Space Studies Board Annual Report 2000

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

National Academy Press
Washington, D.C.



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Space Studies Board Annual Report 2000 Space Studies Board Annual Report 2000 NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL National Academy Press Washington, D.C.

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Space Studies Board Annual Report 2000 The Space Studies Board is a unit of the National Research Council, which serves as an independent advisor to the federal government on scientific and technical questions of national importance. The Research Council, jointly administered by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, brings the resources of the entire scientific and technical community to bear through its volunteer advisory committees. Support for the work of the Space Studies Board and its committees and task groups was provided by National Aeronautics and Space Administration Contract NASW-96013, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Contract 50-DKNA-6-90040, Environmental Protection Agency Grant X-82821401, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Purchase Order DACA89-99-M-0147, NASA John C. Stennis Space Center Orders NS-7426 and NS-7570, National Science Foundation Grant AST-0075757, Department of Transportation Order DTRS56-00-P-70077, U.S. Department of Commerce Purchase Order 40-AA-NR-111308, and U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Agreement 00HQAG0204.

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Space Studies Board Annual Report 2000 From the Chair Preparation of the annual reports of the Space Studies Board begins each year in January. That is appropriate, considering that the name January stems from Janus, one of the oldest of the Roman gods. Regarded as the deity responsible for beginnings and endings, Janus is usually represented with two faces—one looking forward and one looking back —and that brings us to our annual report, which reviews what was done during the past year and projects some of the areas that will be addressed in the coming year. By any standard the Board, under the stewardship of my predecessor, Claude Canizares, had a remarkable year and published more reports than in any year in the Board's history. The quantity of reports is significant, but not nearly as significant as the quality of the reports and the importance of their subject matter. In subsequent chapters of this volume, readers will see that the Board's efforts in 2000 extended from the International Space Station to solar system exploration, to mission design choices and technology, to federal support for astronomical research, and on to the future of the operational satellites of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration —naming only a few of the topics. The backward-looking part of our Janus-like annual report shows the Board's involvement with the major civil space program issues of the era. Every four years the United States elects its president and may, as in 2000, choose a change in leadership and direction. In the past, the National Research Council, as well as the Space Studies Board (either through participation by its members or as an organization), has assisted new administrations in developing policy initiatives or by commenting on them. Whether that is done explicitly in 2001 or not, changes in administration do produce adjustments to which the Board will inevitably be called upon to respond. Even in the absence of new policies that may be implemented, it is possible to foresee some of the areas in which the Board will be involved, and to know with certainty that the involvement will often be in collaboration with other elements of the National Research Council. It is appropriate to outline a few of the areas in which the Board will be working, while acknowledging that it is easier to project areas of work for which the Board has a considerable experience base than the new areas that will arise during 2001. A substantial part of the International Space Station is in orbit, and an ambitious schedule of launches will complete the installation of station infrastructure and research apparatus over the next several years. Biotechnology and microgravity-related materials research is a core area for the Space Studies Board, and the International Space Station will be a major element in the conduct of this research.

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Space Studies Board Annual Report 2000 The nearly 20-year-old space shuttle will carry a considerable part of the burden of launching crew members and equipment to the station and returning crew members and samples to Earth. While the shuttle remains a robust and unique launch vehicle, there will come a time when new technologies will lead to the prospect of greater efficiency and more flexible operations. The implications of the eventual replacement of the space shuttle touch every aspect of the space program and the Board's review of that program. A longstanding policy of presidential administrations of both political parties, and an element of legislation enacted by the Congress, has been direction to federal agencies to rely—where feasible—on the private commercial sector for needed data, rather than on the development of the means to collect the data through federally developed satellites and systems. Efforts to move toward commercial data purchases are being strongly encouraged as a matter of policy, and those efforts affect both the space and Earth sciences. The issues associated with such data purchases are complex and can be entwined with philosophical differences that impede objective discussion. In the present NASA budget, several tens of millions of dollars are being invested in data purchases. The relationship between NOAA and commercial data suppliers has been evolving for more than 20 years, with NOAA withdrawing from more and more areas as commercial suppliers increase their capabilities. The NASA emphasis on a policy of faster, better, cheaper was found in 2000 to be in need of adjustment. In both directly sponsored NASA reviews and in Space Studies Board reports, cautionary recommendations were made. While no one can dissent from seeking missions that have attributes of faster, better, cheaper, the mix of small and large missions chosen affects profoundly the Board's science strategies and will continue to do so throughout 2001. At the same time the infusion of new technologies into the research and operational missions of NASA and NOAA—whether those missions involve large or small satellites —permeates all such discussions. Implementing new technology often requires the addition of early funds for longer-term, and sometimes speculative, benefits. Some of the failures of the faster, better, cheaper approach have been associated with the exploration of Mars. A major Board activity for 2001 will be responding to NASA's reconfiguration of its Mars program, and its companion missions to other objects in the solar system. In conjunction with solar system exploration, the Board has continuing interests in the enhancement of space observational capabilities and supporting research to expand understanding of the universe and its origin and of the connections between the Sun and Earth. Those interests will be reflected in a wide variety of workshops and studies in 2001 and beyond. No matter how one looks at it, the plate of the Space Studies Board is full to overflowing. While we lack Arthur C. Clarke's computer Hal and have yet to encounter black obelisks, we certainly have no lack of challenging work to undertake in 2001. John H. McElroy Chair Space Studies Board January 2001