ISS Petition Main Text

The subscription to the ISS Petition is closed. A fax will be send to the NASA administrator, Mr. Sean O'Keefe, where we present him with the outcome of our petition. A cc. will be send to all other ISS partners. All who have entered their names and e-mail address will receive a copy of this fax by e-mail with the next couple of days. Thank you all for your participation.

Mr. Sean O'Keefe
NASA Administrator
Washington DC
(with cc to other ISS partners)

Dear Administrator,

We have learned from various sources that the scientific utilization of the International Space Station (ISS) as well as related microgravity facilities that might be used for the international microgravity scientists are under threat of loss mainly due to budget limitations.
We, the space science community, want to express our serious concern about this issue. Since ISS was built as a science and application research platform under international partnerships we would like NASA to focus on its scientific priorities and goals.

  • Of particular concern is the lack of crew time to conduct the science due to the downsizing of the crew from 7 to 3 astronauts / cosmonauts. This seriously limits the majority of hours needed for scientific study.
  • Another concern is the loss of critical scientific equipment and operational laboratory modules.
  • An added concern is the peer-reviewed experiments slated to fly on the Shuttle middeck and free flyers. Flight opportunities for NASA, ESA, CSA and NASDA peer-reviewed science have become rare, routinely taking a backseat to commercial/NASA center priorities.

Microgravity offers a unique opportunity to study human physiological, biological, physical changes in the absence of gravity. Understanding and using this environment for material sciences, fluid sciences, crystallization, combustion and other technological sciences will help us in understanding basic principles of impact of weight onto these systems. Continued scientific studies in microgravity will facilitate our understanding of mechanisms controlling signal transduction and gene induction of cells, or the impact of Earth's gravity on the human body and its role in developing life.
The studies of astrobiology will show us the importance of gravity in all phases of terrestrial and non-terrestrial life. Since all terrestrial organisms evolved in a 1-g environment, understanding the effect of Earth's gravity on human physiology and biological sciences will give us insight to fundamental biological laws and principals of medicine underlying gravity based life. Applications to Earth based medicine will be an immediate reward.

Besides these microgravity related sciences there is also a great interest of using ISS for Earth observation and cosmic radiation studies as well as a testbed and stepping stone for future missions to Mars or other destinations.

We have yet to realize the full potential of an operational space station not only for the current scientific advances but also to inspire both young and old in learning more about the sciences and gravity based processes in biology and physics. These opportunities are very near, the major investment has been made, it is now only for all of us to focus our priorities to achieve the scientific and social return on this investment.

The ISS Science Community


Comment from Mr. O'keefe as it was posted on the NASA-Watch / (see

Date Released: Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Note from Sean O'Keefe Regarding ISS Science Community Petition

To All Those From The ISS Science Community Joining In The Petition Opened For Comment On June 23, 2002:

Editor's note: the original text of this letter is located below. A list of those who have signed this letter is online here.

It is so refreshing to read commentary based on the right premise. Research must be the primary focus of the International Space Station (ISS). NASA is currently moving as fast as is practicable on a five-point reform and revitalization plan for ISS to put the effort on course and use this unique laboratory for world-class research.

NASA's ISS research priorities will be shaped by the ongoing Research Maximization and Prioritization (ReMAP) Task Force, which is due to report out in mid-July. The strong scientific rationale the petition evokes from the space science community should be shared by the broad spectrum of renowned scientists on the ReMAP Task Force, many of whom are from non-space disciplines. The ReMAP results will guide us as we develop our research plan for the Office of Biological and Physical Research and NASA's overall ISS utilization plan. The results of ReMAP will provide the basis for NASA's research priorities, which will be finalized in the September 2002 time frame. NASA will work closely with our international partners as we proceed with this process.

NASA will then identify the resources needed for ISS to carry out this research. The resource needs identified by NASA will be interwoven with the resource capacity needs of all partners. The ISS Partnership will take a fresh, innovative look at how to meet these resource capacity requirements and enhance scientific return, while remaining realistic about what it takes to safely operate in the severe environment of space. In particular, we will determine crew size driven by the research and operations requirements. From that analysis we'll get a true picture of what it will take for the partnership to field and operate required capabilities -- and not take for granted the presence of a certain number of the superb team of astronauts and cosmonauts. Rather, we will carefully consider the requirement for each ISS crew member based upon compelling research and operations needs.

Meanwhile, the challenging task of ISS assembly continues. NASA has a strong lineage of large scale systems integration excellence. But, each mission in this ambitious assembly sequence must be successful and that requires vigilance in our risk management commitment. Our reform and revitalization efforts are centered on achieving the U.S. Core Complete configuration. A rigorous systems engineering review of the assembly plan is underway, as is a careful look at how best to operate ISS through the U.S. Core Complete assembly period.

NASA is also committed to the accommodation of our partners' contributions to ISS. In particular, the Japanese Experiment Module, Europe's Columbus Laboratory, and the Canadian Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator. Achieving U.S. Core Complete in early 2004, and the accommodation of partner elements by the end of 2006, will provide an impressive on-orbit capability for research. As an ongoing matter, we will compare this capability to the capacity required based on the research priorities.

NASA's reform and revitalization plan must restore fiscal responsibility to the ISS program. Once we have regained a firm grip on the costs of ISS assembly, operations, and research, we can credibly represent our future plans for the ISS to those who must review and approve NASA's budget. Fiscal credibility will allow us to transform the discussion of ISS from issues of management to an informed debate on the research to be conducted on this unique platform. But first, we must demonstrate that our plan is credible.

We need to ensure that the International Space Station realizes its potential as a world-class research facility. An endorsement of the NASA plan to achieve this objective also addresses the goals outlined in the petition. So support of our plan by the petitioners would be most welcome.


Sean O'Keefe

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