Results tagged “CASIS”

Keith's note: NASA is giving CASIS $15 million a year and the keys to a large portion of a $100 billion space station - one funded by taxpayers. But in order for a taxpayer or company to get everything that CASIS is offering they have to pay. Check out the CASIS membership site. This is fundamentally absurd - and I cannot fathom how NASA would agree to this. Everything that this taxpayer-funded organization does with NASA funding on the ISS should be available to all of those people who are already paying for it - and have been paying for it for decades. Whatever happened to the "transparency" and "openness" that NASA was supposed to be demonstrating? And what about the DIY ethos that the White House has been promoting? Putting a government-funded asset like the iSS behind a paywall is the antithesis of this.

Center for the Advancement of Science in Space Debuts New Website at iss-casis.org

"Today, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research on the International Space Station (ISS), announced the unveiling of a new website (www.iss-casis.org) that will serve as a portal for researchers, businesses, educators and students to discover the unique opportunities available to them on board the ISS U.S. National Laboratory."

Grading CASIS On its ISS National Laboratory Performance Thus Far

"Clearly the clock is ticking. Given CASIS' chronic tardiness and lack of performance thus far, by the end of June NASA and Congress will either know a lot more about what CASIS has been doing and plans to do with the ISS - or they'll be asking if it is time to pull the plug on this half-hearted management experiment and try again. Meanwhile, this amazing facility orbits overhead while its return on investment diminishes with every single day that it continues to be underutilized."

CASIS Expects To Send First Payloads to ISS by Early 2013, Space News

"What we're looking for are some of those very specific examples of things that can be done better in space than on Earth," Timothy Yeatman, CASIS's interim chief scientist, said. Protein crystallization best fits the bill, Yeatman said, citing the decision of a blue-ribbon panel of science experts CASIS convened to evaluate which scientific fields were likeliest to be advanced through in-space experiments."

Keith's note: Growing perfect crystals in space (on the Space Shuttle and Space Station) has been one of NASA's favorite promotional items in its mantra of promoting the use of the ISS as a "world class laboratory". The need for large crystals grown at great expense in space is quickly vanishing due to advances made on Earth. As mentioned in the earlier posts below, NASA dragged its feet on this and missed the bus.

'Made in Space': Coming soon to a product near you, Reuters

"Uhran notes that the timescale of a typical [Space station] research project is three to five years, which doesn't easily mesh with corporate priorities like reaching sales or profit targets for the next quarter, or even the next year."

Keith's note: So ... what do Mark Uhran and his colleagues do about this issue (by no means a new one)? They simply repeat it again and again as if it were an absolute, immutable fact of life at NASA and that there is nothing that NASA can (or will) do to change it. And then they wonder why there is not more interest in the commercial use of the ISS. Baffling. If the time lag is too long for commercial interests then obviously NASA needs to shorten it. Is CASIS the black box within which that miracle is supposed to happen? This commercially naive mindset at NASA is an ongoing example of the strange approach that Uhran et al took back in the 1990s with regard to finding users for the space station i.e. "build it and they will come". Yes they actually used that phrase. So did I when I worked there.

OK, Mark: you've built it - so where is everyone?

'Made in Space': Coming soon to a product near you, Reuters

"The European Space Agency is hatching plans for a branding campaign aimed at making people more aware of the benefits of spending their hard-earned taxes on the International Space Station. ..."It frustrates people, because we know we have a valuable asset," Mark Uhran, NASA's assistant associate administrator for the International Space Station, told Reuters at a conference in Berlin of scientists from the 15 nations backing the project."

Resignation Letter from CASIS Executive Director Jeanne L. Becker

"Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis."

Letter from CASIS to NASA: Response regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"- website is in beta testing. Should be functional by mid-April."

Keith's note: And yet despite all of this gushing urgency about the potential of the ISS, Uhran et al can't even get their own website and the website run by CASIS to coordinate with one another or for either to be responsive to news - the very same news Uhran seems to think that people are desperate to read? The new CASIS website was supposed to be functional nearly a month ago. Then CASIS sends out a media advisory with 22 hours notice for a meeting (yesterday) with their scientific "team" (the "team" being comprised of 2 people - both consultants). Wow, what a big "team".

If NASA and CASIS don't take the ISS seriously to give it the manpower and visibility it deserves, then why should anyone else?

- NASA/CASIS Ignores NASA's Own ISS Research Announcements

Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) Releases AO for International Research Participation on ISS Kibo Module

"The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) has released an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) to fund experiments to be conducted aboard the Japanese Experiment Module, Kibo, on the International Space Station in FY2014 or later. JAXA is recruiting proposals that "make full use of the Kibo's unique environment that will have major impacts on science, technology, industry and society" according to the JAXA Press Release."

Keith's note: NASA sent this notice out today regarding research opportunities in the JAXA Kibo lab module on ISS. But is there any mention of this announcement on the ISS National Lab homepage? No. Is there any mention at the CASIS website? Of course not.

NASA runs two main ISS research entry points and they do not bother to stay in synch with each other - and neither one stays current with other NASA announcements on ISS research. The U.S. has always had payload accommodations allotted to it per the ISS MOU in partner labs such as Columbus and Kibo. If NASA cannot get its own story straight for the prospective researcher - and the taxpayers in general - then who will?

Ardbeg Distillery Launches U.S. Rocket Tour Celebrating "World First" Space Experiment

"Ardbeg Distillery is pleased to announce the U.S. Ardbeg Rocket Tour. The tour, which will showcase a life-size rocket, celebrates Ardbeg's participation in a pioneering research project on board the International Space Station. The Ardbeg Rocket Tour will kick off in Chicago on May 3, 2012 and will stop in 22 states in 28 weeks. Tour stops include key U.S. landmarks in states including California, Texas, New York and Florida. An Ardbeg Brand Ambassador will be on board the tour to educate consumers on the experiment, the brand, and where legal, to sample Ardbeg, recently rated by The Whisky Bible as the "Best Single Malt Scotch - 10 Years and Under."

An Actual ISS Commercial Experiment that NASA/CASIS Ignores

Keith's note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment (from a high-quality, high-visibility, world-class manufacturer) at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space with significant commercial backing and promotion. Of course, the NASA ISS National Lab and CASIS folks seem to be totally uninterested in how real commercial space activities happen. A preview of things to come, I am afraid.

Oh yes: when I first posted this photoshopped image that I made a few weeks ago people within NASA thought it was real and started to try and figure out how it happend. Oops.

Scientists discover enzyme that could slow part of the aging process in astronauts -- and the elderly, FASEB Journal

"New research published online in the FASEB Journal suggests that a specific enzyme, called 5-lipoxygenase, plays a key role in cell death induced by microgravity environments, and that inhibiting this enzyme will likely help prevent or lessen the severity of immune problems in astronauts caused by spaceflight. Additionally, since space conditions initiate health problems that mimic the aging process on Earth, this discovery may also lead to therapeutics that extend lives by bolstering the immune systems of the elderly."

Keith's note: When NASA flew John Glenn on his second space mission, much mention was made of the possible connections between aging on Earth and effects observed in astronauts and other organisms in space. Indeed, one of NASA's biggest PR thrusts has always been the applicability of space-based research (especially biotech) upon life back on Earth. Well, here is one example. Interestingly, FASEB, which published this research, has a long history of often criticizing NASA's human space life science program. So there must be something to this research, right?

You'd think that NASA, CASIS etc. would be playing up these results, right? No. Not at all. Just silence. You see, NASA no longer tracks this sort of news (but they used to). Nor do NASA and CASIS seem to have the collective or individual smarts to understand that the best way to garner support for future ISS research is to stay current with the benefits of past research - and tell everyone exactly what the benefits of that research is - as soon as that knowledge becomes available.

This is cluelessness in the extreme. Indeed, not making mention of this at NASA.gov and at CASIS borders on professional negligence.

Oh yes, full disclosure: 15 years ago (ouch!), I heaped my fair share of criticism on NASA for John Glenn's flight (see below). While there is no obvious connection between these new research results and the experiments conducted on Glenn's shuttle flight, it would seem that Sen. Glenn (apparently) still knew something that I did not ...

House Appropriations Commitee FY 2013: CASIS and ISS (excerpt)

"An important element in the decision making about the long term status of ISS is whether it can demonstrate sufficient research value to justify the continuation of its operating budget. Currently, the fraction of the overall ISS budget devoted to research is extremely small, and plans for leveraging outside funding through the ISS National Lab are moving slowly because the National Lab's manager, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), is still establishing its management and governance structures ..."

Keith's note: Sources report that ProOrbis is considering taking formal legal action against the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). It is expected that this will be made public in the very near future. The specifics of this possible lawsuit are unclear. But it would beinstructive to recall that when Jeanne Becker, the first Executive Director of CASIS resigned, she said:

"Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis. These pressures have placed unnecessary stress and hardship on CASIS, not only organizationally butalso on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS. ... Now, for unknown reasons, following selection of that proposal andstand up of the organization, the Space Florida interim board persists in pursuing engagement of ProOrbis on behalf of CASIS, with CASIS management forced to bear the responsibility of mitigating ensuing organizationalrisks occurring as a result of the interim board's actions."

To which ProOrbis responded

"However, since taking on this role, [Dr. Becker] has not engaged ProOrbis in the stand-up activities of CASIS as was contemplated. Issues of conflict of interest for all the principal parties were satisfactorily addressed inthe Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts."

Jeanne DiFrancesco from ProOrbis developed a significant portion of the procurement package for NASA's ISS National Laboratory non-profit partner: the National Laboratory Reference Model. Oddly, DiFrancesco andProOrbis ended up as a major part of the winning team's bid (CASIS). How is it that a contractor that NASA specifically uses to write part of a solicitation is then allowed to bid for - and win - the contract awarded inresponse to the very same procurement they helped craft?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has already been asked to look into this. The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Office of General Counsel (OGC) are also looking into this as are several congressional offices.

So here's the picture to contemplate: While the International Space Station orbits overhead, complete after two decades and ready for us to use it, we collectively fumble the process of tapping its great potential back onEarth. Lawsuits and investigations by GAO, OIG, OGC and others will inevitably hobble whatever progress CASIS would have otherwise made - just as CASIS was starting to make visible steps toward getting itself ready to do the important tasks that it has been assigned.

Net result: Lawyers and accountants will kill the usefulness of the International Space Station - for all of us.

Earlier posts on CASIS

Keith's note: In today's media telecon with NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and Chief Technologist Mason Peck, Abdalati mentioned a letter that had been sent to CASIS wherein NASA "challenged CASIS to demonstrate how they will honor their cooperative agreement with NASA" and that asked them to "drum up 3 partners or investigations by the end of the year". I have requested a copy of the correspondence between NASA and CASIS.

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget (22 March 2012)

"Rep. Wolf suggested that NASA needs to look at CASIS carefully saying "if they are not with it in 30-45 days we should pull it and give it to NSF". Bolden replied that a letter was being sent to CASIS to remind them of their milestones and "if they they do not meet milestones we will find another way"."

Keith's update: Through the persistence of space journalist Irene Klotz, NASA has released these letters:

Letter from NASA to CASIS regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"Moreover, the functions identified in the Cooperative Agreement and the milestones in the Annual Program Plan (APP) are critical given the limited amount of time remaining to do research on the International Space Station (ISS). NASA would like assurances from the Board that CASIS will be able to meet the milestones in the APP. The agency also requests the interim board explain in writing how these milestones will be met."

Letter from CASIS to NASA: Response regarding Notification of Actions Following Dr. Becker's Resignation

"The following are key elements of performance that we will report on at the end of the initial first two quarters of operation. In general, they represent progress on the key goals of facing the market, finding new customers for the ISS, and standing up the organization to service existing and new markets:"

Letter from NASA to CASIS Regarding 2012 Annual Program Plan

"We are evaluating your response and will get back to you with a formal NASA position."

Doubts linger about space station's science potential, Orlando Sentinel

"It's the tip of the iceberg," said Marybeth Edeen, NASA manager of the station's national laboratory. The inability to completely fill NASA's science racks, she said, is simply one of priorities. Up until now, NASA has been more focused on building the station. Indeed, the station crew -- which expanded from three to six members in 2009 -- now spends about 50 hours a week on science, as opposed to just three hours a week in 2008. "Our goal is to get the racks fully utilized," she said. To help do that, NASA hired a nonprofit group last summer called the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to manage the national lab and find new experiments.

Keith's note: NASA has had well over a decade to figure out how to fully utilize the ISS. And yet they haven't done so. The ISS was declared "complete" some time ago. So ... what is the hold up?

CASIS and NanoRacks Announce Expanded ISS Research Capabilities, Nanoracks

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization managing the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, today announced a deal with NanoRacks, LLC, to reserve space on the first commercial platform available for researchers outside the ISS in the extreme environments of space."

CASIS and NanoRacks Close Deal to Use Commercial Research Platform in the Extremes of Space, CASIS

"In June, CASIS will issue a formal solicitation to the research community and private enterprise for their proposals to use this one-of-a-kind platform for anything from earth observation to materials, and biological sciences."

Commercial Platform Offers Exposure at Space Station< NASA

"The contributions by NanoRacks and Astrium are the most recent example of NASA efforts to expand the station's research capacity through innovative partnerships with commercial companies."

Space station used for Ardbeg distillery experiments

"Experiments using malt from the Ardbeg distillery on Islay are being carried out on the International Space Station to see how it matures without gravity. Compounds of unmatured malt were sent to the station in an unmanned cargo spacecraft in October last year, along with particles of charred oak. Scientists want to understand how they interact at close to zero gravity. NanoRacks LLC, the US company behind the research, has said understanding the influence of gravity could help a number of industries, including the whisky industry, to develop new products in the future."

Important Scientific Experiment: Can Scotch Mature In Space?, Forbes

"The Ardbeg Distillery has been distilling and maturing Scotch Whisky for over 300 years, and you don't last that long without innovating. It's no doubt that drive that has led Ardbeg to pursue its latest experiment - to see whether Scotch can properly mature while it's in space, on board the International Space Station."

Keith's note: Obvious jokes not withstanding [Larger view], this is an interesting commercial use of the ISS - if somewhat unconventional - one that has attracted actual private investment at a time when NASA's scorecard is rather lacking in this regard. Imagine this: an actual biotech process that is being investigated in the unqiue environment of space. Fermentation and distillation are industrial processes with many other applications than just making spirits. Outcome? Who knows. Only the experimenters have commented. Does NASA or CASIS make note of this? Of course not. Will they mention it in the future? Doubtful. Why bother? No one has ever asked the ISS National Lab or CASIS folks to be responsive or innovative. Why start now?

Previous CASIS postings

CASIS Names Dr. Timothy J. Yeatman Interim Chief Scientist, CASIS

"The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the nonprofit organization managing research onboard the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, today named renowned surgeon and researcher Timothy J. Yeatman, M.D., as CASIS Interim Chief Scientist. Additionally, Dr. Alan Stern, a planetary scientist, aerospace consultant, and former NASA executive, has been appointed CASIS Scientific Advisor. Doctors Yeatman and Stern will lead research initiatives for the organization.

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget (22 March 2012)

"Rep. Wolf suggested that NASA needs to look at CASIS carefully saying "if they are not with it in 30-45 days we should pull it and give it to NSF". Bolden replied that a letter was being sent to CASIS to remind them of their milestones and "if they they do not meet milestones we will find another way"."

Ohio Delegation Calls on NASA To Fire ISS Nonprofit, Space News

"Members of Ohio's congressional delegation urged NASA to strip a Florida nonprofit of its status as manager of the international space station's national laboratory and give the job to a Cleveland-based group instead."

Brown Urges NASA Leadership To Reconsider Contract For The International Space Station National Laboratory

"CASIS was hired to develop research pathways that connect basic and applied research, and develop a pipeline of funding and projects to support the wide range of research opportunities available in the ISS U.S. National Laboratory. It is the general impression of the situation that CASIS is neither performing this type of work, nor actively heading toward being able to perform this type of work. Because of the limited life of the ISS, it may be time to consider a switch in leadership for this activity."

Keith's note: It has been 14 days since Wolf's comments. The clock is ticking for CASIS. The NASA Inspector General's Office is looking into CASIS issues and a request for a GAO study of CASIS is being considered in Congress. And now the Ohio delegation is calling for NASA's agreement with CASIS to be cancelled. Do these appointments announced today by CASIS count as being "with it" (as Rep. Wolf suggested) or is this just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic? Stay tuned.

Earlier CASIS posts

Resignation Letter from CASIS Executive Director Jeanne L. Becker

"Unrealistic expectations have been levied collectively by Congressional staffers, by NASA (Mr. Uhran) and by ProOrbis. These pressures have placed unnecessary stress and hardship on CASIS, not only organizationally but also on management, forcing a defensive posture with constant focus on mitigation strategies to fend off political threats of the elimination of CASIS. ... Now, for unknown reasons, following selection of that proposal and stand up of the organization, the Space Florida interim board persists in pursuing engagement of ProOrbis on behalf of CASIS, with CASIS management forced to bear the responsibility of mitigating ensuing organizational risks occurring as a result of the interim board's actions. "

ProOrbis Statement re: CASIS Director Resignation

"However, since taking on this role, [Dr. Becker] has not engaged ProOrbis in the stand-up activities of CASIS as was contemplated. Issues of conflict of interest for all the principal parties were satisfactorily addressed in the Cooperative Agreement and provisions were put in place to mitigate any potential conflicts."

Keith's note: Jeanne DiFrancesco from ProOrbis developed a significant portion of the procurement package for NASA's ISS National Laboratory non-profit partner: the National Laboratory Reference Model. Oddly, DiFrancesco and ProOrbis ended up as a major part of the winning team's bid (CASIS). How is it that a contractor that NASA specifically uses to write part of a solicitation is then allowed to bid for - and win - the contract awarded in response to the very same procurement they helped craft? In Dr. Becker's resignation letter, and ProOrbis' response, this issue of potential conflict of interest was raised. Indeed, the core thrust of Becker's departure, in part, seems to be her frustration in being unable to retain the non-profit status (and Intent) of CASIS against external pressures to engage in overt commercial activities via ProOrbis.

Curiously, NASA's Mark Uhran and Jeanne DiFrancesco (Principal of ProOrbis, LLC and the President and CEO of ProOrbis Ventures, LLC.) are on the advisory board of U.S Rare Earths.. U.S Rare Earths is a for-profit mining company. How is it that one of the main government officials behind the CASIS procurement (still a NASA civil servant a manging various ISS activities) and a senior representative of the company that was part of the team that won the CASIS contract are allowed to participate in a external business activity?

Earlier CASIS postings

References to CASIS in House Hearing on Space Station Utilization

GAO: "Since the establishment of CASIS as the management body of ISS research is relatively recent, we have not examined its effectiveness; therefore, it is too early for us to say whether it will be successful in ensuring full scientific utilization of the station as a national laboratory."

Democrats Emphasize the Need for a Clear Plan for Utilization of the International Space Station

"In short, we need clear, prioritized and integrated utilization plans from NASA, and we need to be assured that those plans are being carried out, both by NASA and by the independent ISS research management organization, CASIS, that was set up for that purpose."

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget, earlier post

"Rep. Wolf suggested that NASA needs to look at CASIS carefully saying "if they are not with it in 30-45 days we should pull it and give it to NSF". Bolden replied that a letter was being sent to CASIS to remind them of their milestones and "if they they do not meet milestones we will find another way."

Space Station's Future Rides on Commercial Cargo Haulers, SpaceNews

"Lawmakers also raised concerns about the Florida-based nonprofit organization CASIS that NASA hired six months ago to run the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space is in the midst of a reorganization following the resignation of its director this month. Reps. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) called for review of CASIS by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Hall did not comment publicly on the request."

Earlier CASIS postings

Hearing Notes: Charles Bolden Testifies on NASA's FY 2013 Budget

"When asked about CASIS, the non-profit organization chartered to manage the U.S International Laboratory on the ISS, Bolden did not know what the history behind CASIS was (how or why it was formed), did not know how many people worked there, and would not give a grade for its performance thus far. When Rep. Wolf noted that the Director of CASIS had quit recently and that this was like "the captain leaving the ship" Bolden said "they're just getting started". Rep. Wolf suggested that NASA needs to look at CASIS carefully saying "if they are not with it in 30-45 days we should pull it and give it to NSF". Bolden replied that a letter was being sent to CASIS to remind them of their milestones and "if they they do not meet milestones we will find another way"."

CASIS Reviews NASA Experiments for Commercialization Potential, CASIS

"The panel, led by Timothy Yeatman, a veteran surgeon, scientist and pioneer in the fields of genomics and personalized medicine, is the first of its kind. The effort marks the first high-level international scientific review of NASA experiments with the aim of maximizing use of the station and unlocking the value of America's investment in the $100 billion orbiting platform."

Keith's note: This statement by CASIS is simply untrue or, at best, grossly over-hyped. NASA has been convening review and oversight panels for this purpose for decades. I know because I used to help organize some of these panels and have attended innumerable others set up by NASA, NIH, NAS/NRC, and others. That said, the previous panels have not done very much of lasting signifigance since no one outside of a small subset of NASA really understands what the ISS can do - or has done. So maybe this new CASIS panel will be different. Given the weak and incomplete infrastructure in place at CASIS I would not hold high expectations for the output this first panel. Also, given that Rep. Wolf and House Appropriators have put CASIS on notice to get "with it" in the next 30-45 days the folks at CASIS who are "just getting starting" (according to Charlie Bolden) need to get this done properly - right out of the gate. The clock is now ticking.

Previous CASIS postings

Velcro and NASA

Images: Moving Around in Weightlessness in "2001" and 2012

"With little experience in weightlessness inside a large spacecraft, the experts consulted by Stanley Kubrick in the 1960s felt that space travelers would need to be anchored to something in order to move around. While this is often true for some chores (including the use of Velcro), astronauts will often just fly or float from one point to another."

Keith's note: Speaking of Velcro, yesterday, in a hearing with NASA Administrator Bolden, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said about NASA research in space "who knew that we would get Velcro". Not true: it was invented by a Swiss guy in 1948. Someone at NASA Legislative Affairs needs to do a remedial NASA spinoff briefing to Sen. Hutchison and her staff. This is the same staff (some are ex-NASA) who have been pushing for the ISS National Lab. It is unfortunate that the staff so badly inform this senator (and others) as to what has actually been discovered by NASA - and that NASA (or CASIS) never seems to want to correct these mistakes when they occur.


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