The National Academy of Sciences was chartered by Congress, under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, to provide scientific and technical advice to the government of the United States. Over the years, the advisory program of the institution has expanded, leading in the course of time to the establishment of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, and of the National Research Council (NRC), the operational arm of the Academies of Sciences and Engineering.
After the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the pace and scope of U.S. space activity were dramatically increased. Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct the nation 's ambitious space agenda, and the National Academy of Sciences created the Space Science Board. The original charter of the Board was established in June 1958, three months before final legislation creating NASA was enacted. The Space Science Board and its successor, the Space Studies Board, have provided expert external and independent scientific and programmatic advice to NASA on a continuous basis from NASA' s inception until the present.
The fundamental charter of the Board today remains that defined by National Academy of Sciences President Detlev W. Bronk in a letter to Lloyd V. Berkner, first chair of the Board, on June 26, 1958:
We have talked of the main task of the Board in three parts—the immediate program, the long-range program, and the international aspects of both. In all three we shall look to the Board to be the focus of the interests and responsibilities of the Academy-Research Council in space science; to establish necessary relationships with civilian science and with governmental science activities, particularly the proposed new space agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency; to represent the Academy-Research Council complex in our international relations in this field on behalf of American science and scientists; to seek ways to stimulate needed research; to promote necessary coordination of scientific effort; and to provide such advice and recommendations to appropriate individuals and agencies with regard to space science as may in the Board's judgment be desirable.
As we have already agreed, the Board is intended to be an advisory, consultative, correlating, evaluating body and not an operating agency in the field of space science. It should avoid responsibility as a Board for the conduct of any programs of space research and for the formulation of budgets relative thereto. Advice to agencies properly responsible for these matters, on the other hand, would be within its purview to provide.
Thus, the Board exists to provide guidance to the federal government on space research and to help coordinate the nation's undertakings in these areas. With the reconstitution of the Board in 1988, it assumed similar responsibilities with respect to space applications. The Board also addresses scientific aspects of the nation's program of human spaceflight.
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Space Studies Board 1 Charter and Organization of the Board THE FOUNDING CHARTER OF THE SPACE SCIENCE BOARD The National Academy of Sciences was chartered by Congress, under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, to provide scientific and technical advice to the government of the United States. Over the years, the advisory program of the institution has expanded, leading in the course of time to the establishment of the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Medicine, and of the National Research Council (NRC), the operational arm of the Academies of Sciences and Engineering. After the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the pace and scope of U.S. space activity were dramatically increased. Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to conduct the nation 's ambitious space agenda, and the National Academy of Sciences created the Space Science Board. The original charter of the Board was established in June 1958, three months before final legislation creating NASA was enacted. The Space Science Board and its successor, the Space Studies Board, have provided expert external and independent scientific and programmatic advice to NASA on a continuous basis from NASA' s inception until the present. The fundamental charter of the Board today remains that defined by National Academy of Sciences President Detlev W. Bronk in a letter to Lloyd V. Berkner, first chair of the Board, on June 26, 1958: We have talked of the main task of the Board in three parts—the immediate program, the long-range program, and the international aspects of both. In all three we shall look to the Board to be the focus of the interests and responsibilities of the Academy-Research Council in space science; to establish necessary relationships with civilian science and with governmental science activities, particularly the proposed new space agency, the National Science Foundation, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency; to represent the Academy-Research Council complex in our international relations in this field on behalf of American science and scientists; to seek ways to stimulate needed research; to promote necessary coordination of scientific effort; and to provide such advice and recommendations to appropriate individuals and agencies with regard to space science as may in the Board's judgment be desirable. As we have already agreed, the Board is intended to be an advisory, consultative, correlating, evaluating body and not an operating agency in the field of space science. It should avoid responsibility as a Board for the conduct of any programs of space research and for the formulation of budgets relative thereto. Advice to agencies properly responsible for these matters, on the other hand, would be within its purview to provide. Thus, the Board exists to provide guidance to the federal government on space research and to help coordinate the nation's undertakings in these areas. With the reconstitution of the Board in 1988, it assumed similar responsibilities with respect to space applications. The Board also addresses scientific aspects of the nation's program of human spaceflight.
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Space Studies Board THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD TODAY In 1988, the Space Science Board was reorganized, assuming a major portion of the responsibilities of the disestablished NRC Space Applications Board, and was renamed the Space Studies Board. A number of new task groups and committees were formed, and several existing committees were disbanded and their portfolios distributed to other committees. In addition, because civilian space research involves federal agencies other than NASA (for example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], the Departments of Energy and Defense, and the National Science Foundation [NSF]), increased emphasis was placed on broadening the Board's advisory outreach. Within the National Research Council, the Board is a unit of the Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications, and it reports to the Commission for oversight. Members of the Commission review recommendations for Board membership, advise on proposed new projects to be undertaken by the Board or its committees, and coordinate completion of the process of responding to external reviews of all Board reports. On a triennial basis the Commission also conducts a review of the overall operations of each board under its purview. The most recent review of the Space Studies Board was in 1997, and the Commission examined the Board's responses to that review in 1998. MAJOR FUNCTIONS The Board's overall advisory charter is implemented through four key functions: discipline oversight, interdisciplinary studies, international activities, and advisory outreach. Oversight of Space Research Disciplines The Board has responsibility for strategic planning and oversight in the basic subdisciplines of space research. This responsibility is discharged through a structure of standing discipline committees and includes preparation of strategic research plans and prioritization of scientific objectives, as well as independent assessment of progress in these disciplines. The standard vehicle for providing long-term research guidance is the research strategy report, which has been used successfully by the Board and its committees over many years. In addition, committees periodically prepare formal assessment reports that examine progress in their disciplines in comparison with published Board advice. From time to time, in response to a sponsor or Board request or to circumstances requiring prompt and focused comment, a committee may prepare and submit a short, or “letter,” report. Agency requests for broader space policy or organizational guidance are addressed by suitable ad hoc organizational arrangements and appropriate final documentation. Other special agency requests that require responses synchronized with the federal budget cycle are relayed to standing committees for action or are taken up by ad hoc task groups. All committee reports undergo Board and NRC review and approval prior to publication and are issued formally as reports of the NRC and the Board. Individual discipline committees may be called upon by the Board to prepare specialized material for use by either the Board or its interdisciplinary committees or task groups. Interdisciplinary Studies Although the emphasis over the years has been on discipline planning and evaluation, the Board recognizes a need for cross-cutting technical and policy studies in several important areas. To accomplish these objectives, the Board creates standing cross-disciplinary committees, internal committees, or ad hoc task groups. Internal committees, constituted entirely of appointed Board members, are formed to conduct short-duration studies or to lay the planning groundwork for subsequent formation of a regular committee or task group. Task groups resemble standing committees in structure and operation, except that they have predefined lifetimes, typically 1 to 3 years, and more narrowly bounded charters. The Board also organizes topical workshops and exercises the NRC's convening function in other special activities.
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Space Studies Board International Representation and Cooperation The Board continues to serve as the U.S. National Committee for the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). In this capacity, the Board participates in a broad variety of COSPAR panels and committees, and a member of the Board's staff serves as executive secretary for the U.S. National Committee. As the economic and political integration of Europe evolves, so also does the integration of Europe's space activities. The Board has successfully collaborated with the European space research community on a number of ad hoc joint studies and is continuing to broaden its advisory relationship with this community. The Board has established a regular practice of exchanging observers with the European Space Science Committee (ESSC), an entity of the European Science Foundation, and completed a major collaborative study with this group in 1998. Strengthening contacts with the Japanese and Russian programs is expected to assume augmented priority as contacts with European research mature. Advisory Outreach The Space Studies Board was conceived to provide space research guidance across the federal government. Over the years, the Board's agenda and funding have focused on NASA's space science programs. Several influences have acted to expand the breadth of the Board's purview, both within NASA and outside it. First, the maturation of some of the physical sciences has led to progressive integration of space and non-space elements, suggesting a more highly integrated advisory structure. One example is the solar-terrestrial community, where the Board's Committee on Solar and Space Physics has operated for several years in a “federated” arrangement with the NRC Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Research. Another example is astronomy, where the Board operates the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics as a joint committee of the Space Studies Board and the Board on Physics and Astronomy, thereby integrating attention to ground-based and space-based astronomy. The life and biological sciences are assuming increasing importance at NASA, and another area of future disciplinary association is with the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and corresponding NRC entities. Second, the maturation of space applications has implied a broadening of the sponsorship base to NOAA, with its responsibilities for operational weather satellites. NOAA has been a cosponsor of the Board's Committee on Earth Studies and its work in Earth observations since 1991. This relationship has evolved along with the convergence of DOD and NOAA meteorological satellite programs under the DOD-NOAA-NASA National Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite System partnership. Accelerating opportunities for applications of space remote sensing in other areas (e.g., environmental, resource, land use, and agricultural management) have meant that other federal agencies have become more involved in the use of the results of space research and, therefore, more likely to benefit from the work of the Board. Third, there is now an extraordinary growth in private sector space activity. In contrast with the early years of the space era when leadership and expertise were largely in the hands of the federal government, primarily in NASA and DOD, commercial entities have become increasingly capable, and commercial investment in space activities is surpassing investments of federal funds. This trend has many implications for the Board, including a need for better understanding of the capabilities and priorities of commercial space research, development, and services providers and a need to address the impact of changing roles and relationships between the government, academia, and industry on the conduct of space research. ORGANIZATION The Board conducts its business principally during regularly scheduled meetings of its own membership and of its supporting committees and other activities. These include the internal committees of the Board, standing committees, ad hoc task groups, and workshops and special activities. The organization of the Board and its panels during 1998 is illustrated in Figure 1.1.
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Space Studies Board FIGURE 1.1 Organization of the Space Studies Board and its committees, task groups, and workshop activities during 1998. The Space Studies Board The Space Studies Board is composed of 24 to 26 prominent scientists, engineers, industrialists, scholars, and policy experts in space research, appointed for staggered terms of 1 to 3 years. The Board meets three or four times per year to review the activities of its committees and task groups and to be briefed on and discuss major space policy issues. The Board is constituted in such a way as to include as members its committees' chairs; other Board members serve on internal committees of the Board or perform other special functions as designated by the Board chair. The Board seats, as ex officio members, the chair of the NRC Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, the chair of the NRC Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Research, and the U.S. representative to COSPAR. A standing liaison arrangement has also been established with the chair of the European Science Foundation's European Space Science Committee. In general, the Board develops and documents its views by means of appointed standing committees or interdisciplinary task groups that conduct studies and submit their findings for Board and NRC approval and dissemination. These committees or task groups may collaborate with other NRC boards or committees in order to
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Space Studies Board leverage existing specialized capabilities within the NRC organization. Meetings in a workshop format are also used. On occasion, the Board itself deliberates cross-cutting issues and prepares its own statements and positions. These mechanisms are used to prepare and release findings and recommendations either in response to a government request or on the Board's own initiative. In addition, the Board comments, based on its publicly established opinions, in testimony to Congress. Internal and Steering Committees of the Board Internal committees facilitate the conduct of the Board's business, carry out the Board's own advisory projects, and permit the Board to move rapidly to lay the groundwork for new study activities. Internal committees are composed entirely of Board members. Two internal committees were active during 1998—the Executive Committee of the Board (XCOM) and the Steering Committee on Space Applications and Commercialization (SAPPSC). The Board's Steering Group on Astrobiology (SGA) is composed of Board and committee members with expertise relevant to advising the Board in these areas. The SGA also enrolls as liaisons members of the NRC Commission on Life Sciences and its Board on Biology. Members of internal committees and steering groups generally serve for 1 to 2 years and then are rotated for replacement by other members. Standing Committees Standing discipline committees have formed the backbone of the Board for many years and are the means by which the Board conducts its oversight of space research disciplines. Each discipline committee is composed of 10 to 16 specialists, appointed to represent the broad sweep of research areas within the discipline. In addition to developing long-range research strategies and formal program and progress assessments in terms of these strategies, these standing committees perform analysis tasks in support of interdisciplinary task groups and committees or in response to other requirements assigned by the Board. In addition to the standing discipline committees, three former internal committees now operate as standing, cross-disciplinary committees. These are the Committee on Human Exploration, the Committee on International Space Programs, and the Joint Committee on Technology. In 1998, there were a total of nine standing committees, including six discipline committees: Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA) Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP) Committee on Earth Studies (CES) Committee on Space Biology and Medicine (CSBM) Committee on Microgravity Research (CMGR) Committee on Human Exploration (CHEX) Committee on International Space Programs (CISP) Joint Committee on Technology (JCT) The CAA is tasked with oversight of NASA's space astronomy program. The CAA is operated jointly with the NRC Board on Physics and Astronomy, for which it performs oversight of ground-based research programs under sponsorship from the NSF. The CSSP continued to operate in a “federated” arrangement with another NRC committee, the Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Research of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. Although the two committees retain their separate identities and reporting relationships to their parent boards, they continue to meet jointly, submitting study results to whichever of the respective boards sponsors a given activity. The JCT is composed of members of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, augmented when appropriate by additional appointments as dictated by ongoing projects.
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Space Studies Board Task Groups Ad hoc task groups are created by Board action with NRC approval. During 1998, the Board operated four task groups engaged in studies on a range of subjects. Late in the year approval was obtained to create a fifth task group to review NASA's plans for biotechnology research facilities on the International Space Station. There is concern that solar astronomy's “infrastructure”—its ground-based facilities and associated intellectual capital—may erode to the point of limiting future scientific progress and jeopardizing the success of ongoing and anticipated satellite-based solar physics missions that depend on a complementary program of ground-based research. At the request of the National Science Foundation, with some additional funding provided by NASA, the Task Group on Ground-based Solar Research (TGGSR) was tasked with analyzing existing capabilities and projected trends in ground-based observational facilities and other research infrastructure elements in order to evaluate new research opportunities, and to assess whether projected funding and available resources will be adequate to execute the requisite program of ground-based solar research, including the ground-based component of solar physics space missions. The task group's report was published in December. In 1992, the Board published the report Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations. As NASA planning for a Mars sample return mission has progressed, the agency asked the Board for guidance on the possibility of reverse contamination of Earth and possible countermeasures. In response to this request, the Board formed the Task Group on Issues in Sample Return (TGISR), whose final report was issued in early 1997. Subsequently, in response to a later request from NASA, the Board formed the Task Group on Sample Return from Small Solar System Bodies (TGSRSSSB) to consider missions to comets, asteroids, and the natural satellites of planets. The report of this task group was published in mid-1998. The subject of NASA's Research and Analysis (R&A) budget line has been a difficult one for many years. Occasionally tapped in the past to make up shortfalls in flight program funding, these budgets and their function of funding supporting research have not been well understood outside the research community and program management at NASA. Desiring to document the many vital functions supported by these budgets, the Board established the Task Group on Research and Analysis Programs (TGRAP) in mid-1996 to carry out the necessary analysis. The final report of the task group was published mid-year. In March 1998, NASA asked the Board to review the advanced technology development program in the Office of Space Science. In response, the Task Group on Technology Development in NASA's Office of Space Science (TGTOSS) was established. In conducting its review, the task group paid particular attention to how NASA had responded to technology-related recommendations in the Board's 1995 report, Managing the Space Sciences. It also examined how the Office of Space Science was organizing to assume new responsibilities in NASA for cross-cutting technologies that support the programs of more than a single NASA office. The task group's report was published on October 30, 1998. Workshops and Special Projects In addition to its traditional function of managing deliberative committee studies on technical and policy issues, the National Research Council also exercises a broad convening function for facilitating the exchange of views and information among researchers and government policymakers. These activities are generally single events and may result in either proceedings or formal NRC-reviewed findings. Over the past few years, NASA has been working toward “smaller, faster, and cheaper” missions and restructuring its programs accordingly. The general approach has been an increased emphasis on rapid insertion of new technology to increase space system capability. Recent advances across a wide front in biological and related sciences suggest that focused research sponsored by NASA could yield a highly leveraged augmentation in capabilities for space exploration in several areas. The agency asked the NRC to help it identify opportunities for expediting the development and deployment of these technologies. The Workshop on Biology-based Technology for Enhanced Space Exploration, including approximately 20 participants and overseen by a steering group, was held to identify promising areas where additional research and development could facilitate and expedite insertion of biology-based technology into NASA spaceflight programs. The result of the workshop was an elaborated list of research topics and opportunities, both near-term and long-term, deserving further discussion and analysis for possible future application to space exploration. The report of the workshop was published in April 1998.
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Space Studies Board Recent discoveries in fields as diverse as cosmology, biochemistry, and geochemistry, as well as steady advances in understanding in astronomy and biology, have led to the recent realization that the study of the origins of life, planetary systems, and the universe is a powerful organizing theme in science. One important factor in this realization has been the claimed discovery of some 10 or so substellar-mass companions (brown dwarfs or super-Jupiters) in orbit around nearby stars. These discoveries are significant because they represent the first step toward detecting Earthlike planets around other stars. To date, detection of substellar-mass objects (SMOs) has been viewed largely as a prologue to detection of Earthlike planets. Comparatively little attention has been given to what these objects could tell us about high-priority questions in astronomy and the planetary sciences. A steering group made up of members from the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration and the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, as well as outside experts, organized the Workshop on Substellar-Mass Objects (WSMO). The workshop sought to identify the current research activities devoted to the identification and study of SMOs, opportunities available for research collaboration, and likely contributions to long-term scientific priorities, such as the detection and characterization of extrasolar terrestrial planets and the identification of the missing mass in the universe. The report of the workshop was published in December. The question of minimal microbial size continues to be a subject of debate within the scientific community, especially when viewed through the lens of planetary exploration. The suggestion that the very small objects observed in meteorite ALH84001 or other environmental sample fossils might be cellular has been criticized because the objects are below the theoretical size limit for living cells as defined by a minimum number of atoms. Regardless of the authenticity of these observations, questions have been raised concerning whether free-living microorganisms could be smaller than the order of 100 nm. It is important to understand the size limits of life forms to provide a basis for identifying ancient biological activities in terrestrial and aquatic environments, as well as samples returned from small solar system bodies (comets, asteroids, planetary satellites) and planets such as Mars. A workshop was organized by the Steering Group on Size Limits of Very Small Microorganisms to establish the current state of knowledge on the size limits of very small microorganisms and provide a forum for discussions of their theoretical minimum size. It is anticipated that the results of this workshop will provide a valuable reference for astrobiology research and the examination of samples returned from small solar system bodies and planets such as Mars. The proceedings of the workshop are expected in mid-1999. Collaboration with Other NRC Units Much of the work of the Space Studies Board (SSB) involves topics that fall entirely within its principal areas of responsibility and that can be addressed readily by the members of its committees. On the other hand, there are also often situations where the need for breadth of expertise, alternative points of view, or synergy with other NRC projects lead to compelling arguments for collaboration between the SSB and other parts of the NRC. The SSB has been engaged in many such multi-unit collaborations, and the increasingly multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional character of space programs is likely to lead to more cross-NRC activities. This approach to projects has the potential to bring more of the full capability of the Academy complex to bear in preparing advice for the government. Multi-unit collaborative projects also present new challenges, namely to manage them in a way that achieves economies of scale and true synergy rather than just adding cost or complexity. A few examples from 1998 are described below. There are a number of long-standing partnerships between the SSB and other NRC bodies. Closest to home is the Board's Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA), which is a joint committee of the SSB and its sister Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA). Established in 1992, the CAA has co-chairs from each of the two parent boards, and it reports to both boards for oversight. Funding for CAA projects usually comes from NASA through the SSB and from NSF through BPA. Another SSB committee, the Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP), operates under a “federated partnership” with the Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (CSTR) of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. The two committees meet together and publish joint reports, including one in 1998 and a total of five since 1991. CSSP funding comes primarily from NASA, and CSTR funding comes primarily from NSF. A third example of a long-standing partnership is the SSB collaboration with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB). In recognition of the complementarity of the charters of the two boards, their chairs have reciprocal appointments as liaison members of each other's boards. More importantly, the SSB and ASEB have conducted a series of four joint studies since 1993, with the most recent one in 1998. The boards
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Space Studies Board alternate in taking the lead on joint projects, including handling the funding and major staff support. Each board contributes funding to joint activities, with the SSB relying on sponsorship from the NASA science offices and the ASEB utilizing sponsorship by NASA' s technology and spaceflight offices. More informal collaborations and interactions also occur. For example, in 1997 the SSB established the Steering Group on Astrobiology to assist the Board in identifying issues and coordinating activities related to the life sciences, especially NASA's new thrust in astrobiology growing out of earlier programs in evolutionary biology and exobiology. In addition to members from the SSB itself, the Steering Group on Astrobiology involved representatives from the NRC Commission on Life Sciences (CLS) and its Board on Biology. The steering group helped organize two 1998 projects, a report on evaluating the biological potential of samples returned from small solar system bodies and a workshop on the size limits of very small microorganisms. An especially interesting case of collaboration with other bodies stemmed from a NASA request in 1998 to solicit feedback on a draft policy for how NASA might communicate with the public in the future about potential asteroid impacts on or near-misses with Earth. The SSB Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration organized a mini-symposium at its June meeting to air the topic. With the advice and assistance of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, experts in the areas of risk communication were invited to participate in a day-long discussion along with planetary scientists and members of the media. By being able to tap into the variety of communities of expertise available to the different NRC units, COMPLEX was able to host a very successful session. Finally, other NRC units are often consulted for assistance and advice when new activities are initiated. Recent examples include input from the Institute of Medicine in selecting new members of the SSB Committee on Space Biology and Medicine (CSBM) to undertake CSBM 's new review of biomedical research at NASA and input from the CLS in identifying candidates to participate in the SSB review of NASA 's plans for biotechnology research facilities on the International Space Station.