Jim Pawelczyk addresses House Subcommittee on Space

WASHINGTON, D.C. --  Jim Pawelczyk, associate professor of physiology, kinesiology and medicine at Penn State, testified before the Subcommittee on Space of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology on Friday, July 10, in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the hearing, titled, “The International Space Station: Addressing Operational Challenges,” was to examine the current status of the International Space Station.

The subcommittee evaluated NASA’s plans for dealing with future challenges, the status of the International Space Station partnership, how NASA is utilizing the International Space Station to enable future deep space exploration and the administration’s request to expand International Space Station operations to 2024.

Pawelczyk’s statement focused on the status of research using the International Space Station, and included his view of NASA’s progress and his suggestions to maximize use of the International Space Station.

“During this decade of International Space Station operations, NASA has made enormous strides to develop and implement a research program that will take humans to Mars,” he said. “To capitalize on the remaining life of the International Space Station, and to keep the United States at the forefront of exploration, a robust ground-based research program that fully engages the help of the external science community must be aligned with a flight research program designed to keep humans healthy in fractional gravity environments for periods of time exceeding a year. By doing so we can achieve the penultimate goal of the International Space Station program: to endow future space explorers with the knowledge, skills and abilities to operate independently from Earth.”

Pawelczyk recommended increasing research capabilities in space by translating findings from cell culture to reference organisms and mammalian models such as mice and rats to future flight crews.

“We need the capability to house and test model organisms on the International Space Station for extended periods of time, and whenever possible, to expose them to loading forces that approximate Mars,” he said. “But equally important, we need adequate time for crew to prepare and conduct these experiments. The potential return is immense; the application of this research to our aging public could become one of the most important justifications for an extended human presence in space.”

To maximize International Space Station research, Pawelczyk recommended that the life and physical sciences research portfolio supported by NASA receive high attention; that NASA’s research management structure be optimized to meet its discovery research, translational research, and commercialization goals; that the research portfolio be tailored to match discovery and translational programmatic priorities; and that there be external oversight to help NASA reach its research goals.

Other witnesses at the hearing included Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, human exploration and operations mission directorate, NASA; John Elbon, vice president and general manager, space exploration, The Boeing Company; The Honorable Paul K. Martin, inspector general, NASA; and Shelby Oakley, acting director, acquisition and sourcing management, Government Accountability Office.

Pawelczyk has been a space life sciences researcher for more than 25 years, regularly funded by grants from NASA. From 1996 to 1998 he took leave from his academic position at Penn State to serve as a guest researcher on the STS-90 Neurolab Spacelab mission, which flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1998.

In 2003 and 2006, Pawelczyk testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. His testimony advocated strengthening research on board the International Space Station. He is a standing member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Research Subcommittee for Human Exploration, the National Research Council’s Committee on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space, and the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Aerospace Medicine and Extreme Environments.

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Last Updated July 16, 2015