Click for next page ( 28


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 27
v Nontechnical Considerations In addition to questions of the technical and scientific merit of specific approaches, the committee examined challenges to the HEI concerning infrastructure and management, ways in which HEI might stimulate the ed- ucational process, questions of international cooperation and collaboration, and ways to look at the costs of such an undertaking. INFRASTRUCTURE CONSIDERATIONS The Responsible Federal Entity Under the Space Act of 1958, NASA was assigned the lead federal responsibility for the conduct of the nation's civil space program for research and exploration. In support of its assigned role, it also undertakes selected developmental and operational functions with Administration direction and budgetary approval. NASA is currently well below the peak manpower and budget that it had during the Apollo era, yet it carries a number of demanding tasks. These include the operation of the Space Transportation System (STS); the conduct of a major series of Earth-orbital and planetary scientific missions, including Galileo, the Hubble Space Telescope, and Mission to Planet Earth; the operation of a major space and terrestrial communication system; the aeronautics research and development program; the development of Space Station Freedom; and a large number of smaller programs. 27

OCR for page 27
28 HUAL4N EXPLORATION OF SPACE The major responsibilities listed above leave little room to assume responsibility for a program that could, in some variants, equal in size and complexity nearly all of the existing programs in aggregate. This raises questions of whether NASA should be expanded (via some combination of increases in civil service manpower, contractor support, or support from other federally supported entities), whether the responsibilities for HEI should be spread across several agencies, or whether all or some of the responsibilities should be transferred to a new or existing organization. In the committee's view, NASA has the organizational expertise and demonstrated capability to conduct human space exploration. The devel- opment of that expertise and the associated laboratories and other facilities has been hard won at great national expense. ~ attempt to replicate such expertise elsewhere would be costly and time consuming. Yet, the long-term human exploration initiative will require that NASA and the nation develop a whole new generation of management and technological leadership. The NASA Infrastructure This is not to say that NASA should automatically be authorized to return to Apollo-era civil service staff levels (or even greater) to lead the HEI, although an increase may be part of some options. ~ proceed effectively with the HEI, the Administration should develop a plan to incorporate other federal resources that can support the HEI, as well as devise innovative uses of the private sector, universities, and federally supported research centers. It is conceivable that a new federally supported center in the mold of Bellcom, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Mitre Corporation, or the Aerospace Corporation may have a role to play in various aspects of the program, although this requires further examination. Efficient conduct of the HEI will require a number of management en- hancements, some of which must counter difficulties that are government- wide. First, NASA's procurement process should be carefully scrutinized to identify means of expediting it so it is less burdensome to both NASA and those bidding for NASA tasks. Some procurement processes, which are not unique to NASA, absorb time and increase costs. Administrative procedures must be subjected to the same cost-benefit analysis as technical approaches. Solutions to this difficulty are not within NASA's author- ity, although NASA can lead an analysis for joint NASA-Administration- Congressional action. NASA now has an opportunity to study and possibly implement techniques to simplify and improve procedures, and these ap- proaches should be included in the HEI or any de novo program. Second, it is too costly for the nation to rethink its objectives in space on an annual basis. Long-term objectives must be set and technical

OCR for page 27
NONTECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS 29 program managers given the consistent support required for the efficient pursuit of the challenging engineering and scientific objectives to meet the President's goals. Recent experience on programs such as Space Station Freedom has demonstrated the difficulties that result when a program's entire management team is consumed by phasing, rephasing, planning, replanning, rescoping, and descoping a program in ceaseless variation. Third, proceeding with the HEI will require that the Administration and Congress give serious attention to restoring or at least retaining the basic attractiveness of NASA employment, including competitive salaries. While NASA has exciting programs that interest the nation's engineering and science communities and many young people, NASA like other fed- eral agenciesis losing its appeal as an employer. In addition, the skills of NASA personnel, who offer an important long-term continuity in the execution of programs, need continual enhancement. Fourth, positive steps are needed to encourage young people to enter science and engineering careers, some of whom will enter NASA, space- related industry, or university programs. A program of the size and scope of the extended human exploration of the Moon and Mars will severely tax a US educational system that is already strained and that is producing a declining number of trained engineers and scientists. Early in the history of the US space effort, a direct stimulus expanded the participation by uni- versities in space activities and increased the number of graduate students studying and researching space-related subjects. It again appears essen- tial to revitalize such activities if the human resources are to be available that the exploration mission will require. Such a revitalization could have the additional benefit of attracting more young people into scientific and . . engineering careers. International Considerations The committee considered the goals and proposed implementation of the HEI from the viewpoint of US interests and national capabilities only, using the same assumptions as the NASA 90-Day Study in this regard. Thus, the findings and conclusions here are consistent with an all-US exploration program. However, it is apparent that several important benefits could accrue from international cooperation and collaboration on these programs. The current technical and political climate is different from that which existed earlier in the space age. The European Space Agency (ESA) has developed considerable applicable expertise for human space flight through Spacelab and its development of Columbus and Hermes. Japan has sim- ilarly developed expertise in pressurized modules. Both ESA and Japan have independent launch capabilities and growing expertise and interest

OCR for page 27
30 HUAL4N EXPLORATION OF SPACE in space exploration. Canada's contribution in remote manipulators and robotics could prove very valuable in remote lunar and Mars exploration. Other nations less active in previous joint space ventures may also wish to participate in this long-term venture. Most importantly, the USSR has sub- stantial relevant capability, demonstrated continued interest in Mars, and an apparent strong desire for cooperation with the US in Mars exploration. The USSR has substantial experience in long-duration (one year) human exposure to weightlessness, and the capability, with its space station Mir, to undertake multiyear studies and evaluations of countermeasures. The Energy has a considerable heavy lift capability, launched from its current facility. This capability would be reduced were Earth orbit rendezvous with Space Station Freedom desired because of the power and maneuverability required to dramatically change the spacecraft orbit. Several potential advantages of international participation in HEI are evident. These include cost sharing, additional technical expertise, and peaceful cooperation in a multidecade program of interest to all mankind. Some potential disadvantages include possible dependence on foreign coun- tries for critical activities, concern over transfer of US technology, and more complex management interfaces. Considerations of the advantages and disadvantages should recognize that international collaboration requires long-term policy stability, and that the US record is not exemplary in this regard. If collaboration is contemplated, care must be taken to ensure that the enabling agreements are supported at the highest possible levels in the participating governments, with as much breadth as is feasible, and that detailed technical agreements are not made final before all parties understand and agree on requirements for the HEI or missions associated with it. As noted earlier, the climate for international cooperation is changing and is likely to continue to change. A detailed assessment is needed of the opportunities for international cooperation that may be available and the means to overcome technical and institutional barriers. It would be prudent to remain alert to future opportunities that may arise. Cost for the Human Exploration Initiative By any measure, HEI will represent a major commitment of the na- tion's resources; it will be a multiyear program; it will involve deliberate risk, often difficult to identify and quantify; and it will use major portions of the careers of many dedicated people. For HEI to be undertaken success- fully there is a clear need for a unique long-term commitment by successive Administrations and the Congress. In the committee's view, estimates of the costs likely to be incurred in carrying out the HEI are uncertain and

OCR for page 27
NONTECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS 31 are likely to remain so for some time. The initiative is an ambitious under- taking that requires development and implementation of new technology. If the costs or schedule of an ambitious, daring technical advance can be estimated accurately, it is probably using obsolete technology and is nei- ther ambitious nor daring. Accurate cost estimates are only practical in circumstances where experience with the technology exists. Currently, the technologies and even the HEI mission architectures are unknown. While the nation has experience with estimating costs of some aspects of HEI, derived from experience with the costs of past space systems, at this time mission cost estimates should only be taken as suggesting the rough order of magnitude of the eventual costs. Analyses of past major programs have shown that there is an optimum rate of activity that results in minimum total cost. If the pace is faster, it costs more. If the program is stretched out, the total cost can also be greater. In most past experiences, space projects based on the logic of development and mission requirements usually have required high peaks in the funding profile and have resulted in demands for annual funding greater than was considered acceptable. Therefore, most programs have been stretched out and the total cost has not been optimized. At this stage it may be useful to think about costs in terms of the level of effort that is both reasonable for making progress toward the President's goal and sustainable as a commitment of national resources over the long run. In the peak spending year of the Apollo program, which was in the nature of a race to the Moon, the NASA budget amounted to about 0.8 percent of the gross national product (GNP), or 3.85 percent of the total federal budget. The total expenditure for Apollo (which averaged about 0.2 percent of the GNP) was approximately $24.5 billion ($118.1 billion in 1991 dollars). Apollo was a ground-breaking program that incurred substantial cost to build facilities and institutions; government and industry put forth a unique effort to fulfill the vision of President Kennedy. The HEI will presumably build on this capacity and will almost certainly take longer. President's Bush's vision includes a permanent presence in space, requiring a continuing commitment of resources. The committee believes it should be possible to return people to the Moon and establish a human presence on Mars, at a measured pace, at a relative rate of annual expenditure that is less than that of the peak Apollo commitment. NASAs current budget is between 0.2 and 0.3 percent of the GNP. The committee believes an additional national commitment of resources of a few tenths of one percent of the GNP should be sufficient to achieve and sustain the goal of the HEI, the permanent presence of humans in space. A commitment of this sort, which extends far into the future, could enable the selection of an appropriately phased mission architecture as well as research and development strategies and would enable managers

OCR for page 27
32 HUAL4N EXPLORATION OF SPACE to establish practical schedules. Continuing analysis of the relationship between rates of expenditure, technology development, and mission profile is obviously warranted. HEI will involve a continuing commitment and, for such an approach to succeed and to maintain support from the American people, it should set milestones and demonstrate visible accomplishments, for example every two to three years. A White Paper published by the National Research Council in early 1989 recommends that NASA maintain a balanced, stable base program to ensure US competence in fundamental space activities such as astronomy, planetary exploration, and Earth remote sensing. The committee believes that this base program should be assured as the nation undertakes additional large, special initiatives such as the human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The committee believes that it is important for the funding support for HEI and other major initiatives to continue to be distinct from that for the remainder of the NASA budget, to avoid eroding the base of other essential space and aeronautical capabilities.