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Summary The workshop on national space policy was organized to air perspectives on the question, What should be the principal purposes, goals, and priorities of U.S. civil space? Or to simplify, What should be our national space policy? The timing of this workshop coincides with a newly ctirectect focus on the Tong-term direction of the U.S. civil space program. In the wake of the space shuttle Columbia tragedy, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) found that a contributing factor in NASA's organizational clecTine was the lack of an agreed national vision for human spaceflight. Congress has held several hearings on this topic, the press is commenting on it, and the Bush Administration is cleveloping a new space policy (see Chapter 24. in. . . ~ . . . l he workshop7s six sessions are summarized in the chapters that follow. Through the course of these sessions several matters were acictressect that transcenclect the subject of any one session in particular, emerging as more general themes relevant to the workshop's principal questions. These seven themes become apparent when one reacts the session summaries as a whole and are presented in this summary chapter. THEME 1: SUCCESSFUL SPACE AND EARTH SCIENCE PROGRAMS Many workshop participants (panelists and ASEB and SSB members alike; see Appendix B) accepted that U.S. space and Earth science programs are currently productive and progressing steadily, and they clescribect them as being of continuing importance. Many commented cluring the workshop on the inspiration, success, and progress of the science programs, and they elaborated in their contributed abstracts on the benefits of the approach taken by the science programs.2 Much of the success of NASA's science programs was attributed to having clear Tong-range goals and roacimaps that are framed by scientists and periodically reassessed by the science community in the light of new knowledge and capability.3 The comments on science were brief, largely because many participants saw the human exploration program as more problematic than the science programs, which were consiclerect healthy and solid. For example, as ctiscussect in Chapter 3, Logsclon challenged the participants to consider that "discussion about the future of the space program would really be discussion about the future of the human spaceflight program. The space and Earth science programs are part of the nation's portfolio of basic research and are not controversial in principle, though budget levels of course are always a concern."4 Participants who commented that the science programs were successful noted not just the "facts" of success, but the means by which the science programs achieved their successes. They iclentifiect the following attributes of the science programs that are the primary contributing factors for their success: 1. Participation from the scientific community. An external-to-NASA constituency that has some "ownership" in the program creates "constructive tension" that pushes the programs to excel. 2. Clear goals. The science programs set out explicit goals and utilize the interest of the scientific community to establish these goals (e.g., through the clecacial-scaTe strategy surveys concluctect by the NRC). 3. Strategic planning. The science programs lay out a strategy for achieving their goals. ~ See Chapter 4, "Rationales for the Space Program: Science, Technology, and Exploration." 2 See Appendix E, especially contributed abstracts by Fink, Giacconi, Huntress, Malow, Stone, and Wheelon. 3 See Malow, "A Tale of Two NASAs," contributed abstract, Appendix E. 4 See Chapter 3, page 14. 1
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4. A sequence of successes. The science programs progress via a series of individual steps that can accumulate successes that help measure progress and sustain momentum for the program. A number of participants observed that many of these attributes from the science programs were missing in the human exploration program and saw the opportunity to apply them as lessons learned for the improvement of the human spaceflight program. THEME 2: A CLEAR GOAL FOR HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT Through the course of the day-and-a-half workshop, no participant argued either ( 1) that we already have a clear human spaceflight goal or (2) that we do not need one. As Chapter 2 suggests, these two points seemed to be part of the context that set the stage for a debate over national space policy. Many participants echoed the CAIB's conclusion that a lack of an agreed vision for the human spaceflight program has had a negative impact on the health of that program in NASA. Those participants noted that without such a Tong-range goal the human spaceflight program's reason for being is hard to articulate. This is true for the specific elements of the human spaceflight program, the space throttle and the snace station as well as for the ~ program in general. It is not clear to what end the International Space Station (ISS) contributes or what would be the next logical step after the ISS has served its purpose. This stands in contrast to other programs, like military and commercial space programs, which have more easily stated justifications. Wesley Huntress made a crucial point about why such a goal is necessary in our risk-averse society: Human spaceflight is dangerous and requires risk taking, and the public may support risk taking if there is a clear, understandable purpose. Risk cannot be eliminated, but risk due to poor management or lack of rigor should be minimized. A bold goal could enable breaking out of this programmatic drift, providing a transcendent purpose for the risk of human endeavors in space. Lennard Fisk's closing statement (Chapter 8) synthesized comments of several others in saying that we no longer need to demonstrate U.S. technological prowess as Apollo did, because there are many such demonstrations, but there is a need to demonstrate U.S. leadership and goodwill. Human spaceflight could provide the opportunity for leadership if the United States would openly invite others to participate in setting and steadily pursuing a shared Tong-range goal. THEME 3: EXPLORATION AS THE GOAL FOR HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT The nation originally sent humans to space to demonstrate U.S. technical prowess and political will. Why should we do it now? Many workshop participants emphasized two fundamental reasons: 1. Exploration can and does abet to the acquisition of new knowledge, that is, knowledge of space as a place for human activity, and knowledge of the solar system, including Earth, from the vantage point of space. . 2. Exploration is a basic human desire: people explore. Riccarclo Giacconi called it a general Impulse of human nature, and others concurrent, suggesting that exploration should be the primary motivation of human spaceflight in order to fulfill an innate human need to explore. As Robert Frosch saint, exploration can be the first step of science. He referred to the oceanographic community, noting that scientists want to dive on the Alvin and Took at the creep oceans because they see 2
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things and they can get from the experience something that they don't get from remote presentations.5 Fisk picked up on this point, stating that exploration is a legitimate form of science, if properly conducted. There is a need to incorporate defendable, legitimate science into the human exploration endeavor. If science can generally be understood as the process through which we acquire new knowledge, then the search for new knowledge may in many ways be akin to humans' innate desire to explore. As such we may think of these two reasons together as "the human desire to know, to learn." It was former astronaut Thomas Jones who most clearly articulated the tie that binds these reasons to the tangible benefits of human spaceflight: Only a human can experience what being in space feels like, and only a human can communicate this to others. Indeed, communication of the space experience is the foundation for the entire cultural aspect of the space program. Several participants agreed with this statement, including Todd La Porte, who stated that the important cultural benefits from the human space program are not always well articulated for the general public to recognize and understand. Better communication of the space experience, therefore, is seen as necessary to maintain the space program's political support among the general public. A strong human spaceflight program can help secure public ownership and involvement in the rest of the civil space program. Several participants enunciated this point and spoke of the need for "heroes" and of how people can have a sense of participation through the participation of these heroes. This cultural aspect, the communication of the space experience, reveals the unique opportunity that space presents for international cooperation. Norman Neureiter was most eloquent in describing how human spaceflight can be a means to enable fruitful and heating international collaboration. Saying that there is a perception that some in the world may fear our power, Neureiter argued that space exploration can be a compelling instrument for building a global fabric of relationships that dispel that fear relationships that will endure whatever other bad things may happen. In other words we can increase national security by increasing understanding and trust through cooperation. Participants described a need for human space exploration because it speaks across cultures to some of our greatest natural characteristics and intellectual curiosity: our desire to learn, to extend our grasp with technology, to modernize, to enhance that which makes us human. They also discussed the need for the nation to set a target for our exploration a goal or a destination for humans to arrive at (that is, beyond Tow Earth orbit) as a way to help focus the exploration effort. Whatever the goal, participants argued that it will be decided through the course of a national and international dialogue that should begin now. Participants expressed the importance of making the goal or destination one that excites the imagination and speaks best to our curiosities. Many of the participants suggested that the goal that best meets these criteria is the eventual human exploration of Mars. Others suggested that a mission to the Moon as a precursor to a human visit to Mars could be valuable, while some even suggested that the eventual human exploration of planetary bodies farther out in the solar system should be considered. Whatever the nation may decide through the course of an open dialogue, what emerged as important considerations for achieving that goal is the subject of the next several themes. THEME 4: EXPLORATION AS A LONG-TERM ENDEAVOR TO BE ACCOMPLISHED VIA A SERIES OF SMALL STEPS Many participants argued that having a clear, agreed upon, Tong-term goal, such as the human exploration of Mars, is essential for the future success of the human spaceflight program. It was seen as premature, however, to set a firm date for or cost of that goal. What is possible is a first assessment of 5 See also National Research Council, Future Needs in Deep Submergence Science. Occupied and Unoccupied Vehicles in Basic Ocean Research, Committee on Future Needs in Deep Submergence Science, National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., prepublication, 2004.
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what has to be accomplished to reach that Tong-term goal, and the identification of intermediate, subsidiary goals that can be met as a means to enable the achievement of that Tong-term goal. In this context the human spaceflight program would be concluctect as a series of smaller steps and would evolve at a pace that reflects a meaningful rate of learning. Speakers suggested that this approach requires a coherent architecture or roacimap, which would eTuciclate how each intermediate step could be accomplished through a sequence of smaller projects that are both technically feasible and acceptable in the political environment. Several participants observed that a national decision to pursue an ambitious Tong-term goal would be a political decision, not a scientific one. Therefore such a decision would require political support, which in turn requires realistic costs and broact support. Regarding costs, several participants suggested that the response to a statement by Congressman Sherwood Boehiert that "any vision that assumes massive spending increases for NASA is cloomect to fail"6 should be one in which the nation agrees to pursue a Tong-term goal with a "buy it by the yards approach. The big challenge of attaining the goal would be broken into many small achievable challenges. Instead of a fixed cleaclline, the budget would fund only as many of the "small steps" as could be afforclect. Participants talked about an exit strategy for the shuttle and the space station, and, if acloptect, that strategy could free up funds. On the issue of coalitions of support many participants recognized the need for a process different from that used to buiTct support for the space shuttle and space station programs. Frosch was most clear on this point. Recalling his experience as NASA's administrator, he noted that instead of promising something for everyone, we must strive to establish a coalition that agrees on a specific space exploration goal. Even if different members of the coalition have different motivations for this goal, there must be agreement on the goal itself. Similarly, there was much discussion on the role of international partners in a coalition for support of a Tong-term goal. The smaller steps envisioned here offer many opportunities for partner governments to contribute and be involved as true stakehoiclers in the program. The successes, accumulated in many small steps, will help to buiTct political support. That is, if projects are evaluated against the agreed goal, the workshop discussions envisioned that after many milestones are achieved, and numerous small, cumulative steps are taken, the Tong-term goal will become inevitable. THEME 5: SYNERGY SUPERSEDING THE HUMANS-VERSUS-ROBOTS DICHOTOMY In the ultimate achievement of a Tong-term goal for human exploration, numerous participants macle statements echoing the spirit of the remarks macle by Congressman Ralph Hall, quoted in Chapter 2: "There should no longer be a question of robotic versus human exploration clearly both will be neeclecl. . . ." Fink recalled his experience with the Augustine Committee,7 noting that in the early 1 990s there was an unnecessary tension and debate on the subject of"mannect versus unmanned" exploration. He noted that this debate has passed and that planning for exploration beyond Tow Earth orbit will have to consider how to best utilize both human and robotic assets. Other participants agreed, stating further that they believed the space program should move beyond complementarily and toward a synergy between robots and humans, as the concept of synergy best highlights the potential benefits associated with taking advantage of the strengths of each. Exactly how best to realize this synergy is a matter that requires further discussion and can be clepenclent on what destination is chosen as the eventual goal for human exploration. In her prepared remarks, Newman articulated this point explicitly, noting that human-robotic missions could take the form of humans assisted by robotic explorers or robots/probes assisted by humans who are not co-locatect clepencting on the location being explored. Frosch was even more cletailect, discussing how robots and humans could be integrated if Mars were chosen as the human exploration goal; we could begin with 6 See Chapter 2 for Mr. Boehlert's statement. 7 Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, December 1990, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 4 L'
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teleoperations from Mars orbit and guiclect autonomy on the ground, after which we could move to the surface of Mars where humans can undertake tasks that robots cannot perform. Whatever the destination and whatever the specific means chosen, many participants stated that being guiclect by a principle of synergy between robots and humans provides the opportunity to explore the solar system in the most optimal manner. The participants noted that there are acictitional benefits to the synergy of human and robotic assets. One is the fact that it provides the opportunity to communicate the space experience, as Jones expressed. Fink noted that this was a conclusion reached in the Augustine Report as well. Another is the opportunity that a human presence creates for unanticipated learning. Building on Fisk's assertion that good science can be clone with properly clevisect exploration efforts, Frosch again cited the desire for human participation in the exploration of the creep sea. Newman referred to this as humans enabling serendipity through the co-exploration of space with robots. In summary, while a history of separation between human and robotic efforts is part of the context. many participants, notably including many scientists, seemed to believe that now is the time to put the dichotomy behind us and to find and exploit synergies between the two. THEME 6: THE LONG-TERM GOAL DRIVING ALL IMPLEMENTATION DECISIONS Many participants confirmed the context clescribect in Chapter 2, i.e., that both the space shuttle and space station programs macle too many promises to too many people and thus lost focus on any one technical mission. Yet if the human exploration program tract a goal involving Tong-term human spaceflight, the station could have a very clear justification: to conduct microgravity and variable-gravity research and technology development to support the agreed goal. To many participants, this meant a higher priority for biological research in support of Tong-cluration spaceflight. Incleecl, participants argued that soundly basest research on scientific and technical problems tied to human exploration beyond Tow Earth orbit should be the primary purpose of the ISS. The key to successful experiments lies in investigating gravity as an independent variable, whereby biological and physical processes in the weightless environment can be quantified. In acictition to the microgravity research concluctect on the ISS, participants argued that this approach means an acictitional focus on experiments utilizing fractional gravity experiments that may be possible only with a variable-gravity research centrifuge aboard the ISS. Others noted that learning how to stage and construct large systems, e.g., a large telescope, at a space station and move it to its operational orbit would realize and demonstrate the synthesis of robotic and human activities. Similarly, a human exploration goal could well raise new missions for the ISS, and ultimately, the goal of extending human presence beyond Earth orbit could define the exit strategies for the space station program. The thrust of these comments was that, given a human exploration goal, the ISS program should be moctifiect to focus on supporting that goal, which would mean completing construction of needled facilities and choosing the right experiments to fly on the station. In other worsts, there would be very clear criteria for setting priorities across the program. As with space station, the state of the shuttle program is a relevant part of the context of which workshop participants were well aware. The CAIB referred to the original promises and compromises required to gain approval for the shuttle program. These ensured there would be pressure for the vehicle to deliver more than it could. Participants argued that the shuttle program is now at a crossroad and the nation is faced with difficult choices try to fix and continue with the shuttle or develop another launch vehicle. Discussions focused on the idea that a new human exploration goal could not only provide criteria for this decision, but could also make it possible to define a general exit strategy for the shuttle. In summary, participants appeared to view the following activities as essential elements along the path to a goal for human exploration: (1) the continued robotic exploration of our solar system followed by the development of capable human-machine interfaces and teleoperators, (2) research on the ISS focused on acictressing the questions posed by human exploration away from low Earth orbit, and (3) 5
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clevelopment of a space transportation system to replace the shuttle, all ctirectect toward facilitating the eventual human exploration of some destination beyond Tow Earth orbit. THEME 7: INSTITUTIONAL CONCERNS These first six themes are cross-cutting concepts relevant to the nation's future approach to civil space. The seventh theme collects the views offered by participants on needs and opportunities for successful implementation of future space policy. Concerning the needs of all U.S. space activities, participants cited the Final Report of the Commission on the Future of the Uniter! States Aerospace IncI?~stry~ and pointed to the need for an "inclustrial base." Critical cross-institutional or cross-sector activities e.g., joint technology clevelopment, taking advantage of synergies, and better planning and clevelopment are all clepenclent on the availability of a skilled industrial base. This base was viewed as being in decline. Regarding the civil space program, workshop discussions primarily acictressect two particular stakehoiclers in future civil space activities. They were (1) NASA, as the primary executive branch agency responsible for implementing space policy, and (2) the scientific community, one of NASA's key constituents. NASA Workshop discussions focused on the following five aspects of NASA as an institution: 1. Lack of human spaceflight stakehoiciers. Participants were attracted to an intriguing observation about human spaceflight in comparison with the science program. In the science program scientists set the goals, e.g., scientific questions to be answered by clesirect missions, and the agency carries them out. In this way NASA and the scientists share the direction of the program. The scientists have a big stake in the agency program, but there is always tension between the scientists who want as much science as possible and who honor scientific values, and the implementers who face the practicalities of resource limitations. Noel Hinners found this tension creative, resulting in better science, and noted the lack of similar inclepenclent stakehoiclers and creative tension in the current human spaceflight program. La Porte noted that his research on high-reliability organizations shows that they tenet to have a strong presence of, and often active coordination with, outside stakehoicler groups. 2. NASA 's changer! role. Participants noted that at NASA's beginning its job was to help make the United States a space-faring nation, but today the United States would be a space-faring nation even if NASA clisappearecl. Now, they suggested, the agency's new role is to advance several space frontiers: science, human physiology, applications, technology, and human exploration. 3. Trust and! honesty. Chapter 2 quotes Representative Boehiert, who has said that "we need to be honest about the purposes and challenges" of human spaceflight. Several participants cited less than forthright justifications for programs, from Apollo to the present. Several noted that more canctict justifications of programs would help justify the risk of spaceflight; the public is not risk-averse for worthwhile programs. More openness would improve trust. In acictition, Neureiter noted that failing to involve one's partners at the very beginning of program decision making damages one's credibility as a partner. Others agreed that NASA cannot afford to be seen as less than fully open and honest. ~ Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, Final Report of the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, Arlington, Virginia, 2002. 6
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4. Management competence. The NASA ISS Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force report,9 part of the workshop's context, found that the ISS program lacked the skills and tools to control costs and schecluTes. Noting the conclusions of the CAIB report, participants observed that in both the Challenger and Columbia accidents NASA management clemonstratect failure to detect and remedy the early onset of failures that would threaten the safe operation of the space shuttle. Managers were not seen as learning across generations; they repeat mistakes. Participants also felt that NASA managers overpromisect and got into trouble on the shuttle and then ctict the same thing 10 years later on the ISS. 5. Technical competence. Several participants commented that NASA tenclect to freeze oict technology into human spaceflight programs. As a result, these programs may have trouble attracting good technical people who are at the cutting edge, or younger engineers and scientists.~° NASA was clescribect as maintaining the shuttle and the station rather than developing new technology. The Scientific Community Fisk concluclect the workshop by saying that he believed that this workshop could be a truly historic event if the scientific and technical communities, in the broadest sense, can say that as a group "we believe in a human spaceflight program, we believe this country should invest in it, and we will stanct up and say how it can be clone procluctively." Participants saw this as a realistic possibility for several reasons. First, the timing seems good, because the robotic-versus-human dichotomy has begun to dissipate. Second, the tradition in space and Earth science, in which there exists a constructive tension between the agency and scientists who act as continuous stakehoiclers, was viewed by many as a mocle! by which scientific exploration could strengthen human exploration. Thirst, participants seemed to agree that the science community could constructively help NASA identify and carry out the best science possible over the course of human exploration missions. Fourth, the discussions suggested that there is an important role for scientists to become involved as stakehoiclers in helping to integrate humans and robotics in the kind of synergistic way clescribect above, thus producing the best experiments and missions possible and ensuring that bargains are kept across management generations. Incleect, this last point may represent one of the most important and hopeful icleas to emerge from the workshop. 9 Report by the International Space Station (ISS) Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) Task Force to the NASA Advisory Council, November 2001. Available at ; accessed, December 9, 2003. ~° See discussions in Chapter 8 on this point.
Representative terms from entire chapter: