic. His research is helping medical science understand the mechanisms that lead to the loss of bone mass and strength. In his case the direct cause is the weightless environment, but the knowledge this research will produce may contribute to the development of more effective therapies for bone degeneration faced by the 44 million of Americans who, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, have either low bone mass or osteoporosis. Industry-sponsored experiments are also being conducted that might have an impact on bone loss treatments, plant growth, pharmaceutical production, and petroleum refining. Some of the first ISS experiments are ongoing and some have already returned to Earth. Detailed post-flight analysis continues, while the future continues to hold promise for growth in applications as the ISS capability approaches full fruition. Recent fluid physics experiments on the Shuttle and on the ISS looked at colloidal systems, small particles that are suspended in liquids. Professor Alice Gast, the vice president for Research at MIT is doing research on magnetic colloids and Professor David Weitz of Harvard University and Professor William Russell, Dean of the graduate school at Princeton University are collaborating on colloid research looking at fundamental structures in these types of materials. Each of these experiments has yielded unexpected results that could never have been observed on earth. According to Professor Weitz, the ISS research led to his group’s work that was published very recently in Science: The [colloidisome] structures we make here are inspired very much by what we learn from our ISS work, and we are following this up to investigate better drug encapsulation and delivery mechanisms. Some offshoots of this work are also summarized in two of our other papers about making delivery structures from colloidal particles. Other practical uses of colloids in the long term include faster computers and communication. Equally as interesting, Dr. Rafat Ansari of NASA, who worked with these experiments, found an unusual use for one of its instruments. When his father developed cataracts, which are assemblies of small particles in the eye, Dr. Ansari realized that the instrument being developed as part of the colloids experiment might be able to detect these cataracts – possibly earlier than ever before. The device is now in clinical trials with a National Institute of Health/NASA collaboration to assess the effectiveness of new, non-surgical therapies for early stages of cataract development. Cataracts affect 50 million people annually. The NIH highlighted this collaborative NIH/NASA research to Congress in 2001 as a key technology for them. The instrument is also being adapted as a pain-free way to identify other eye diseases, diabetes, and possibly even Alzheimer’s. Perhaps most poignant is the fact that Dr. Ansari was inspired to pursue scientific research by a single moment in his life – when, as a small boy in Pakistan, he saw people walk on the moon. It shows once more what we have said all along: human space flight produces and inspires more than just high quality science. The Research Maximization And Prioritization (ReMAP) Task Force established priorities and goals for NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR) and for ISS research across disciplines. The findings and recommendations of its report provide a framework for prioritizing a productive research program for OBPR and for the ISS. The committee was unanimous in the view that the ISS is unprecedented as a laboratory and is the only available platform for human tended research on long-duration effects of microgravity. In several areas of biological and physical research, solutions to important questions require microgravity. ISS provides a unique environment for attacking these problems “as only NASA can.” We have testimonials to this, not only from independent ReMAP members, but also from the National Research Council, various technical societies, and Nobel Laureates. In fact, Nobel Laureate, Dr. Samuel C.C. Ting, Cabot professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with his distinguished colleagues, recently captured the essence of the national policy challenge in a letter to President George Bush: The value and interest of the human explorations of space, for which the space station is essential, has been put forth with considerable clarity and power in the debates taking place since the Columbia disaster; however, we believe that a narrow view has dominated the debates about the scientific importance of the ISS. The debate has focused on the earliest work without properly considering the great potential and crucial importance of the Space Station for future science. Conclusion The ISS program is taking all steps necessary to be ready to resume ISS research outfitting and final assembly when the Space Shuttle Fleet is certified to safely return to flight. While the necessary corrective actions are being taken, productive research is continuing on orbit and we are safely exchanging crews for continued operations. I was inspired by a quote inscribed on the wall of the Great Hall in the Library of Congress, from Edward Young’s Night Thoughts. “Too low they build, who build beneath the stars.” We are truly the architects of our future, building a base for our children’s exploration and discovery among the stars. There are those who advocate NASA should have a goal for space travel by humans to other parts of the solar system. It must be stressed by us, and recognized at large, that the ISS is the gateway to exploration beyond low Earth orbit. NASA’s current draft of a Critical Path Roadmap of challenges addresses the following risks associated with long-term crew health and safety in space: the effects of radiation, physiological changes, medical practice problems, and behavior and performance problems. Reducing these risks will be accomplished by identifying and developing countermeasures where applicable. Virtually all of these challenges will require research from experiments that can best be carried out on the ISS. I’d like to thank Mr. Li, for his General Accounting Office assessment of the ISS, and Mr. Zygielbaum, for his work with the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, for providing their respective assessments of NASA’s programs. I would also like to thank Dr. Pawelczyk and Dr. Park for their perspectives on the ISS research. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. My colleagues and I are prepared to address your questions.