Keith's note: As readers of NASAWatch have noted by now, I have an interest in the utilization of the International Space Station. When the amazing capabilities of ISS are used to their fullest potential we all benefit. When those resources are under-utilized our tax dollars and the finite utility of the ISS are wasted. CASIS has been given responsibility for managing the U.S. assets aboard the ISS that have been collectively proclaimed as being the ISS National Laboratory. I've already written a lot about CASIS. I'll be writing much more in the weeks to come.
Let's start with a clear-cut example of how CASIS has stumbled: its preoccupation with golf and its relationship with Cobra Puma Golf, a large and very successful golfing gear manufacturer. If you look at the LinkedIn page of Patrick O'Neill, CASIS Marketing & Communications Manager, you will see that he was an account executive for VitroRobertson. Between 2008-2009 he was "Account Executive on the Cobra Golf Account. Managed the day to day operations of all Brand Marketing efforts and assisted in the production of all Advertising efforts for Cobra Golf." If you read CASIS President/Executive Director Greg Johnson's astronaut bio you'll see that he lists golf among his recreational interests. So, senior CASIS management likes golf. "Go with what you know", so they say.
On 31 March 2016 NASA International Space Station Director Sam Scimemi sent a letter to Greg Johnson on a number of topics. One of the issues Scimemi raised had to do with how CASIS hypes/promotes the research that it takes credit for having facilitated onboard the ISS. In that letter Scimemi notes: "We would advise caution in the lending of the ISS National Lab brand (via your "Space is in it" certification) too freely; care must be taken to that research performed on the ISS has actually influenced product development in advance of awarding the certification. Failure to do so weakens the brand and may lend an air of being nonserious in our mutual quest to fully utilize the ISS as a national lab." Coincidentally this letter was sent on the same day that CASIS staff made a rather awkward presentation to the NASA Advisory Council.
The "Space Is In It" designation that CASIS calls an "endorsement" has apparently only been awarded once - to Cobra Puma Golf. As such it would be illustrative to examine how that whole process came about and what it says about the ability of CASIS to recognize the actual commercial research potential of the ISS.
On 27 June 2012 CASIS issued a press release announcing that "The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with COBRA PUMA GOLF to carry out materials research projects on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory for use in its sporting goods products line. Through ISS-hosted research and development, COBRA PUMA GOLF will conduct research on materials aimed at enhancing its products." noting that "As a result of the agreement, COBRA PUMA GOLF will become the first company bestowed with the "Space Is In It" endorsement, which will be carried by all COBRA PUMA GOLF products derived from research on Station. The "Space Is In It" product endorsement will be awarded by CASIS to select products enhanced by research and development on ISS National Lab. The "Space Is In It" seal (see above) will connect Station science to Americans and American culture by singling out innovative consumer goods that are the result of space research. The seal will increase awareness of the benefits of the ISS National Lab while setting products carrying it apart from their competition."
Oddly, if you look at SPACE IS IN IT, CASIS APPROVED - Trademark Details you'll see that the trademark is classified as being "International Class 028 - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees. - Games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles not included in other classes; decorations for Christmas trees." Sounds like a perfect category for golf-related stuff.
On 15 September 2014 CASIS issued a press release stating that CASIS and Puma Golf "have partnered on a materials science research investigation that is expected to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on SpaceX-4." SpaceX CRS-4 was launched on 21 September 2014. The experiment was returned to Earth on CRS-4 on 25 October 2014.
On 18 August 2015 CASIS and Puma Golf held a media briefing. As I noted at the time "COBRA golf company is putting a window ("spaceport") in their new golf club. No relevance to NASA or the ISS is apparent. When asked by a reporter to explain the microgravity applications to this technology CASIS President Greg Johnson said he could not explain the microgravity or technology aspects of this thing. The Cobra representative said that he needed a golf club design that could withstand a 7,000 G impact and that the technology associated with this golf club was different than launching something into space (i.e what the ISS is there for). He added that this golf club "did not use research done in space but did use research done for space"."
On 26 February 2016 CAIS issued its first issue of "Upward". A small feature on CASIS and Cobra Puma Golf says "Through its partnership with CASIS, CPG learned of space-tested metal threads developed to combat the intense torque generated during a rocket launch. This torque is similar to the torque involved in hitting a golf ball with a driver. CPG incorporated these space-tested metal threads in its new KING LTD Driver, which Rickie Fowler is using during his 2016 PGA season. The driver is the first commercial product to feature the CASIS "Space Is In It" seal."
In other words, in 2012 Cobra Puma Golf had yet to even do any research in space, yet CASIS had bestowed an award on them for having done so. Two years later a payload sponsored by Cobra Puma Golf was finally launched and returned to Earth. A year after that CASIS held a media event to promote a space-related product that was only "inspired" by space stuff that Cobra Puma Golf "learned of" from CASIS. Now, four years after being given the "Space Is In It" designation as an "endorsement", CASIS has yet to tell us whether Cobra Puma Golf has actually created a product - or intends to - that has anything in it that one could claim is the result of research actually conducted - in space.
In other words how much "space is in it", CASIS? Not much, it would seem. Oh yes: NASA has noticed (even if it did take them several years to say so).
If this is what passes for an overt "endorsement" by CASIS with regard the use of the ISS National Laboratory for research that results in an actual space product, then the future for the full utilization and commercial potential of the ISS is bleak indeed.
P.S. I am not a golfer. But from what I can tell Cobra Puma Golf makes really good golfing gear - so please go buy their products. This is not about Cobra Puma Golf. Rather it is about CASIS' inability to do the job that they have been given to do. More to follow.