March 05, 2012


In 2005, along with then President Bush's 'Vision for Space Exploration', was a section (507) in the NASA authorization act of 2005 [Pdf] that made the ISS a National Laboratory. This makes sense, since it is the worlds highest laboratory (Sorry, High Times. They got you beat. Unless you wanna sponsor a study of the effects of Tetrahydrocannibinol on the human brain while in microgravity, they will always be higher than you. Sorry. But I'm sure that there will be lots of volunteers for that mission if you can talk CASIS into it). Included in that section was the authorization for NASA to contract with outside vendors for the management of the ISS-NL, which goes on to stipulate in 507(c)(3) that there should be a detailed plan for "the management structure for the laboratory, including the rationale for contracting or not contracting with a nongovernmental entity to operate the ISS national laboratory;"

I made this!
In 2011 NASA chose to use the nonprofit firm CASIS for the management structure, but I have yet to hear about the rationale behind that decision. I don't know why it took more than five years to decide to get an outside vendor. I would hazard that it may have something to do with the completion of the ISS, since the NASA Authorization act of 2010 [Pdf] says so in sec. 502. That wouldn't explain why they wanted a third party in the first place. Wouldn't NASA be best placed to decide how to use the laboratory it helped to design and build? Maybe there is a good reason for it, but I haven't been able to find any. Note, this isn't an accusation, more pointing out that it's hard to come by information regarding CASIS and why it was chosen.

Of course, it doesn't seem like CASIS has done much in the six months or so since it assumed responsibility. But that may well be due to an inefficient bureaucracy. Actually, that's not exactly true. I'm sure it's done a lot of stuff. But it's hard to figure out what they may have been doing. You see, as NASAWatch has been covering, there doesn't seem to be a lot of coordination between CASIS and anyone else. You almost never hear them mentioned when there is some new research on the ISS, or if there's a big conference about the ISS, or any other time really. But apparently it's a very stressful job (for not appearing to do much) since the executive director has recently resigned due to "...undue and onerous political pressures..."

So what's up with CASIS? Why does it exist? What's the rationale behind it? What does it do, and what has it done? How did it get started? I know a little bit about that. CASIS was supported by Space Florida, an Independent Special District that is dedicated to the growth of the Florida space industry. Fair enough. These special districts are a little weird, but apparently commonplace. I hadn't heard of them before, but it seems a lot of states have them. They are usually created for one specific purpose, such as waste management or going into space. Anyway, CASIS is a big deal with them.

The more I dig into this the more confused I get. I can't seem to find any sort of narrative or explanatory themes to tie all of this together. There's holes all over the place, about why CASIS, why a third party at all, what has CASIS done, why aren't they more prominent in NASA press releases, why did Becker quit, why, why, why ... I don't know. I have a headache now. I'm just gonna post this with a bunch of links and have a lie down in a cool, dark room until my head stops exploding.

Links! Stuff that I read until my eyes got blurry, so now you get to read it too!,2817,2392758,00.asp

Yeah, that last one is the entire address. It comes from Nspires, the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System. I hadn't heard of this before either.

You know, I just bet that Space Law is one of the most complex and intricate legal arenas a person could dive into. Oh sure, international trading regulations are complex, probably even more so. But space law has got to be tough. So kudos to Michael Dodge and anyone else that majors in Space Law.

P.S. I almost never post pictures because, well, I don't know for sure. I just can't be all cool and stuff with graphics. Also, I never can find any that I like that are relevant. So the pictures contained in this post have, at best, a tangential relationship with the topic discussed.

Oh my god! UFO! Wait, no, it's just the Moon. Oh my god! What's that point of light to the right! It's a UFO! Oh wait, no, I had my ISO cranked up and it's just noise.

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