The leaders of the five space agencies which run the International Space Station (ISS) concluded their meetings in Qubec City with a joint release and press conference. During their meetings, they discussed the current use of the ISS and the potential for future joint space missions.
With the thirteen-year construction phase completed, three aspects of the use of the ISS were discussed: the engineering achievements, the international partnership and the ongoing opportunities for scientific research and discoveries. The heads of the agencies noted that continuing human presence in space strengthens the international partnerships and yields benefits to society.
With a completed, functioning space station on orbit, there were discussions on ways to maximize the scientific research on board as well as starting commercial research projects. Scientific inquiries range from studies in biology, biotechnology, and human physiology research, fluids and materials research, observations of deep space x-rays, and remote-sensing observations of the Earth’s surface.
The ISS partnership began considering long-range opportunities to further advance human space exploration, so benefits from the ISS program will continue to grow through future exploration missions. In the near term, the heads of agencies committed to increase use of the ISS as a test bed in space for the demonstration of critical technologies and the mitigation of human health risks for exploration as a joint effort.
For the long-term, they discussed opportunities to use the ISS as a foundation for the development of future exploration capabilities. The ISS partnership has created a global research facility in space that is unprecedented in capability and unique in human history. The heads of agency re-confirmed the importance of using the facility to benefit society today and provide a technological basis for continued human exploration of space in the future.
One use of the ISS is to inspire young people to study science, technology, engineering and math. More than 40 million students have participated in human spaceflight to date through communications downlinks and interactive experiments with ISS crew members. Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut Robert Thirsk spent six months on the ISS in 2009 and CSA astronaut Chris Hadfield is scheduled to visit the space station for six months starting this December. Hadfield will act as commander of the space station for 3 months, a first for a Canadian astronaut.
Highlighting the continued growth in the international user community, the first biannual International Space Station Utilization Statistics was released. As well, in a joint move, all the space agencies published new web sites called the International Space Station Benefits for Humanity which cites many cases into three categories, Human Health, Earth Observation and Distater Response and Global Education.
The next ISS Heads of Agency meeting will take place in Russia with a date still to be determined.