Report from Washington, D.C.

Subcommittee Looks into ISS Crew Safety

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

 The House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing on Oct. 12 entitled The International Space Station (ISS): Lessons from the Soyuz Rocket Failure and Return to Flight. In establishing the purpose of the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS) said the recent Progress launch failure caused “NASA to contemplate the real possibility that the International Space Station would have to be de-crewed if there were any extended delays in understanding and resolving the root causes of the accident.” Palazzo expressed concern about the possibility of an uncrewed ISS because “it has a finite lifetime of useful service before its systems become too unreliable and difficult to maintain.”

Witnesses at the hearing included:

• William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA
• Lt Gen Thomas Stafford, USAF, (Retired), chairman, ISS Advisory Committee
• VADM Joseph Dyer, USN, (Retired), chairman, Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP)

Gerstenmaier told the committee that NASA was “confident its Russian partners identified the most likely failure cause and had a sound return to flight plan.” In addition, he said that the three astronauts currently onboard the ISS were not in danger and that a new crew of astronauts would be launched to the ISS on a Soyuz rocket in mid-November.

This article is part of Space Watch: November 2011 (Volume: 10, Issue: 11).