ISS News: August 2019 Archives

"Have you ever seen LEGO bricks float? Now is your chance! Watch former NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino unbox and build LEGO sets in zero gravity! Get inspired to join the greatest adventure ever as we work together to put an astronaut on Mars! Let's Go!"

Mike Suffredini Objects to Legos in Space, earlier post (2012)

"Suff inquired about the relevance of performing the Lego experiment onboard from an ISS research priorities perspective. Ms. Robinson explained that Lego is Leland Melvin's top priority - for education given that Legos are something that children are very familiar with and that can reach tens of thousands of students. Suff asked if the folks at HQ had considered the negative aspects of showcasing Legos in that it may seem we are not utilizing 1SS resources to their fullest capacity. Ms. Robinson explained that she was not aware that people had considered that perspective and would pass this on."

Letter From NASA JSC to CASIS Board Of Directors Regarding Cooperative Agreement No. NNH11CD70A/80JSC018M0005

"Pursuant to Paragraph 4.6, Change in Principal Investigator or Scope, of the subject cooperative agreement, the CASIS decision to change or significantly reduce the availability of services of the International Space Station National Laboratory Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Joe Vockley (Cooperative Agreement Paragraph 3.1.g), is not approved at this time. The NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration & Operations is requesting a strategic pause in CASIS activities relative to changes in the CASIS PI in order to enable NASA to establish an Independent Review Team to assess the underlying Cooperative Agreement to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth. NASA anticipates that this assessment will be completed within 12 weeks after the team has been established."

Keith's original 15 August note: Joe Vockely is still on full salary but has no defined operational responsibilities at CASIS at this time. His continued involvement at CASIS, long term, is not clear. CASIS COO Kenneth Schields is now the Acting CEO of CASIS. The chairman of the CASIS board, Philip Schein has been removed and two board members are currently acting jointly to run the board's activities. NASA Administrator Bridenstine has identified the chair of this CASIS review team as being Elizabeth R. Cantwell, the Senior Vice President of Research and Innovation at the University of Arizona. However the members of this team or details of the format or activities of the team have yet to be released.

Keith's 19 August update: According to Dr. Schein he had clearly stated his intention to retire from the CASIS board several months ago after 5 years of service. He then formally submitted a letter of resignation to the CASIS board. He was not voted off of the board or "removed" as we previously reported. Our original posting was based on multiple sources within CASIS. Alas, CASIS itself simply refuses to respond to media inquiries. We regret this error and posted this update within minutes of being informed by Dr. Schein.

The phrase "strategic pause" has not been defined by NASA other than to refer to efforts associated with "changes in the CASIS PI". As such one might logically conclude that this means that CASIS staff will continue with 99% of the routine payload tasks they have - tasks unaffected by who the CASIS PI is.

Memo from NASA HEOMD AA Ken Bowersox To NASA HEOMD Staff Regarding CASIS/ISS National Lab Changes

"1. The heads of the Science Mission Directorate and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate will jointly commission an Independent Review to assess whether the ISS National Laboratory is on mission and appropriately organized and resourced to improve life here on Earth.

2. For the duration of the review, NASA's liaison to the ISS National Lab will move from HEOMD's ISS Division to the low Earth orbit commercialization activity currently being led by Doug Comstock. I appreciate all of your efforts as we work to develop the low Earth orbit economy. Feel free to stop by my office if you have any questions."

Keith's note: this review is a dual effort by HEOMD and SMD which underscores the overlapping interested between the directorates in terms of public/private activities on ISS and beyond. It also makes car that ISS Director Sam Scimemi is no longer the NASA liaison to CASIS.

- Crisis at CASIS: New Opportunities or Looming End Game?, earlier post
- NASA Asked CASIS To Stop Paying Its Board Of Directors, earlier post
- Earlier CASIS posts

NASA to seek independent review of ISS National Laboratory

"However, a NASA letter to CASIS, dated Aug. 13 and obtained by SpaceNews, called for a "strategic pause in CASIS activities" while the independent review panel works "to ensure we are on mission and appropriately resourced to produce breakthroughs that improve lives on Earth." The letter estimated the that review would take 12 weeks to complete. The letter also referenced a request by CASIS "to change or significantly reduce the availability of services" of Joseph Vockley, who is president and chief executive of CASIS and serves as principal investigator for NASA's grant to CASIS to operate the ISS national lab. NASA said it was deferring that request until after "this strategic pause and assessment." A source familiar with the situation said that the CASIS board recently sought to remove Vockley, a move that would require the concurrence of NASA."

Keith's note: I am told that the acting CEO of CASIS is CASIS COO Ken Shields. Sources also report that some final management decisions affecting senior leadership at CASIS - ones that require NASA concurrence - were put on hold last night. So these letters may have been superseded to some extent. Stay tuned.

Keith's note: Last week after the conclusion of the ISS Research and Development Conference in Atlanta, the chairman of the CASIS board of directors stepped down. The board is now being run on an interim basis by several other board members. Changes in CASIS senior management are likely. Further changes at CASIS are also to be expected. There are many skilled and dedicated people at CASIS who are up to the task of fixing things - so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Meanwhile CASIS stakeholders at NASA, in Congress, industry, and the scientific community are all talking about what should be done to fix things at CASIS and the ISS.

NASA is currently proposing the construction of a mini-space station (Gateway) in cis-lunar space that will be operated by NASA with the assistance of the private sector. If NASA cannot make public/private, commercial/scientific efforts function successfully in LEO on board a fully operational and well-understood platform like ISS then the chances that NASA can do the same thing a quarter of a million miles away - building upon ISS experience - are questionable to say the least.

Personally I think that the ISS is the 'undiscovered country' and that we have yet to fully tap its potential. Hopefully NASA and its various stakeholders and partners will take this opportunity to re-examine how utilization of ISS is conducted, fix what is broken, and build upon what works. A fully enabled and utilized ISS can be a crucial stepping stone along the path of the human exploration of the solar system. Not making the most of the ISS could result in a large pothole in that path.


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the ISS News category from August 2019.

ISS News: July 2019 is the previous archive.

ISS News: October 2019 is the next archive.

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