ISS Symposium: Charles Bolden

Future use of the ISS
for Human Exploration: Charles Bolden (NASA Administrator)
“Throughout history, nations have always explored in order
to develop humankind. Exploration drives technological breakthroughs that
benefit all of society. The ISS is there to advance us further…but if we are
not tangentially relevant, not improving life on Earth, then we are missing the
boat, and we need to help remind everyone that we are trying to make life
better for people here on Earth. In doing so, we improve our ability to

Charles Bolden
Photo credit: Remco Timmermans
These were Charles Bolden’s opening words, at the
International Space Station (ISS) Symposium in Berlin on Friday 4, May.
Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, set out President Obama’s
goals of visiting an asteroid by 2025 and landing on Mars by the mid-2030s, which
give a very short time frame considering all that we need to learn and achieve
before then. He cited the ISS as an extremely important stepping stone in order
to get there. A full permanently crewed ISS, and the mature ISS partnership
between ESA, JAXA, Roscomos, NASA and CSA, are assets unprecedented in the
history of human space exploration.
Naming the ISS the most technologically advanced achievement
of human kind, ahead of the space shuttle, he expressed the desire to make it
possible for more humans to visit it so they can see how incredible it is.
“A key component to our exploration strategy and utilisation
of this unique asset that we call the space station provides us with tools to
face processes that we will find far from low earth orbit. It will allow us to
simulate long flight duration analogues, addressing complexities and risks
associated with these missions.”

He mentioned some of the problems recently detected in
astronauts, like the loss of visual acuity, were not anticipated by medical
science. This has opened up the need for further experiments in other
gravities, perhaps the lower gravity of the moon, not just micro-gravity: “Is a
crew member going to come back having lost their vision? It’s not a minor
consideration. It’s been injected into the equation in the last twelve months.
Summarising the themes expressed across the two days of
talks, he stressed the ISS is a unique zero-gravity test bed platform, which
allows us to test new exploration technologies, and carry out scientific experiments
by removing gravity from the equation, which cannot be done on Earth. The net
needs to be cast as far as possible in looking for non-traditional partners to
bring in a wide range of experiments.

Charles Bolden
Photo credit: Remco Timmerman

 When asked about America’s engagement in a next generation
ISS, he replied:

“The ISS cannot be the only destination in low earth orbit;
private enterprise needs to create other destinations where we all can go. I
think it is really important as I see them as a commercial capability to enhance
the vitality of any nation, to grow business. I’m a free enterprise guy; the
way we open up business is by encouraging industry to build the next generation
Over 250 delegates were invited to attend the ISS Symposium,
titled “Research in Space for the Benefit of Humankind”, representing all of
the partner countries and more. Scientific results to date as well as plans for
the future were discussed in detail over two days of presentations and
roundtable discussions. The feeling was that the conference had successfully
demonstrated the rich, diverse benefits of the ISS, and that the convergence of
ideas and objectives amongst the partners will continue to be key to its
The press conference: (from left to right) G. Leclerc (CSA), C. Bolden (NASA), 
J-J. Dordain (ESA), A. Krasnov (Roscosmos), K. Higuchi (JAXA) and T. Reiter (ESA)
Photo credit: Remco Timmermans
Later in the press conference, Bolden stated his two
messages to take away:
  1. I hope you have seen clear
    evidence of research and value from the ISS making life better on earth
  2. The incredible value of
    the partnership is what makes ISS valuable, the partnership which has
    grown and matured over 11 years without any interruption. 
“It’s easy to do things by yourself; it’s really hard to do
things in co-operation with others, but I think that’s one of the triumphs of
the ISS.”

Further reading: “ISS: Benefits for Humanity”