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Setting Priorities for Space Research: Opportunities and Imperatives (Preface) Setting Priorities for Space Research Opportunities and Imperatives Preface This report represents the first phase of a study by a task group convened by the Space Studies Board to ascertain whether it should attempt to develop a methodology for recommending priorities among the various initiatives in space research (that is, scientific activities concerned with phenomena in space or utilizing observations from space). The report argues that such priority statements by the space research community are both necessary and desirable and would contribute to the formulation and implementation of public policy. The report advocates the establishment of priorities to enhance effective management of the nation's scientific research program in space. It argues that scientific objectives and purposes should determine how and under what circumstances scientific research should be done. The report does not take a position on the controversy between advocates of manned space exploration and those who favor the exclusive use of unmanned space vehicles. Nor does the report address questions about the value or appropriateness of Space Station REPORT MENU Freedom or proposals to establish a permanent manned Moon base or to NOTICE undertake a manned mission to Mars.1 These issues lie beyond the charge to the MEMBERSHIP task group. PREFACE SUMMARY CHAPTER 1 We believe that the vision, objectives, and operating principles we CHAPTER 2 propose are compatible with the objectives of the human spaceflight program and CHAPTER 3 could contribute to a vigorous space program at all levels. For this reason, we CHAPTER 4 commend these proposals to those responsible for the entire space program for CHAPTER 5 their consideration. In general, the efforts of the space research community have concentrated on setting priorities for scientific research and assessing the scientific merit of proposed space research missions. One issue considered here is whether the space research community should take a more active role in recommending a hierarchy of priorities to guide the program. A second issue is what considerations should influence priorities and the criteria used to determine them. The Space Studies Board is interested in priorities for several reasons. First, as a result of a reexamination and redefinition of its role in 1988 and 1989, the Board expanded its advisory perspective and initiated studies of broad issues associated with management of the civil space program. Second, the numerous file:///C|/SSB_old_web/prio1preface.htm (1 of 4) [6/21/2004 10:00:34 AM]
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Setting Priorities for Space Research: Opportunities and Imperatives (Preface) opportunities for space research initiatives far exceed available resources; thus choices among them must be made. Finally, there is evidence that both Congress and some members of the scientific community are interested in developing a reasoned approach to creating a national scientific research agenda with explicit priorities assigned to various categories of effort.2 This report is intended for an audience that includes the scientific community and policymakers in the executive branch and Congress. The Board is mindful of the prospect that its efforts may lead to a model that could be useful in a broader context of determining priorities for a national scientific research agenda. This first phase of the Space Studies Board's examination of priorities in space research began with a workshop in the summer of 1989 that considered the broad spectrum of research and development activities in the United States and the complex decision-making process governing them. Participants represented diverse backgrounds, including science, finance, economics, industry, and flight programs, and included representatives of Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and NASA. Extending the discussions of the workshop, this report considers the rapidly changing context in which federal research activities occur and argues for a rationale for recommending priorities in space research that is consistent with national goals. To set the stage, the report documents the accomplishments of the national space research program and surveys the exciting opportunities ahead. The next phase of the study will attempt to develop a credible methodology that the Board and the space research community could use to recommend priorities and will be published separately upon its completion. Such a set of priorities must be created in a context broader than that of space research alone.3 In the more than 30 years since the national space program began, there have been vast changes in the United States and in the world. The complexity of the federal decision-making process has increased in proportion to the ever-increasing array of federal activities. There are continually evolving internal and external pressures at each and every level of the process. Choices and deliberations within the federal agencies, the presidential offices, and Congress are shaped by national goals, global economic competition, the consequences of the federal budget deficit, domestic politics, national security concerns, and the powerful but often unpredictable forces of public opinion. These realities must be addressed in the process of considering priorities for space research. Some will insist that space researchers should not attempt to provide advice about the implications of issues other than the scientific merit of proposed space missions. This report argues that scientific research in space, and (by implication) the entire civil space research program, will better serve the goals of both science and the nation if the priorities that govern them simultaneously reflect both scientific and broader national imperatives. Helping to fashion the appropriate criteria thus becomes a responsibility of the space research community. The community is capable of making the sophisticated file:///C|/SSB_old_web/prio1preface.htm (2 of 4) [6/21/2004 10:00:34 AM]
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Setting Priorities for Space Research: Opportunities and Imperatives (Preface) judgments necessary to foster a vital and robust space research program: We believe it must do so. 1For further discussions in National Research Council reports on the role of manned versus unmanned spaceflight, see Human Exploration of Space—A Review of NASA's 90-Day Study Alternatives (1990), Toward a New Era in Space-Realigning Policies to New Realities (1988), Report of the Committee on the Space Station of the National Research Council (1987), A Strategy for Space Biology and Medical Sciences for the 1980's and 1990's (1987), and Space Science in the Twenty-First Century—Imperatives for the Decades 1995 to 2015—0verview (1988) (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.); and "The Nation's Space Program After Challenger: The Need for a Reassessment of the Roles of Manned and Unmanned Systems for Launching Scientific Space Missions" (1986), an unpublished report of the Space Studies Board. 2For examples of recent congressional views on finite resources and accompanying difficult choices, see the House and Senate reports on H.R. 2519 (Reports 102-94 and 102-000, respectively; U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.), which provides 1992 appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and independent agencies. For an example of the scientific community's interest in this issue, see Space and Earth Sciences Advisory Committee, The Crisis in Space and Earth Sciences—A Time for a New Commitment (NASA Advisory Council, 1986) or "The Dilemma of the Golden Age," address by National Academy of Sciences (NAS) President Frank Press to NAS members (April 1988). 3For further discussions on the issue of priority setting, see also Office of Technology Assessment, Federally Funded Research: Decisions for a Decade (U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1991). file:///C|/SSB_old_web/prio1preface.htm (3 of 4) [6/21/2004 10:00:34 AM]