these facilities in a questionnaire is listed in Appendix C.) The satisfaction of the users, who ultimately judge the success of the system, is discussed in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 then examines some new approaches for increasing the availability and usefulness of earth and space science data, discusses the balance between mission operations and data analysis, and makes some recommendations about how to meet the data challenges of the next decade. Background information, including biographical information on task group members (Appendix D), meeting agendas (Appendix E), and an acronym list (Appendix F) appear at the end of the report.

SPACE SCIENCE ENTERPRISE

The science objectives of NASA’s Space Science Enterprise are to “solve mysteries of the universe, explore the solar system, discover planets around other stars, search for life beyond Earth from origins to destiny, chart the evolution of the universe and understand its galaxies, stars, planets, and life.”3 The Space Science Enterprise, managed by the Office of Space Science (OSS), is divided into four science themes: (1) origins, which seeks to understand where we come from and whether we are alone; (2) the structure and evolution of the universe; (3) the Sun-Earth connection; and (4) solar system exploration. Examples of the science programs and their interactions with data sets are described below.

Astrophysics: Origins and the Structure and Evolution of the Universe

NASA missions have opened up new windows on the universe, vastly increasing our knowledge about the world around us. Astrophysical sources, collectively, radiate across the spectrum: from gamma rays and X-rays, through the visible and infrared, all the way to microwaves and long-wavelength radio waves. Much of this radiation does not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere and can be studied only from space. NASA’s scientific priorities for future missions, developed in coordination with the research community,4 include:

  • Understand the structure of the universe, from its earliest beginnings to its ultimate fate;

  • Explore the ultimate limits of gravity and energy in the universe;

  • Learn how galaxies, stars, and planets form, interact, and evolve.5

Even modest success in achieving these goals would constitute a spectacular advance in human understanding, and NASA has become an acknowledged leader in this exciting venture. The program seeks to address “the most fundamental questions that science can ask: how the universe began and is changing, what are the past and future of humanity, and whether we are alone. In taking up these questions, researchers and the general public—for we are all seekers in this quest—will draw upon all areas of science and the technical arts.”6

3  

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2000, The Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan, Washington, D.C., 127 pp.

4  

Review of NASA’s Office of Space Science Strategic Plan 2000, letter to Edward J.Weiler, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Office of Space Science, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., June 1, 2000.

5  

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2000, The Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan, Washington, D.C., 127 pp.

6  

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2000, The Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan, Washington, D.C., 127 pp.



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