More than a year after astronauts and cosmonauts completed the International Space Station, the pace of its utilization continues to lag. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (Casis), a Florida-based non-profit set up to organize and promote use of the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the station, finally appears to be getting its oar in the water after an unconscionable startup delay caused by bureaucratic wrangling. But priceless time has been lost, and probably continues to be, as the U.S. gets up to speed using its 50% of the orbiting laboratory.
The problem is not restricted to U.S. utilization. Johann-Dietrich Woerner, who heads Germany's space program as chairman of the executive board of the German aerospace center (DLR), says he is frustrated with Europe's use of the on-orbit research capability it has acquired through development of the Columbus laboratory module and the Automated Transfer Vehicle.
“We, the whole community—Americans, Russians, Canadians, Germans, Europeans, Japanese—invested a lot of money into the space station,” Woerner says. “And we, at least the Germans, invested to use it not just to have a flying object. [I]t is our deep understanding that we should use it now, for science, development and research in general.”