526 pages | 8.5 x 10
The space age began exactly 20 years ago with the launch of Sputnik I and Explorer I. The Explorer spacecraft discovered regions of trapped radiation around the earth--the van Allen belts. This was the beginning of the study of particles and fields in space, or space plasma physics. A large part of the effort in the early years of the space program was devoted to the mapping of the magnetosphere, the measurements of time variations in particles and fields, and the exploration of the solar wind.
From these studies a sophisticated empirical knowledge of phenomena in space plasma physics has emerged. with the attainment of this observational maturity in the field, NASA funding for space plasma physics has declined as priorities have shifted to other exploratory ventures. The present study of space plasma physics was requested by NASA to obtain guidance for future directions in the subject.
The Committee on Space Physics of the Space Science Board was charged with the responsibility for soliciting technical review papers on a large number of topics in space plasma physics. These reviews are Volume 2 of the report; they constitute a most valuable resource for those working in the field.