International Space Station
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Sandra Johnson
Houston, TX – 3 August 2015
Sandra Johnson: Today is August 3rd, 2015. This oral history session
is being conducted with Gregory H. Johnson at Johnson Space Center
in Houston, Texas, as part of the International Space Station Program
Oral History Project. The interviewer is Sandra Johnson. I want to
thank you again for joining us today and taking the time to meet with
You were selected by NASA for the 1998 astronaut class. After training
and among your other early assignments, you became the Deputy and
then the Chief of the Astronaut Safety Branch. You also flew as a
pilot for two Space Shuttle missions, both to the International Space
Station [ISS], and both on Endeavour, STS-123 in 2008, and Endeavour’s
last flight, STS-134 in May of 2011.
Later in 2011, you had a one-year appointment as the Associate Director
of External Programs at the [NASA] Glenn Research Center in [Cleveland]
Ohio. Then you returned to JSC at the end of 2012 to the Astronaut
Office, where you headed the Visiting Vehicle Working Group, which
helped plan and execute missions with NASA’s commercial partners.
In August 2013 you left NASA for your current position as the executive
director for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space [CASIS].
Throughout your career you’ve had involvement with ISS, since
you first became an astronaut. How has the ISS Program changed over
that time period, do you think?
Gregory H. Johnson: Sandra, it actually even goes back further. During the
road show that Charlie [Charles F.] Bolden and Dan [Daniel S.] Goldin
were helping the country understand—at six different centers,
they called them road shows—to better understand about Space
Station Freedom, the International Space Station concept at the time.
I’m not sure exactly when it changed names. I went to Raleigh-Durham,
North Carolina, for the road show. The Space Station was out there
and it sparked my interest in really going to be a test pilot, eventually
becoming an astronaut.
When I showed up in 1998 there were over 70 unflown astronauts in
the class of 1996 and the class of 1998. We were going to wait a long
time to fly in space. The Space Station was the big project that the
Shuttle was undertaking, as well as some other missions that were
going to low-Earth orbit for other reasons, for example the Hubble
[Space Telescope] and others.
Most of the flights on the manifest were Space Shuttle flights to
the Space Station for Space Station assembly. That was going to be
my job, to help build the Space Station. I was hoping to get about
four Shuttle flights in my career as an astronaut. Of course things
slowed down when we first got there. Then the [Space Shuttle] Columbia
[STS-107] accident happened and then the Station modules were being
prioritized. What’s the Space Station really going to look like?
But that whole time from 1998 all the way till 2011 when I got my
last Shuttle flight, during that whole assembly sequence, I saw it
evolve through many different steps.
The first was getting started. The Russians gave us a real challenge
there with some of the early modules that we were putting together.
Then of course we got into a pretty good flow of Shuttle assembly
flights. Then Columbia happened. That of course delayed assembly of
the Space Station for a number of years, and then we were wondering
which modules were the ones that were actually going to get up there.
I was really excited to be part of the first Japanese assembly mission.
There were three. I was really excited to slide in and get a second
flight. What’s interesting to me though is when we were talking
about the prioritization of the modules the Cupola [observatory module]
to me was not in my mind the highest priority compared to some of
the other modules. But, after seeing the Cupola on my second flight—because
on my first flight the Cupola wasn’t there yet—it became
to me the most inspiring module of the entire Space Station when we
saw it fully assembled, except for that final piece that the [STS-]135
crew put up there. I thought the Cupola was an amazing surprise and
the perspective of our planet and the perspective of the immediate
surroundings of the Space Station completely changed the picture for
Sandra Johnson: I’ve read where it affected a lot of the residents
also on ISS because they could get up there and just see everything
at that point.
Gregory H. Johnson: Absolutely. In the periphery of the Space Station, you
could see outside the immediate vicinity of the Space Station. It
was great for operating the robotic arm, for example, and tracking
EVAs [extravehicular activities], and photography around the Space
Station, but also the beautiful view of our planet was just compelling
Sandra Johnson: Let’s talk about some of the decisions that have impacted
the development of ISS. Something that you’re involved in now
was affected by the fact that the ISS was designated as a National
Laboratory in 2005. Until relatively recently, research on board ISS
has been reserved mostly for government initiatives, but new opportunities
for commercial and academic use of the ISS are now available because
of the decision to form that cooperative agreement and turn over the
management of the orbiting lab to CASIS. If you would, talk about
your decision to leave NASA and then when you went to CASIS, what
led to that decision and what you do there as the executive director.
Gregory H. Johnson: The notion of the ISS National Lab was formed around the
Columbia period when we were doing a lot of thinking as an Agency
about the Space Station. The Space Station was sold to the country
and to the world for a lot of different reasons. But, one of the reasons
was to make good use of the Space Station to solve problems on the
Earth that you just couldn’t solve on the Earth: because of
the unique aspects of the Space Station, microgravity, the unique
vantage point, and the external environment being outside of the Earth’s
In 2005, the ISS National Lab was created really because it was not
just NASA’s Space Station, it was also the country’s and
the world’s Space Station. The ISS National Lab serves the U.S.
The idea in 2005 evolved until the creation of CASIS in 2010, and
came into being in August of 2011: an external, outside of the government,
nonprofit that would help maximize the utilization of the Space Station
for Earth benefit.
Other government agencies, although they had involvement with the
Space Station prior to that time, were working with NASA, and NASA
had its roadmap and priorities. There were conflicts or different
viewpoints, if you will, that were urging the country to do something
from an outside source. There were also commercial players that were
wanting to build that new commercial market in low-Earth orbit, and
others, so the nonprofit was created in 2010. We went into operation
At that time, I was just coming off my second Shuttle flight, so I
didn’t have a lot of knowledge of this whole movement. I was
a pilot, so my job was to row the boat and operate the robotic arm
to build the Space Station. The Space Station was a wonderful facility,
and my two Shuttle flights turned out to be the two longest attached
assembly flights. Both of them were almost 16 days, and we were attached
for over 12 days on both missions, so I spent a lot of time in the
Space Station. I wasn’t a researcher, though, but because the
other guys were doing space walks, and I was inside; I got to share
in some of the work, and I enjoyed my time on the Space Station. But,
again, I probably didn’t fully appreciate the enormity of what
the thinkers were contemplating in 2005 and in 2008 and then again
in 2010 when CASIS was first formed.
I came back from the second Shuttle flight and went off to a leadership
job to cut my teeth on a division up at NASA Glenn. I didn’t
really think about CASIS. Although I knew of the existence of CASIS,
I really wasn’t aware of what was going on. But, what was going
on was a disruptive revolution in the way that NASA has done business.
NASA was building the Space Station and interacting with the international
partners and focusing most of its effort on building the Space Station,
and around the 2010-2011 timeframe trying to figure out how to get
the best projects up on the Space Station.
This new nonprofit outside of NASA was injected into this established
system with NASA, and it was disruptive, and it was challenging, and
NASA was trying to understand what CASIS was. These new people at
CASIS were trying to understand what NASA was. It was a great challenge
for both organizations.
Come the summer of 2013, I came back from the leadership job at Glenn.
We had some pretty good success in external programs at NASA Glenn.
They called me, they actually said, “Hey, we’d like to
have a strong leader, somebody who has passion, who can energize this
group and take them to the next level.” I learned about the
CASIS mission. Initially I was skeptical and questioning, but, then
I realized how wildly important the mission of CASIS is, so I signed
up and entered in an organization that did have some challenges.
One of the first issues was to make sure that we clarified the communications
between NASA, CASIS, and all the other players, [Washington] DC stakeholders.
There were some political ramifications with having a nonprofit working
with a government agency and funded on appropriated funds. All of
those sorts of relationships were really important in those first
couple of years when I joined CASIS.
I’ve now been with CASIS for two years. I think after our recent
ISS Research and Development Conference in Boston [Massachusetts]
last month, that instead of feeling a headwind from NASA when I first
joined CASIS in 2013, now it feels to me more like a tailwind. I think
NASA now better understands what CASIS is trying to do and CASIS better
understands what NASA is trying to do. I think the decision makers
in DC are also in on the program and everybody has buy-in.
I think we’re in a great environment now where we can take the
organization from understanding each other and working together and
the idea of unity of mission and take our science and our technology
and our STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics],
because we have an education mission as well, up to the next level.
I think it’s a really exciting environment right now that we’re
Sandra Johnson: Talk about that for a minute. Like you said, you do have
a STEM mission and you have these different things that the nonprofit
is supposed to accomplish. If you don’t mind, just walk us through
exactly what CASIS does for NASA, as far as researchers and finding
those researchers and helping to guide things and move things through
the flow toward ISS.
Gregory H. Johnson: I’ve got a great working relationship now with Mike
[Michael T.] Suffredini and with Marybeth [A.] Edeen and Mike [Michael
E.] Read. They would watch me smile as I answer this question, because
your question is “What are we doing for NASA,” and actually
I view it as what are we doing for the country. We’re helping
NASA by complementing the existing areas where NASA was working and
building research and technology and STEM, and complementing that
with these other new nontraditional innovative users and commercial
users to help build the commercial market on low-Earth orbit.
As NASA has populated the Space Station with projects, there are a
lot of different sources of projects. You can imagine that as the
pipeline is filling full of projects, there might be a researcher
who collects data that could have benefited a whole bunch of others,
not just focusing on his/her problem. One of the things that I think
CASIS is bringing is the idea of bringing multiple users together
and building consortia or groups of thought leaders that would help
solve multiple problems with the same data set. For example, we have
campaign Good Earth, which is a remote sensing initiative that’s
trying to use the Space Station as an Earth observation platform.
Multiple sensors, perhaps sensor fusion, to serve all the way from
humanitarian to commercial users. There are preexisting commercial
users up there, a big one is Teledyne Brown [Engineering]. They’re
building the MUSES [Multi-User System for Earth Sensing] platform
and we’re trying to leverage that platform and others to think
about Earth observation from a bigger perspective.
Campaign Good Health is another big one that we’re working on.
That is improving human health here on the planet. With the Human
Research Program [HRP] and NSBRI [National Space Biomedical Research
Institute], NASA is focusing on solving problems of long duration
spaceflight that’ll get us to the Moon or Mars and living in
space for a year. We have Scott [J.] Kelly up there this year [ISS
one-year mission]. For the first time we have a yearlong mission.
There are objectives and there are data that are collected to solve
those problems that can also be translated to solve human health problems
here on the Earth, so we’re looking to build teams that can
actually serve both objectives, the up and out: going to the next
level in the solar system, while also solving problems here on the
As far as education, we’re leveraging on a lot of the educational
ideas and programs that NASA has traditionally done. The funding went
down a little for education over the last few years, so we’re
trying to help fill that vacuum and again build teams, leverage partnerships
in STEM, that maybe NASA hadn’t worked with, like maybe the
Boy Scouts of America or the Boys and Girls Clubs [of America] or
others, and build awareness to inspire that next generation of scientists
Sandra Johnson: It sounds like you’re more of a coordinator, that you
coordinate these projects and then find the people to do the research,
which is interesting.
Gregory H. Johnson: That’s absolutely right. We’re a coordinator.
We’re a facilitator. We are not owners. They’re not our
projects. We don’t have to have all the great scientists on
our team, but we have to have a subset of very intelligent scientists
who can help mine the landscape for the best projects, and when those
projects come over the fence, to evaluate them, or at least know how
we can outsource the evaluation to get the best projects on the Space
Sandra Johnson: In your position as executive director, is that part of what
you do, go out there and present to potential researchers or potential
people that could be working together that this is what’s going
on, this is part of what’s going on at ISS, or these are the
potentials? Is that part of your job, being that front person, the
head of the arrow as far as CASIS is concerned?
Gregory H. Johnson: I am the primary up and out person for CASIS. As the executive
director, I’m the president of the organization. The workers
in the organization all fall under me. We have a board of directors,
and I’m the primary interface with the board of directors. The
board of directors are very high level individuals in the commercial
world and in science, who are helping us take CASIS up to the next
level: connectors and also visionaries for strategy. As far as the
other stakeholders, like the DC stakeholders, other symposia around
the country, CEOs and others, and other leaders in the industry, my
job is the front guy to interface with them. Of course, some on the
management director level below me, they’re interfacing with
these people as well. I have to bring along the smart scientists or
the smart technologists when we get into the nitty-gritty talking
about possible projects. But yes, I’m that guy, so I’m
on the road quite a bit.
Sandra Johnson: Looking back on your history with ISS, this process of building
ISS and then of actually using it for the science that the country
expects it to be used for, and then of course the partnership with
CASIS and then finding the researchers and getting all that going,
what do you think are some of the lessons learned based on your experiences
with this whole process?
Gregory H. Johnson: I think one of the lessons learned is when the Space Station
was created there was a lot of expectation that was created on a lot
of different fronts. The use of a microgravity laboratory that you
just can’t replicate here on the ground, and the remote sensing,
orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, and the unique vantage point
that the Space Station has, and with astronauts on board who actually
can interface with these projects.
The notion is it’s easier to say that this resource can be used
to cure cancer, for example, than it is to actually make that happen.
That’s a lot harder problem. Logistically, it’s hard to
get scientists’ minds on the ground into the Space Station.
I think what I found is they didn’t believe it. Some do, but
some had no idea that was an option.
Part of our job is to educate the community on what the opportunity
is. NASA has had a budget for putting science and technology on the
Space Station, and NASA has watched that budget compete with other
programs in NASA, so NASA can’t put the kind of investment on
the Space Station that they could in some of the earlier years. We’re
challenged at CASIS to bring in funding from other areas, and especially
from commercial sources, and building that commercial market, building
the demand that actually might pay for, or partially pay for the follow-on
Space Station(s). It’s a unique challenge getting the users
to understand first of all what the opportunity is, but then to actually
close the deal and make these investments in the future.
Sandra Johnson: You mentioned the commercial partners, and that has been
an important part, especially recently, in getting things up to the
Station, as far as commercial spacecraft and NanoRacks [LLC], but
also as you mentioned help with funding. Do you have a vision of what
that will look like at some point percentagewise? What is it going
to be as far as NASA or education or commercial ventures or experiments
or research going on at ISS?
Gregory H. Johnson: The U.S. capability on the Space Station, so the upmass,
the powered upmass, the downmass, the volume on the Space Station,
the astronaut time, is shared equally between the ISS National Laboratory,
which is managed by CASIS but it’s managed also in the ISS Program
and the relationships are a little bit complex, and then also for
example NanoRacks, who preexisted CASIS, and Teledyne Brown’s
relationship. So we’re working together ironing out some of
the complexities of relationships. But for the ISS National Lab, CASIS
is the front door to the ISS National Lab. This represents 50 percent
of the U.S. capability onboard the ISS.
The other half is pure NASA. You can get the pure fundamental research,
you’ll get SLPS [Space Life and Physical Science] and other
scientific organizations in NASA, the Human Research Program and others,
that are focusing on more fundamental research and also for the exploration
portion of the science that’s going to better understand the
human body going to the Moon or Mars. These two groups have overlap,
so we want to build that overlap portion, but we also want to complement
each other, with the fundamental exploration type research and the
commercial type research and other nontraditional users and other
government agencies mixing into the fight. Does that answer your question?
Sandra Johnson: I think it does, because I was going to ask you about that
relationship with CASIS and the Human Research Program as being something
Gregory H. Johnson: The Human Research Program is on this side, on the exploration
mission, but they have specific objectives for a mission beyond LEO.
They’ve also been doing some of those translatable kind of objectives
that will benefit human health on Earth. We’re trying to build
the consortia together and work on that overlap area between the two
organizations, but also build on that portion that is outside of what
HRP or NSBRI are working on.
Sandra Johnson: If you had to think about it, what would you consider to
be your most significant contribution to the ISS Program?
Gregory H. Johnson: That’s interesting. I was lucky enough to be on
the assembly teams on two Shuttle flights. Of the, what was it, 35
Shuttle flights to assemble the Space Station, I was lucky to be on
a couple of those, and I think that was a contribution as a pilot.
I think my contributions to the ISS Program in general, though, are
probably in the future for me. It’s building this new group
that’s interfacing with NASA and complementing the projects
that NASA has traditionally done, building in these new areas. I think
that if CASIS is really successful we will build demand in low-Earth
orbit commercialization. If we’re successful, I think other
government agencies will fence off portions of their funding to solve
problems on the Space Station that maybe they hadn’t contemplated
prior. I think that the whole of the ISS Program, the NASA side and
also the ISS National Lab side, will both benefit.
Sandra Johnson: I’m sure you’ve had some challenges throughout
your career, training to be an astronaut and those years, but as you
mentioned, when you first started with CASIS and first took this job
there was a couple rough years before you started with CASIS. Were
there any significant challenges that you had to overcome during that
time period once you took this position? You mentioned there are some
stakeholders in DC. Was there anything that you’d like to talk
about that you had to do to get it going in the right direction that
it needed to go?
Gregory H. Johnson: I think that what I learned in my leadership job at NASA
Glenn for about 15 months, some of the principles that I used there—and
I call it playground dynamics, sharing, trying to understand each
other, listening, waiting your turn—those were all principles
that were fundamental when I first started with CASIS. Let’s
look at it from NASA’s perspective. NASA had 100 percent of
the allocation prioritization for projects on the Space Station prior
to CASIS. Now all of a sudden—and that’s why I call it
disruptive, and it’s revolutionary; it certainly wasn’t
evolutionary—because all of a sudden now this organization that
was new, different—and it was actually designed to be different—had
half of the keys to the kingdom.
These groups in NASA that previously enjoyed 100 percent of the allocation
now enjoyed only 50 percent. That’s a really troubling relationship
if you think about it. Understanding what their challenges were, the
whole environment was fraught with, “That’s yours and
this is mine.” We had to get past that. Them understanding we
have the mission in mind, we want to serve the other users, the other
government agencies, the nontraditional, the innovative, these commercial
players who could fund the next Space Station, it’s wildly important,
and helping this group to understand that.
But, helping my group understand how important it is, the research
that NASA has been doing for the last 10 years, actually 25 years,
but on the Space Station about 10 years, and how we could help them
by finding areas where we can solve both of our problem sets together.
Listening, sharing, understanding, supporting, those are all challenges
that I had to work on as I joined the team. As a pilot and as a leader
at NASA Glenn, up at NASA Glenn when the education budget was being
cut, I saw the same patterns. Those patterns are all over in government,
but also outside the government. That’s where we started. Once
we just worked together and understood each other, I think we’re
now starting to gain traction together. That’s why I’m
saying we’re in a great environment to really launch into great
success in research and technology development.
Sandra Johnson: I was going to ask you if the Glenn experience helped you
with that. I was curious.
Gregory H. Johnson: NASA Glenn is one of the 10 Centers, and I’ve learned
a lot about NASA. There are so many touch points throughout NASA.
You’ve got [NASA] Headquarters [Washington, DC], then you’ve
got all the different Centers. In some ways the Centers compete with
each other, and sometimes it’s all the Centers against Headquarters.
We had to navigate those woods, and I think we’re making great
progress on that. Understanding each other and getting the support
of the ISS Program as well as our Headquarters players and Mr. [William
H.] Gerstenmaier and others in understanding what we’re trying
to do has been very helpful.
Sandra Johnson: I have read in another article you mentioned that teamwork
is so important. It’s important when you’re on a Shuttle
crew, it’s important no matter what you’re doing as far
as trying to achieve a goal.
Gregory H. Johnson: I’ve always found myself in those sort of leadership
positions. I can think back in the Boy Scouts. I can think in the
band in high school as a drum major. I can think about the teams we
had at the Air Force Academy, the teams of fighter pilots when we
would have to ship out going off to war. Then integrating test teams
at Edwards [Air Force Base, California], and then like you said, Shuttle
I’ve always been in the middle of building teams and rah-rahing,
trying to get everybody focused on a mission. Maybe that’s one
of my skill sets that I’ve brought to CASIS.
Sandra Johnson: You mentioned the Boy Scouts. I know you’re a former
Eagle Scout. Do you have a chance in your position to work with other
organizations like Boy Scouts? I believe there’s some involvement
with them on getting things on ISS. Or students? Do you get a chance
to actually work with kids and talk to kids very often?
Gregory H. Johnson: All astronauts work with kids. That’s part of our
mission and our mandate. I’ve loved that part of the mission,
interfacing with kids and trying to inspire kids, because Neil [A.]
Armstrong was my number one: he was the guy who inspired me when I
was seven years old. Astronauts have inspired me along the way. Charlie
Bolden at the road show, he was the guy, and it’s interesting,
now he’s the NASA Administrator, and we joke about that because
at the time he was a just a generic Shuttle pilot. He was going around
with the then NASA Administrator, Dan Goldin. That’s when I
got the motivation that this could actually happen; it’s something
that’s achievable, not just a dream.
The STEM mission is so wildly important, and we had a lot of practice
as astronauts, and so now at CASIS that’s part of our mission.
The Boy Scouts of America, for example, we have a partnership with
them. We have a joint event coming up next spring, where we’re
going to try to inspire Boy Scouts, we’re going to try to get
the Boy Scouts of America involved in STEM projects that are on the
Space Station. Both organizations are going to mutually benefit.
The Boys and Girls Clubs is another STEM connector, but there are
many many others all around the country. We had a big STEM summit
last January where we built some new relationships with some of the
corporate STEM organizations, trying to get the partnership and the
leverage associated with those relationships.
It’s an interesting challenge. We don’t want to offset
too much research or too much technology, but I think our tactic is
that every ISS National Lab project is wrapped in STEM. Whether it’s
a deep science, a deep dive into some scientific principle, or some
other cool technology that we’re trying to develop on Space
Station, there is some grouping of students who could benefit from
that. We’re trying to, I call it chocolate-coat or STEM, coat
every project that we’re putting on the Space Station.
Sandra Johnson: What do you believe is going to be the legacy of ISS?
Gregory H. Johnson: The legacy of ISS I think is first of all to build the
low-Earth orbit commercial market. There are things that we can do
on the Space Station that can’t be done on the ground. Finding
those unique areas that we can further knowledge, build economic activity,
create jobs, and solve problems here on the Earth is what the legacy
of the Space Station is going to be.
If we get to the end of the Space Station’s useful life and
we don’t have any holy grails or any trophies in our trophy
case that would really demonstrate that the Space Station was worth
that $100 billion investment, then arguably that would weaken our
legacy. I believe the undertaking is worth the risk, and so did our
decision makers back in the ’90s when we funded the Space Station.
But, it’s our job to use this valuable one-of-a-kind asset up
on the Space Station.
Sandra Johnson: The time is not probably as long as a lot of people would
hope, since what is it, 2024 now?
Gregory H. Johnson: It’s 2024, but when I showed up at CASIS it was
2020. I’m hopeful it’ll be 2028 or further. But, you’re
right, the time is now for us to use the available runway, because
that runway, whether it’s 10 years long or 14 years long, there’s
going to be an end of the useful life of the Space Station, and it’s
really important for us to develop all those areas that would create
the follow-on space stations. I believe there’ll be different
sorts of space stations out there. There’ll be little space
stations that have a pocket of interest, and it might be a production
facility, or it might be some other facility that we generate a need
for. But, I think there’ll also be a need for a platform that’s
Space Station-like, but maybe different, maybe located in a different
place in our solar system.
Right now we want to build the demand. We want to build the need.
We want to identify those problems that we can solve on follow-on
Sandra Johnson: The role of the astronauts on Station, there’s upkeep
to the Station, and then they have time set aside to do the research
and the work that they need to do. It’s somewhat limited because
of the demands on their time until we can have seven residents up
there. What are your thoughts on getting to the point that we can
have enough people? Is that ever a problem in your position, because
you’re finding these connections and getting people to buy into
doing the research, but then scheduling it once you’re talking
about doing the actual work on Station? Is that anything that CASIS
has any input in? Or how is that worked out?
Gregory H. Johnson: Absolutely. Astronaut time was the first portion of our
allocation that we maxed out. What that essentially means is you have
so many projects that need astronaut time, and we’ve pushed
up against our limit of allocation. Allocation comes in different
flavors. For example we haven’t bumped up on our upmass, 50
percent of our upmass allocation, but the allocation parameters are
not going to all necessarily line up. Astronaut time is really right
now the long pole in the tent, if you will. If we could build up astronaut
time, then everybody benefits.
Getting that astronaut time is difficult because obviously a portion
of their time needs to be spent just operating the Space Station.
There’s a critical mass of astronauts just to operate the Space
Station. Additional astronauts on orbit are gravy. We can essentially
double our research time with just the addition of one astronaut.
We’re really looking forward to the Commercial Crew Program
and getting those additional astronauts on the Space Station.
The use of astronaut time is also very valuable because you can do
things on the Space Station with astronauts up there that you can’t
do unmanned. Unmanned projects need to have a lot of redundancy, a
lot of reliability. Those projects have to be more complex and there’s
a lot more risk associated with them, whereas on the Space Station
when you have a person there and you have a robotic arm, for example,
you can develop technologies that you just wouldn’t want to
make the investment as a secondary payload because the costs of launch
are extremely expensive. So, using our ability to get payloads up
to the Space Station using SpaceX, Orbital, and the others, it’s
a great value proposition right now.
We try to communicate to the external users and say, “Hey, you’ve
got an opportunity where you can ride on these vehicles subsidizing
the launch cost, get them up to Space Station, and solve your problems,
advance your technologies.”
Sandra Johnson: As a former astronaut and someone that has visited the ISS
personally—and you’ve seen some changes in your two visits—do
you think that spaceflight experience that you have, the fact that
you’ve actually been there and you’ve seen the ISS, do
you think it benefits your position at CASIS? If so, how do you think
Gregory H. Johnson: I think it helps for a couple reasons. For one, I have
a perspective that others might not have who haven’t been to
space. The players, the environment, and understanding the relationships.
Also, just the experience of being in space, there are some things
that are maybe more obvious to me than to others, but I think it’s
sharing in the passion. I think one of the reasons that they asked
me to lead CASIS was because I’m invested in the Space Station;
15 years of my life in the astronaut corps helping to build the Space
Station. We want to use it; we want to put it to the best use possible.
It’s not about my career success. It’s not about another
interest that I’m trying to advance. It’s really about
serving the nation to make the best use of this one-of-a-kind asset.
Sandra Johnson: Is there anything we haven’t mentioned that you’d
like to mention about your position at CASIS?
Gregory H. Johnson: I can just tell you, it has been a great challenge. I’ve
never worked harder in my life. I guess this is on the record, but
it’s been a great challenge. I think that we’re making
traction. I think that we’re going to get there. I do believe
that we’re going to solve some serious problems here on the
Earth in the next 10 years.
Sandra Johnson: That’s exciting. I hope we get to see that.
Gregory H. Johnson: I do too.
Sandra Johnson: Thank you. I appreciate it.