quire a long-term investment strategy that looks beyond the shorter-term economic factors that drive much industry-funded research. A long-term view is especially important when it comes to breakthrough technologies. By nature, these technologies require long-term investments to increase their maturity and reduce their risk enough to convince the aerospace manufacturing industry to turn them into commercial products that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will certify and airlines (or other users) will buy. Unfortunately, both government and industry are reluctant to make the long-term investments necessary to advance expensive, high-risk technologies. In particular, at a time when manufacturers require a TRL 6 or higher to embrace complex new technologies in safety-critical aeronautics applications, NASA appears to be redirecting its technology investment strategy to achieve an end point of TRL 3 or 4. The likely result is a technology maturation gap that could jeopardize U.S. leadership in aerospace technology. To avoid this consequence—that is, to allow promising technologies to make the transition from the laboratory to the marketplace— NASA must accept the challenge of investing enough to achieve TRL 6.

REFERENCES

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DOT (Department of Transportation). 1999. Effective Global Transportation in the Twenty-First Century: A Vision Document. U.S. Department of Transportation Research and Technology Coordinating Council “One DOT” Working Group on Enabling Research, September. Available online at <http://www.volpe.dot.gov/infosrc/strtplns/dot/glbtrn21/index.html#toc>. Accessed on September 13, 2001.


NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 1998. NASA Technology Plan, December. Available online at <http://technologyplan.nasa.gov/default.cfm?id=1.0>. Accessed on September 13, 2001.

NRC (National Research Council). 1997. U.S. Supersonic Commercial Aircraft. Available online at <http://www.nap.edu/catalog/5848.html>. Accessed on September 13, 2001.

NSTC (National Science and Technology Council) Committee on Technology, Subcommittee on Transportation Research and Development. 2000. National Transportation Strategic Research Plan. May. Available online at <http://www.volpe.dot.gov/infosrc/strtplns/nstc/srplan00/index.html>. Accessed on September 13, 2001.



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