At last week’s House appropriations hearing, subcommittee chairman Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) questioned NASA administrator Charles Bolden about utilization of the International Space Station (ISS). In particular, he asked about issues with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organization selected last year to manage research on the US segment of the lab, which Congress previously designated as a national laboratory.
“We have awarded a contract to an organization called CASIS,” Bolden said during that discussion, late in the hearing. Wolf interjected: “That hasn’t worked out very well.” “It’s going through growing pains, but we’re confident it’s going to work,” Bolden responded. That was an allusion to recent events, such as the sudden resignation nearly a month ago of the executive director of CASIS. “They have milestones that they have to meet,” Bolden said, “and we have sent them, or we are in the process of sending them, another letter to remind them of the milestones, to remind them of the plan, and then we’ll see how they go.”
Wolf tried to get Bolden to give CASIS an “interim grade” on its efforts to date, which Bolden declined to do. “It’s a hundred billion dollars that we’ve spent,” Wolf said. “We all have an obligation to the American taxpayer to make sure that it’s utilized.”
The next day, either by coincidence or cause-and-effect, CASIS announced it has organized a group of “world-class” scientists to review experiments that have been flown the ISS to determine what areas—at least in biomedical fields, its initial emphasis—hold the most promise for future work, including commercial applications. Their findings will be delivered to NASA next month.
The utilization of the ISS is the subject of another hearing at 9:30 this morning by the full House Science Committee. The hearing charter indicates members will examine issues such as a potential shortfall in cargo transport to the ISS (based on a Government Accountability Office report last December) and management of station research.