Foundation Praises NASA’s Bold Plan to Increase ISS Crew Size Using New U.S. Commercial Crew Transportation Systems
Yesterday, for the first time, a NASA senior official testified to Congress that the space agency will finally achieve the International Space Station’s full permanent crew size of seven people once new U.S. commercial crew services are certified as safe and available for purchase. In response, the Space Frontier Foundation praised NASA and its Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, William Gerstenmaier, for his vision and clarity in explaining to our elected representatives the real payoff of commercial spaceflight: more people in space conducting more R&D for American taxpayers.
During his testimony and questioning before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Science and Space, Mr. Gerstenmaier, NASA’s respected human spaceflight manager, stated that NASA would increase the crew size of ISS to seven, once Commercial Crew providers started transporting astronauts to ISS.
Quoting Mr. Gerstenmaier: “We would definitely increase the crew size on ISS to seven crew. We currently have six crew members . . . . The space station was designed to operate at a full complement of crew of seven. We think that will increase the research capability on board station and allow us to do more National Lab research and be more effective in utilizing the space station.”
“This proves the value of commercial space transportation to NASA as well as America’s broader economy, and to humanity’s future in space,” said James Muncy, a co-Founder and former Chairman of the Foundation and a commercial space consultant. “SpaceX’s recent Dragon flight is just the beginning. It and other new systems will enable scientists to frequently carry and return science and engineering experiments to and from the ISS. But once they carry crew, these new commercial systems will actually allow ISS’ population to grow by one, a slot which belongs NASA. This would dramatically increase the amount of total American crew time available for research and education.”
The Space Frontier Foundation has advocated for the privatization of crew and cargo transportation to ISS for over two decades as critical to enabling the ISS to grow as the seed of the first permanent human settlement in space.
“Today, commercial companies like NanoRacks and Astrotech are already partnered with NASA to help develop new products and services using the research environment of space. At yesterday’s hearing both Chairman Nelson and industry executive Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace pointed out many of the early breakthroughs that are already in sight,” said Bob Werb, the Foundation’s Chairman. “But research is limited by the need for regular and affordable cargo access and astronaut time on ISS. One person may seem like a small difference, but because all of the basic operations and maintenance needs of ISS can be provided by a six person crew, the seventh person – an American astronaut, scientist, or perhaps one day even a student, can spend all of their time doing productive research. A relatively small investment from Congress would have a gigantic return on investment.”