THREADS was a new framework6 for space technology research and development investment described as being driven by science and addressing NASA’s grand challenges.7 The new strategy was to be incremental (e.g., it described stepping-stones of investment), to leverage partnerships, and to emphasize education, all in a cost-effective manner.

The National Research Council was tasked in the summer of 2001 with providing a multiyear review of the requirements, priorities, processes, and content of the THREADS roadmaps. The THREADS project, canceled by NASA Headquarters in September 2001, was perceived by many as the only means for strategic planning of space technology development within the HEDS portfolio. The NRC study was also canceled.

The need for strategic planning in space technology at NASA continued despite the cancellation of the THREADS project. NASA then contracted with the National Research Council to plan and host a series of workshops on the topic, including one with a focus on the interrelationship between government, industry, and other stakeholders in advancing human and robotic space exploration and development

During planning for the first workshop, one major event occurred that changed the policy climate with regard to space exploration. On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush announced a new national vision for space exploration.8 This new vision provides a set of goals in human and robotic exploration by which technology development timelines and investments can be created and managed. While debate continues on the new vision in the Congress, technology sectors, the U.S. public, and abroad, this new climate could, at least for the short term, focus technology investments at NASA on more specific challenges than before the vision was announced. In response to the new vision, NASA has reorganized its programs in space exploration to better focus its work on the new vision.9 The Office of Exploration Systems was “established to set priorities and direct the identification, development, and validation of exploration systems and related technologies.”10 Subsequently, on January 30, 2004, President Bush created, by executive order, the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond to make recommendations to the administration on realization of the new vision and to advise NASA on issues related to long-term implementation.11

The workshop reported on in this document did not specifically address the new vision or NASA organization. While most speakers did mention the new vision in their remarks in some manner, future workshops in the series should instead—as this


John C. Mankins, Manager, Advanced Concepts Studies, Advanced Programs Office/Office of Space Flight, NASA, “Technology for Human/Robotic Exploration and Development of Space [THREADS]: An Overview,” presented to the NRC Committee on Technology for the Human/Robotic Exploration and Development of Space (THREADS) on July 14, 2001.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2003 Strategic Plan. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


George W. Bush, “A Renewed Spirit of Discovery: The President’s Vision for U.S. Space Exploration,” presented to the nation at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., on January 14, 2004. Available online at <>. Accessed on May 5, 2004.


NASA, The Vision for Space Exploration, February 2004.


NASA Announces New Headquarters Management Alignment – NASA Press Release, January 15, 2004.


Executive Order Creating the Presidential Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, January 30, 2004.

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