There are two principal missions of the space station.  NASA has a purpose for it of course because NASA's mission is in space exploration and in order to do space exploration, you basically need two things: you need the machines that can go further and further out into the universe and you need people that can remain healthy and high-performing as they operate those machines. 

Then of course you need the experience of the people operating the machines.  So we will be using the space station at NASA to advance space technology into the next generation. We need environmental control systems that will last longer and recycle more materials. 

We'll need advanced propulsion systems that will allow us to get places more quickly than with current chemical propulsion systems and we will need crews that can endure the rigors of space flight travel for longer periods. 

Our current crews perform on the space station in approximately six-month increments, and we've had people in space for a little bit longer than a year. But in order to venture further and further out we're going to have to have crews that can withstand the rigors of space for years at a time. 

Many people are aware that we tested some effects of space flight on human physiology.  We see bone mass decalcification, we see muscle atrophy and what we're doing is we're developing the countermeasures that will prevent or at least minimize the effects of those while these crews are on long-duration voyages.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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