2
Health of the Discipline Programs

To gather information and insight into the extent to which the proposed science programs are healthy—defined in Chapter 1 as being stable, balanced, robust, and maintaining the capacity to make steady progress—the committee turned to the discipline standing committees of the SSB. The standing commit tee chairs were asked to provide an assessment of these questions from the perspective of each science discipline. This chapter summarizes the committee’s findings based on the briefings from the standing committee representatives.

ASTROPHYSICS

Goals

Since the 1960s, the U.S. astronomy community has conducted a sequence of decadal surveys that seek to prioritize ground- and space-based initiatives for the coming decade. These surveys have served the community and the nation well and are in large measure responsible for the steady stream of major scientific discoveries about the universe and its constituents over the intervening 40 years. In retrospect, the surveys’ well-founded choices among many competing options largely succeeded in optimizing the scientific return from a finite expenditure of federal support.

The most recent survey, entitled Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium (AANM),1 proposed an exciting program of research for the interval 2000 to 2010. Among the key scientific problems that were identified in the survey are the following:

  • Determine the large-scale properties of the universe: the amount, distribution, and nature of its matter and energy, its age, and the history of its expansion;

  • Study the dawn of the modern universe, when the first stars and galaxies formed;

  • Understand the formation and evolution of black holes of all sizes;

  • Study the formation of stars and their planetary systems, and the birth and evolution of giant and terrestrial planets; and

  • Understand how the astronomical environment affects Earth.

The AANM report recommended balancing new initiatives with the ongoing program, maintaining the diversity of NASA missions, including the Explorer program, integrating theory challenges into missions, and coordinating programs with other federal agencies and international partners. Recommended major missions were the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, formerly the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST)), Constellation-X, Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) technology, and Single Aperture Far Infra-Red Observatory (SAFIR) technology. Moderate missions were the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), Solar

1  

National Research Council, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001.



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 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs 2 Health of the Discipline Programs To gather information and insight into the extent to which the proposed science programs are healthy—defined in Chapter 1 as being stable, balanced, robust, and maintaining the capacity to make steady progress—the committee turned to the discipline standing committees of the SSB. The standing commit tee chairs were asked to provide an assessment of these questions from the perspective of each science discipline. This chapter summarizes the committee’s findings based on the briefings from the standing committee representatives. ASTROPHYSICS Goals Since the 1960s, the U.S. astronomy community has conducted a sequence of decadal surveys that seek to prioritize ground- and space-based initiatives for the coming decade. These surveys have served the community and the nation well and are in large measure responsible for the steady stream of major scientific discoveries about the universe and its constituents over the intervening 40 years. In retrospect, the surveys’ well-founded choices among many competing options largely succeeded in optimizing the scientific return from a finite expenditure of federal support. The most recent survey, entitled Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium (AANM),1 proposed an exciting program of research for the interval 2000 to 2010. Among the key scientific problems that were identified in the survey are the following: Determine the large-scale properties of the universe: the amount, distribution, and nature of its matter and energy, its age, and the history of its expansion; Study the dawn of the modern universe, when the first stars and galaxies formed; Understand the formation and evolution of black holes of all sizes; Study the formation of stars and their planetary systems, and the birth and evolution of giant and terrestrial planets; and Understand how the astronomical environment affects Earth. The AANM report recommended balancing new initiatives with the ongoing program, maintaining the diversity of NASA missions, including the Explorer program, integrating theory challenges into missions, and coordinating programs with other federal agencies and international partners. Recommended major missions were the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, formerly the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST)), Constellation-X, Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) technology, and Single Aperture Far Infra-Red Observatory (SAFIR) technology. Moderate missions were the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), Solar 1   National Research Council, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs Dynamics Observatory (SDO), Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope (EXIST),2 and Advanced Radio Interferometry between Space and Earth (ARISE). Small missions were the Advanced Cosmic-ray Composition Experiment on the International Space Station and the Ultra-Long Duration Balloon program. In recognition of the convergence of research frontiers in fundamental physics and cosmology, a second NRC study, Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: Eleven Science Questions for the New Century (Q2C),3 was commissioned specifically to prioritize proposals in this cross-disciplinary area and to take account of exciting developments in cosmology that occurred just after the AANM report was completed. It added a mission to study inflationary cosmology and another to study dark energy (Super Nova Acceleration Probe),4 as well as endorsing earlier recommendations. More recently, an NRC “midcourse review” of progress in realizing the decadal survey goals concluded that despite the steady stream of discovery since publication of the AANM report, the science program outlined in AANM and Q2C remained valid and no new major, interdecade survey was needed.5 It also concluded that it was imperative to maintain the breadth and balance of the program and that if an expensive Hubble Space Telescope re-servicing mission threatened the program, the community should be involved in assessing the relative value of the choices. Prospects for Progress Toward Goals In the FY 2006 NASA operating plan and FY 2007 budget, NASA has proposed major changes to the astrophysics component of the SMD program in FY 2006 and beyond. These result from reductions in out-year budgets in order to accommodate increases in projected costs of specific missions and programs, both internal to the astrophysics program and in other parts of the agency. The large and medium missions set prior to the 2007 program are summarized in Table 2.1. The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is now entering its 17th year of operation and is awaiting its fifth and final space shuttle servicing mission (SM-4), which is planned for 2008, pending a successful shuttle return to flight. According to NASA, the costs for SM-4 are $166 million, $216 million, and $179 million in FY 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, formerly NGST) was the highest-priority major mission in the AANM report, and it was affirmed by the NRC’s 2005 midcourse review. A major issue in the present context is its cost. NGST was estimated in AANM to cost $1 billion, not including the costs of technology development or operations.6 The current estimate for JWST is $4.5 billion (plus a $0.5 billion international contribution), which includes all the technology development and 10 years of operations.7 The operations budget is estimated to be $1 billion, of which $250 million is projected to be for R&A support for the users of the facility. Launch is now scheduled for 2013. Community support for JWST science appears to be unwavering; however, there is concern about the stability of the cost, schedule, and risk estimates and the implications of further cost growth and schedule slip for the rest of the astrophysics program. 2   EXIST later became the Black Hole Finder Probe. 3   National Research Council, Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: Eleven Science Questions for the New Century, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003. 4   SNAP later became the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM). 5   National Research Council, “Review of Progress in Astronomy and Astrophysics Toward the Decadal Vision: Letter Report,” The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005. 6   Full-cost accounting for civil service personnel and NASA center operations has had a significant, though not easily quantifiable, impact on this, and other, mission budgets. 7   For comparison, the total budget for HST after 15 years of operation is estimated to be $11 billion in current-year dollars.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) was recommended in the 1991 decadal survey as a complement to the Spitzer Space Telescope.8 Due to reported development and operations cost growth and technical problems NASA has marked it for cancellation pending a review to be completed within months. The Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) was also recommended in the 1991 decadal survey, and the performance that is necessary to achieve its science goals was set in a 2002 NRC letter report.9 It was on schedule for attaining these goals prior to the 2007 budget for a cost of $1.1 billion. The proposed slip to 2016 and an increase in NASA’s estimated total cost to $2.5 billion raise concerns about its future and its relevance as a precursor to TPF. The Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF), which was recommended in the AANM report as a technology program, has been deferred indefinitely. Beyond Einstein is a program in which two observatories, Constellation-X and LISA, together with the JDEM probe, were called out in the 2005 NASA Roadmap as a first phase.10 LISA has grown to become a major mission in the $2 billion class along with Constellation-X (which was advertised as $800 million in AANM for Phase C/D). JDEM has an associated budget of $600 million in the latest NASA plan. For FY 2006, funding for the entire Beyond Einstein program is down to about 25 percent of the level originally planned for FY 2006, according to NASA’s FY 2006 initial operating plan. This amount appears to the committee to be inadequate to sustain the technology development teams. After a period of several years during which a community of researchers has been stimulated by expectations that Beyond Einstein would become a viable undertaking, there is now considerable uncertainty about the future of this program. Explorer missions are an integral component of the astrophysics program. They provide relatively inexpensive, competed, rapid response to new opportunities and have an outstanding scientific success rate. A launch rate of at least one per year was projected.11 They are seen as providing training for the next major mission principal investigators, and they traditionally involve younger scientists. The recent NRC report on principal-investigator-led missions called out Explorers for their strong technical and cost performance and value in training and engaging universities and small industry in NASA missions.12 There have been significant cuts in the Explorer program in FY 2006 and 2007. A 2001 solicitation led to the selection of a Medium-class Explorer (MIDEX) mission, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Its 2006 budget has just been halved in mid-year and its launch schedule slipped further to 2010. A 2003 solicitation led to the selection of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) for extended Phase-A study. It was recently canceled 1 month prior to a technology review without any open, transparent assessment of scientific or management issues that could have been factors in that decision. The next planned 2007 solicitation has already slipped to 2008.13 Research and analysis (R&A) grants support peer-reviewed research projects by individual investigators or small teams. They perform data analysis and interpretation, theory and modeling, and complementary ground-based or suborbital studies that translate the measurements acquired by space missions into new scientific understanding and lay the scientific and technological foundations for future missions. NASA has announced a 15 percent cut in R&A. The immediate impact will lead to fewer 8   National Research Council, The Decade of Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1991. 9   National Research Council, “Review of the Redesigned Space Interferometry Mission,” National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2002. 10   Two more missions—Inflation Probe and Black Hole Finder Probe (BHFP)—also were recommended. 11   For example, see “Explorer Program Plan,” NASA Goddard Space Flight Center document GSFC-140-EXP-002, April 1999. 12   National Research Council, Principal-Investigator-Led Missions in the Space Sciences, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006. 13   When NuSTAR was terminated the team was encouraged to reapply under the 2008 announcement of opportunity, but the team will have dispersed by then.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs TABLE 2.1 Summary of Large and Medium Astrophysics Missions Mission Provenancea Launch Date in Prior Plan Launch Date in FY 2007 Plan Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy DDAA 2008 Cancellation threatened Space Interferometry Mission DDAA 2012 Delayed to 2015/2016 Keck Telescope Outriggers     Canceled Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope AANM 2007 2007 Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission-4 DDAA 2008 2008 pending shuttle return to flight Herschel-Planck ESA 2008 2008 James Webb Space Telescope AANM 2011 2013 Constellation-Xb AANM   Deferred Joint Dark Energy Mission (formerly SNAP)b Q2C   Deferred Laser Interferometer Space Antennab AANM   Deferred Black Hole Finder Probe (formerly EXIST) AANM   Deferred Inflation Probe Q2C   Deferred Terrestrial Planet Finder (technology development) AANM   Deferred Single Aperture Far Infra-Red Observatory (technology development) AANM Deferred Deferred a DDAA, The Decade of Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics (1991); AANM, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium (2001); ESA, European Space Agency; Q2C, Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos: Eleven Science Questions for the New Century (2003). b Denotes a Beyond Einstein program mission. funded grants following previous cuts in the program. The long-term prospect is worse, as the real-year funding is proposed to fall an additional 15 percent by 2011. The program preferentially supports younger scientists who will be especially affected by the cuts. HST, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope are sources of funding that support mission-related data analysis and interpretation projects much like mission-independent R&A projects, and JWST will be a similar source of support after launch. In summary, the reductions in the astrophysics program in 2006 and 2007 are severe. The sudden change in status is very disruptive to mission teams, especially affecting technology development and young scientists. The outlook threatens the long-term well-being of the field. Particularly disturbing is the decline in the launch rate. The only new U.S.-led astrophysics missions that are now scheduled for launch prior to JWST (now planned in 2013) are a moderate mission (GLAST in 2007) plus a Discovery mission (Kepler in 2008)14 and an Explorer mission (WISE in 2010). 14   See Table 2.3 for more about the Kepler mission.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs HELIOPHYSICS Goals Heliophysics studies the vast region of our solar system that is driven directly by the Sun, including the Sun itself, the heliosphere out to the interstellar medium, and the magnetospheres and upper atmospheres of Earth and other planets. Utilizing information from space-based and complementary ground-based observations, together with supporting modeling and theoretical studies, this discipline seeks to study scientific problems such as the following: Understanding the structure and dynamics of the Sun’s interior, the generation of solar magnetic fields, the origin of the solar cycle, the causes of solar activity, and the structure and dynamics of the corona; Understanding heliospheric structure, the distribution of magnetic fields and matter throughout the solar system, and the interaction of the solar atmosphere with the local interstellar medium; Understanding the space environments of Earth and other solar system bodies and their dynamical response to external and internal influences; Understanding the basic physical principles manifest in processes observed in solar and space plasmas; and Developing near-real-time predictive capability for understanding and quantifying the impact on human activities of dynamic processes at the Sun, in the interplanetary medium, and in Earth’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere. Also known as solar and space physics, this research was carried out prior to 2004 in a division of the NASA Space Science Enterprise known as Sun-Earth Connections (SEC), then in 2004-2005 as a part of the Earth-Sun Division of SMD, and now in the Heliophysics Division of SMD. In 2003, the National Research Council published the first decadal survey for solar and space physics, The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics.15 The survey report recommended a research program for NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would also address the operational needs of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). The report included a recommended suite of NASA missions, which were ordered by priority, presented in an appropriate sequence, and selected to fit within the expected resource profile for the next decade. In 2004, that survey was re-examined in Solar and Space Physics and Its Role in Space Exploration,16 which considered whether changes might be appropriate in view of the Vision. The 2004 report confirmed the scientific and operational importance of solar and space physics research (including its direct relevance to gaining an understanding of space radiation risks to human space exploration), repeated the call for a balanced program of applied and basic science and of a mix of mission sizes and R&A, and reaffirmed the mission priorities that were set out in the decadal survey. The report recognized that there might be delays in the pace at which missions would be executed as a consequence of resource constraints, and it noted that such delays would have impacts in the form of losses of scientific synergy between complementary missions and slips of some important missions beyond the 10-year planning horizon. 15   National Research Council, The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003. 16   National Research Council, Solar and Space Physics and Its Role in Space Exploration, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2004.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs Prospects for Progress Toward Goals In FY 2005 NASA proposed to remove several hundred million dollars of program content from the basic science mission line of SEC, the Solar Terrestrial Probe (STP) line, over the next 5 years. There were also large cuts in the Explorer line, which is managed by the Heliophysics Division for solar and space physics and for astrophysics, and there would have been an almost immediate shutdown of a portion of the SEC spacecraft fleet of operating missions (dubbed the Great Observatory for Sun-Earth Connections). Congress restored some of the funding for SEC science in FY 2006, by restoring some mission operations and data analysis (MO&DA) support that spared the SEC Great Observatory from complete disruption. However, little program content was restored to the STP or Explorer lines, and the other main heliophysics mission line, Living With a Star (LWS), was held flat. The next LWS program mission, Solar Dynamics Observatory, has experienced cost growth compared to original projections, and accommodating that growth is impacting the rate at which later missions can progress. Thus, the FY 2006 budget continued to hold heliophysics at lower levels compared to the budgets that had been described by NASA to the solar and space physics decadal survey committee in 2002-2003. Compared to the 2004 expectations, there now are several notable elements missing from the program proposed for 2007 and beyond (see Table 2.2): The discipline’s only large (“flagship”) mission is the Solar Probe. This program has just completed a science definition team study and is ready for development. However, there are no provisions for Solar Probe development in 2007-2011. The Heliophysics program of basic research is built on the timely and regular execution of moderate-sized missions in the STP line. It was anticipated that a balanced set of missions in solar, heliospheric, magnetospheric, and ionospheric-thermospheric research would commence with a new mission every 18 months to 2 years. The first new STP mission in this plan (Magnetospheric Multiscale, MMS) was to launch in about 2009. The FY 2007 program defers the MMS launch until 2013. The second and third STP missions (Geospace Electrodynamic Connections and Magnetospheric Constellation, respectively) are deferred indefinitely (until at least 2015 and beyond). The “small” mission category for heliophysics has always included Explorer and sounding rocket elements. The FY 2007 plan proposes even larger cuts to the Explorer line than was the case in FY 2005. For FY 2007-2011, the committee estimates that about $1 billion has been removed from the combined heliophysics and astrophysics Explorer line, corresponding to a reduction of more than 55 percent in FY 2007 and more than 40 percent over the 5-year period. High priority was assigned in the 2003 decadal survey to a revitalization of the sounding rocket program and the University Explorer-class missions. No such funding is evident in the FY 2007 plan. The lowest cost category program for solar and space physics was termed the “vitality” element of the program. Here the top priority for NASA was enhancement in the Supporting Research and Technology (SR&T) program, of which R&A is a major element. Instead, the FY 2007 plan proposes to cut the R&A component of SR&T by 15 percent. The overarching implication of NASA’s new plan is that the health of the discipline is in serious jeopardy. The 2003 decadal survey recommendations were based on a balanced set of programs that could pursue essential applied science and important basic research at a meaningful pace. However, there are no new basic research missions in solar, heliospheric, or ionosphere-thermosphere-magnetosphere science. There can be no new starts for several years in the Explorer program, and it is unlikely that an Explorer announcement of opportunity can come out until 2008 at the earliest. Even the LWS program has seen deferrals of the geospace mission components so that the key scientific element of simultaneity of solar and geospace observations has been jeopardized.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs TABLE 2.2 Summary of Large and Medium Heliophysics Missions Mission Provenancea Launch Date in Prior Plan Launch Date in FY 2007 Plan Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) SEB 2006 2006, 2-month delay Solar Dynamics Observatory AANM and SEB 2008 2008, 4-month delay Solar-B SEB 2006 2007, 4-month delay Magnetospheric Multiscale SEB 2009 2013 Juno Jupiter Polar Orbiter SEB and NFSS 2010 2011 Radiation Belt Storm Probes SEB 2010 2012, moved ahead of GEC Ionosphere-Thermosphere Probe SEB   Deferred >2015 Geospace Electrodynamic Connections SEB   Deferred >2015 Magnetospheric Constellation SEB   Deferred >2015 Solar Probe SEB   Deferred >2015 aAANM, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium (2001); NFSS, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy (2003); and SEB, The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics (2003). PLANETARY SCIENCE Goals Planetary science encompasses the study of the major and minor planetary bodies in our solar neighborhood. Planetary science tries to understand not only the basic physical properties of these bodies, but also the processes responsible for the formation and evolution of the diverse planetary environments found throughout the solar system. Utilizing information from in situ and remote-sensing observations, together with supporting laboratory and theoretical studies, this discipline seeks to answer questions such as: How did the Sun’s retinue of planets originate and evolve? How did life develop in the solar system? How do basic physical and chemical processes determine the main characteristics of the planets? In 2001, the U.S. planetary science community initiated a major study to outline pressing scientific questions and prioritize future solar system exploration missions. The results of their efforts are embodied in the 2003 report New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy (hereafter, the solar system exploration [SSE] decadal survey).17 The scientific priorities identified in this study are still valid and supported by the SSE community. Following guidelines provided by NASA, the SSE decadal survey’s recommendations for robotic spacecraft missions to Mars and to other solar system bodies are prioritized separately and categorized as large (flagship), medium, and small. These mission priorities are founded on conservative budgetary assumptions, a fact recognized in the report’s 17   National Research Council, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs recommendations for a constrained Mars program and the launch of three medium and, possibly, one flagship mission per decade for the rest of the solar system. Recognizing the wide range of capabilities to be gained from reliable power sources, the availability of radioisotope power systems was considered extremely important. Prospects for Progress Toward Goals The results from robotic missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system have done much to provide the scientific and popular stimulus for the human exploration activities envisaged by the Vision. However, the major transfer of funds from the SSE program as a result of NASA’s rebalancing exercise in 2006 and a second major redistribution of funds that is proposed in the FY 2007 plan pose serious threats to the long-term health and robustness of the program. The large and medium missions set prior to the 2007 program are summarized in Table 2.3. As a result of these changes, the status of the SSE program is as follows: Continued support remains for Discovery and New Frontiers missions that are in operation. Plans to initiate the development of the Europa Geophysical Explorer—the SSE decadal survey report’s only flagship mission for the decade 2003-2013—are indefinitely deferred. Failure to initiate a Europa mission, or any other flagship mission, will create gaps in the scientific, engineering, and management workforces that will hinder NASA’s ability to develop large missions in the future even if the budgetary environment improves. Continued support remains for those Mars missions currently in operation—e.g., the Mars Exploration Rovers and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Similarly, plans to launch Phoenix—the first Mars Scout mission—in 2007, and the Mars Science Laboratory in 2009, continue as planned. A second Mars Scout is scheduled for launch in 2011. Work on all post-2011 Mars missions, including high-priority missions such as Mars Sample Return and a network of atmospheric and seismic monitoring stations, is terminated or deferred. The atmospheric monitoring stations will be needed to understand turbulent flow that heavy loads—e.g., those required by a sample-return mission or, in the longer term, by human exploration activities—will encounter in the descent through Mars’s thin, but highly variable, atmosphere. R&A programs suffer an initial cut of approximately 15 percent and then lose ground against inflation over the 5-year run-out period. Unlike the practice in other parts of NASA where a portion of mission funding is dedicated to data analysis studies, most of the analysis and interpretation of data from ongoing solar system missions is funded from within the general R&A budget. Thus, the proposed cuts not only will impact basic research activities, but also will limit community participation in analysis of the valuable data that are streaming back from the current Mars and Cassini missions. There will be a heavy reduction of investment in technology development activities not specifically related to missions in development. As with its data analysis activities, NASA’s SSE program uses R&A funding to identify and develop the technologies needed for advanced missions. The reduction in technology development activities will have a major impact on future missions in the Discovery and New Frontiers lines. Technology development is not within the resources allocated to development of these mission lines due to their funding and schedule constraints. A healthy mix of small, medium, and flagship missions is still essential for the SSE program. Plans for a potential mix of missions that includes a future flagship mission (to Europa) will be needed to guide future radioactive power supply/radioisotope thermoelectric generator technology development activities. There also is considerable concern about the availability of Pu-238. Although this is not a NASA-specific issue, it is a problem that can impact both space science and human exploration activities.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs TABLE 2.3 Summary of Large and Medium Planetary Science Missions Mission Provenancea Launch Date in Prior Plan Launch Date in FY 2007 Plan Dawn (Discovery 9) NFSSb 2006 2007 Phoenix (Mars Scout 1) NFSSc,d 2007 2007 Kepler (Discovery 10) NFSSb 2008 2008 Mars Science Laboratory NFSS 2009 2009 Mars Scout 2 NFSSc,d 2011 2011 Juno (New Frontiers 2) NFSS <2012 <2012 Discovery 11 NFSSb,e 2012 2012 Europa Geophysical Orbiter NFSS >2012 Deferred New Frontiers 3 NFSS 2013 Deferred Mars Upper Atmosphere Orbiter NFSSf 2013 Deferred Mars Long Lived Lander Network NFSS 2020 Deferred Mars Sample Return NFSS >2020 Deferred a NFSS, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy (2003). b The Discovery line of small missions was prioritized in NFSS. But the individual missions within this line are not specified since they are selected via a competitive process at a recommended (but not currently realized) flight rate of one every 18 months; missions are numbered in order of launch date. c The Mars Scout line of small missions was prioritized in NFSS. But the individual missions within this line are not specified since they are selected via a competitive process. d A community-wide solicitation for the second Mars Scout launch opportunity is currently underway. e A community-wide solicitation for the eleventh Discovery launch opportunity is currently underway. f The assumption made here was that the scientific goals of this mission, as described in NFSS, are being implemented by an appropriately selected secondary payload on a Mars telecommunications satellite or a more broadly based science mission. Either possibility is now moot. The science goals for this NFSS mission are also compatible with implementation by a Mars Scout mission. As such, this mission is a potential candidate for the second Mars Scout launch opportunity. The combined impact of these various factors will result in a solar system exploration program that for several years will appear robust to the outside observer, but is actually running on the investment of the past and will enter the next decade with nothing ready to fly, no technology base to support visionary initiatives, and an atrophy and erosion of the current talent base and infrastructure that make ambitious robotic missions possible. The space research community is witnessing a reenactment of the actions taken in the 1970s, when, after the start of Viking and Voyager missions at the beginning of the decade, no further planetary missions were put into the pipeline. Only Magellan broke the 11-year drought until Mars Observer and Galileo were launched in the 1990s.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs ASTROBIOLOGY Goals NASA’s astrobiology program is built around three overarching scientific questions: How does life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? What is life’s future on Earth and beyond? The program consists of four independent R&A elements—the exobiology and evolutionary biology program, the Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development program, the Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets program, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). Together, these were funded in FY 2006 at a combined level of $65 million, already down 13 percent from the FY 2005 program. The FY 2007 budget would cut the program again, to half its current level. This is projected to be a permanent reduction in the size of the program Prospects for Progress Toward Goals The cuts in FY 2006 are expected to be absorbed by protecting existing contracts and grants, but selecting no new awards. Each of the four program elements has had a proposal solicitation in FY 2006, and so those proposers would all be shut out of the program. The deeper cuts for FY 2007 will require a combination of no new awards plus the reduction or cancellation of some existing contracts and grants. The decadal surveys for astrophysics and for solar system exploration both embraced astrobiology as a key component of their programs, with the questions encompassed by astrobiology serving as overarching themes for the programs as a whole. The missions put forward in the solar system exploration survey are all key missions in astrobiology, whether they are labeled as such or not. And issues and missions related to astrobiology represent one of the key areas of interest identified in the astronomy and astrophysics communities. Astrobiology provides the intellectual connections between otherwise disparate enterprises. NASA’s astrobiology program creates an integrated whole and supports the basic interdisciplinary nature of the field. Further, the Vision is, at its heart, largely an astrobiology vision with regard to the science emphasis.18 In developing the future of the program, the missions actually feed forward from the basic science. Astrobiology is just beginning the type of synthesis and integration that will allow it to provide science input for future mission development. Without it, the science and the scientific personnel will not be in place to support the missions when they do fly. At a time of increasing desire for cross-disciplinary programs, astrobiology represents an outstanding example of the development of a successful new interdisciplinary area. Universities across the country have established new programs in astrobiology and appointed numerous faculty members. A generation of undergraduate and graduate students has been inspired by the intellectual challenges and the Vision to undertake courses and research projects in broad areas of space science. The United States has 18   The NASA document, The Vision for Space Exploration, cited a number of actions that were to be taken to implement the Vision, including the following scientific activities with an emphasis on searches for life: • Conduct robotic exploration of Mars to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to prepare for future human exploration; • Conduct robotic exploration across the solar system for scientific purposes and to support human exploration. In particular, explore Jupiter’s moons, asteroids, and other bodies to search for evidence of life, to understand the history of the solar system, and to search for resources; and • Conduct advanced telescope searches for Earth-like planets and habitable environments around other stars.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs been the leader in this developing field and has triggered large efforts in other countries, notably in Britain, Spain, Australia, and Russia. The strong U.S. leadership will be lost under the current plan. In a new discipline that has a larger than average number of early career participants, the proposed cuts will have a disproportionate impact on young people (students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty) and will strongly discourage new entries into space research. Highly trained and creative people are the heart of the space program. Yet training of the very best people takes years, and drastic cuts now will mean that scientists will not be there to support future missions. The proposed halving of the program is a complete reversal of years of NASA efforts and will be counterproductive to any long-term space exploration strategy. EARTH SCIENCE Goals In response to requests from NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Research Council has begun a decadal survey of Earth science and applications from space that is due to be completed in late 2006. The guiding principle for the study, which was developed in consultation with members of the Earth science community, is to set an agenda for Earth science and applications from space, including everything from short-term needs for information, such as environmental warnings for protection of life and property, to longer-term scientific research that is essential for understanding our planet and is the lifeblood of future societal applications. Indeed, the decadal survey study committee has already concluded in its interim report that: Understanding the complex, changing planet on which we live, how it supports life, and how human activities affect its ability to do so in the future is one of the greatest intellectual challenges facing humanity. It is also one of the most important for society as it seeks to achieve prosperity and sustainability.19 Among the key tasks in the charge to the decadal survey committee is the request to: Develop a consensus of the top-level scientific questions that should provide the focus for Earth and environmental observations in the period 2005-2020; and Develop a prioritized list of recommended space programs, missions, and supporting activities to address these questions. A unique aspect of the NASA Earth science program is the extent to which it supports other federal agencies. NOAA, the USGS, and the Department of Defense depend on NASA for development of new Earth observation technologies for weather, climate, and land imaging and for observations and technologies to support operational oceanography. Agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Transportation depend on current NASA sensors and NASA’s ability to develop decision support systems and resource management tools for national and international agriculture assessments, forestry and parks monitoring, pollution assessment, and land, air, and ocean transportation planning. NASA uniquely complements research conducted under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation, allowing basic science to test hypotheses about natural phenomena at scales that would not be possible using ground-based technologies. NASA’s role is significant in the international arena in similar ways. 19   National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 1.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs Recognizing the near-term challenges during the time that the decadal survey was being conducted, the NRC survey committee examined urgent issues that required attention prior to publication of the final decadal survey report. Released in April 2005, the survey committee’s interim report, Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation, identified the following issues that required immediate attention: Proceeding with some NASA missions that have been delayed or canceled, Evaluating plans for transferring needed capabilities from some canceled or descoped NASA missions to the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), Developing a technological base for exploratory Earth observation systems, Reinvigorating the Explorer missions program, Strengthening R&A programs, and Strengthening the approach to obtaining important climate observations and data records. Prospects for Progress Toward Goals The interim report stated that the nation’s “system of environmental satellites is at risk of collapse” (p. 2). That statement, which may have seemed somewhat extreme at the time, was made before the Hydros and Deep Space Climate Observatory20 missions were canceled, before the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) was delayed for 2½ years, before the NPOESS Preparatory Program (NPP) mission was delayed for 1½ years, before the NPOESS program breached the Nunn-McCurdy cost growth threshold21 and was delayed for at least several years, and before significant cuts were made to NASA’s R&A program. In less than a year since the interim report was issued, matters have become progressively worse. The missions set prior to the 2007 program are summarized in Table 2.4. The interim report endorsed the Hydros mission; subsequently, but before the FY 2007 budget was released, Hydros was not confirmed for development. Nor was the Deep Space Climate Observatory, which was not addressed by the interim report but had been supported by an earlier NRC panel.22 The interim report stated that the Global Precipitation Mission should proceed immediately and without further delay. The NASA FY 2007 action delays the mission by 2½ years. The interim report not only recommended that NASA and NOAA complete the fabrication, testing, and space qualification of an atmospheric sounding instrument for a geostationary orbit (GIFTS—Geostationary Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer), but it also recommended that they support the international effort to launch this instrument by 2008. While NOAA has completed some of the space qualification of GIFTS, the FY 2007 plan does not provide the additional funding that would be necessary to complete GIFTS. The interim report called for the release of the next announcement of opportunity (AO) for the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program in FY 2005; however, the earliest AO for the next ESSP will be FY 2008. 20   The Deep Space Climate Observatory was formerly called Triana. 21   Title 10 USC § 2433 (known as the Nunn-McCurdy legislation) requires that Congress be notified about any major military procurement program that is likely to exceed its baseline cost by more than 15 percent and requires that any program that is likely to exceed its baseline cost by more than 25 percent be subjected to a cancellation review. On January 12, 2006, the Air Force notified Congress that NPOESS had cost growth in excess of 25 percent, thereby triggering such a review. 22   National Research Council, “Review of Scientific Aspects of the NASA Triana Mission: Letter Report,” National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2000, available at <www.nap.edu/catalog/9789.html>.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs TABLE 2.4 Summary of Earth Science Missions Mission Provenance Launch Date in Prior Plan Launch Date in FY 2007 Plan Global Precipitation Mission Approved NASA mission 2008 in FY 2005, then went to 2010 in FY 2006 2.5-year delay to early 2013 Landsat Data Continuity Mission Approved mission FY 2006 budget had NASA providing an imager for flight on the first NPOESS platform, then thought to be end of 2009 Now a free-flyer with launch in early 2011 GLORY Atmospheric Aerosol Observatory Approved mission FY 2006 budget initially canceled mission; later restored—entered development in November 2005 January 2009 NPOESS Preparatory Program NASA-NOAA mission 2007 18-month delay to May 2008 Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM) Approved NASA mission April 2008 June 2008 Geostationary Imaging Fourier Transform Spectrometer NASA-NOAA-DOD (Navy) Canceled in FY 2006 budget N.A. Ocean Vector Winds Approved NASA mission; continuity with QuikScat 2008 in FY 2005 budget; canceled in FY 2006 budget N.A. Wide-Swath Ocean Altimeter NASA Option for OSTM mission; canceled in FY 2006 budget N.A. Earth System Science Probe (ESSP)-Cloudsat Selected via ESSP-2 AO in 1998 May 2005 April 2006 ESSP-OCO Selected via ESSP-3 AO in 2001 2008 2008 ESSP-Aquarius Selected via ESSP-3 AO in 2001 2009 2009 ESSP-Hydros Selected as an alternate via ESSP-3 AO in 2001 2011 Not confirmed for development ESSP-Next AO   Originally planned for 2004 2008? The most serious impacts on the long-term strategy and capacity-building efforts in Earth science will result from the severe cuts in the R&A program. Although the proposed R&A cuts across NASA are approximately 15 percent, the cuts for FY 2007 appear to be closer to 20 percent in key elements of the Earth sciences. Such reductions will impair the ability of the research community to make substantial scientific progress, reduce the capacity to train new scientists to succeed those who retire, and forestall the ability to respond to new challenges as national needs change. Another impact is to reduce scientific research on missions that have already been launched and are providing novel observations of Earth with unprecedented opportunities to learn about our planet. Cutting the research after all of the expense of building and launching the missions means that much of the up-front, and most expensive, part of the mission will be wasted.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs The added delays will have multiple impacts: (1) there will be increased costs downstream that will further undermine the possibilities for a revitalized future Earth science program, and (2) there will be a strong disincentive to keeping or attracting good scientists in the field. Procurement stretch-outs increase overall program costs, result in less out-year money for the future, and lead to missed synergies and gaps in observations associated with delay in execution. For example, the 2-year delay in the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) will create a gap between its operation and that of the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM), whose science operations were extended last year in part because of their valuable role in meteorological forecasts of severe weather events. The delay of GPM also endangers a carefully planned partnership with the Japanese space agency, JAXA.23 Finally, there are several recent administration initiatives that are part of a comprehensive vision for Earth science research that will be handicapped. NASA is expected to be an important participant in the U.S. Climate Change Research initiative announced in 2001,24 which is intended to advance understanding of the climate system and climate change. NASA also has a key role in the integration of remote sensing observations into regional and global observatories proposed as a part of the U.S. Global Earth Observation (GEO) initiative,25 which is a multinational effort dedicated to developing and instituting a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, but that role is threatened as well. MICROGRAVITY LIFE AND PHYSICAL SCIENCES Goals There has not been a formal decadal survey in the space life sciences, although several past reports from the NRC have addressed scientific priorities for space biology and medicine.26 The 1998 report recommended two top priorities for the program: Research aimed at understanding and ameliorating problems that may limit astronauts’ ability to survive and/or function during prolonged spaceflight, and Research to understand fundamental biological processes in which gravity is known to play a direct role. With respect to research to help develop countermeasures for the effects of spaceflight on crew members, all of the reports emphasized that meaningful clinical trials cannot be executed with astronauts, given that the sample numbers are small and the fact that NASA continues to fail to collect and archive clinical data in a meaningful or useful manner. The NRC report Microgravity Research in Support of Technologies for the Human Exploration and Development of Space and Planetary Bodies,27 which was published in 2000, addressed the mission enabling and enhancing technologies that will require an improved understanding of fluid and material behavior in a reduced-gravity environment. The NRC report Assessment of Directions in Microgravity 23   Among other items, JAXA is developing the dual-frequency precipitation radar that is at the heart of the GPM mission. 24   See <www.climatevision.gov/statements.html>. 25   See <www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020214-5.html> and <www.earthobservationsummit.gov/press_release_whfs.html>. 26   National Research Council, A Strategy for Research in Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century (1998), Review of NASA’s Biomedical Research Program (2000), and Factors Affecting the Utilization of the International Space Station for Research in the Biological and Physical Sciences (2002), all published by National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 27   National Research Council, Microgravity Research in Support of Technologies for the Human Exploration and Development of Space and Planetary Bodies, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2000.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs and Physical Sciences Research at NASA,28 published in 2003, summarized the accomplishments of the field and re-emphasized those areas of research that are important to the exploration of space. Among the areas identified in the latter report for their likely high impact on NASA’s technology needs were the following: Research regarding aspects of spacecraft fire safety, Multiphase flow and heat transfer, Computational materials science, Complex fluid rheologies, Interfacial processes, and Physiological flows. While the microgravity physical science community has not conducted a decadal survey that recommended a program strategy and priorities in the fashion of the space science communities, the studies noted above provide the same kind of broad scientific assessment of appropriate research directions. A 2005 NRC review of NASA plans for research on the ISS in light of the new Vision focused on research areas that are critical to the human exploration mission and for which the ISS was uniquely suited.29 To this end, several areas of ISS research were identified: Effects of radiation on biological systems, Loss of bone and muscle mass during spaceflight, Psychosocial and behavioral risks of long-term space missions, Individual variability in mitigating a medical and/or biological risk, Fire safety aboard spacecraft, and Multiphase flow and heat transfer issues in space technology operations. Consequently, the 2005 report reaffirmed the general message relating to microgravity life and physical sciences research at NASA that has been communicated in prior NRC reports regarding the importance of research for the development of new technologies and the mitigation of space-induced risks to human health and performance both during and after long-term spaceflight. The report stated (p. 1), The loss of these programs is likely to limit or impede the development of such technologies and of physiological and psychological countermeasures, and the panel notes that once lost, neither the necessary research infrastructures nor the necessary communities of scientific investigators can survive or be easily replaced. Prospects for Progress Toward Goals In 2005, the NASA programs in the former Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR) were expected to support a broad scientific community in microgravity biological and physical research. With the announcement of the Vision, the OBPR and its budget were absorbed into the EMSD, and most of the resources were refocused toward development of infrastructure for human Moon and Mars missions. Budget estimates provided by NASA indicate that the microgravity life and physical science program is to be reduced by $3.8 billion from a total original budget of $5.5 billion for 2007 to 2011 (i.e., 28   National Research Council, Assessment of Directions in Microgravity and Physical Sciences Research at NASA, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003. 29   National Research Council, Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs a 69 percent reduction). Annual budgets for all microgravity research over the period FY 2007-2011 range from $275 million to $312 million per year, compared to an FY 2005 level of $910 million. The majority of the funds, $170 million per year, will be allocated to the Human Health and Performance (HHP) program, and only about $30 million per year will be allocated for fundamental biological and physical research. At the present time, the remaining funds for microgravity research on the ISS appear to be in a state of flux. Congress has directed that NASA use 15 percent of its ISS research budget for “ground-based, free-flyer, and ISS life and microgravity science research that is not directly related to supporting the human exploration program,” but how funding will be determined and allocated is uncertain. NASA has been given an overriding mandate for an enormously complex mission—long-term human spaceflight through deep space to Mars. Therefore, requirements-driven or strategic research that will enable the success of that mission becomes crucial. However, not carrying out fundamental research that is necessary to overcome critical obstacles to the completion of the mission would be equally improper. It is not clear that it will be possible for astronauts to survive long-term missions in deep space due to the lethal effects of high-energy radiation and the serious debilitating effects of the microgravity environment on human physiology. It is also unlikely that these problems will be fully understood or that effective countermeasures will be developed unless fundamental, problem-focused research is supported in these areas. Much of this research will need to be carried out in ground-based studies and model systems, given the need to generate large enough samples and experimental variables to produce statistically significant and scientifically meaningful results. A few limited studies with astronauts in the ISS using existing drugs and technologies are unlikely to solve these problems. As a result of the budget cuts, much of the research community that was recruited and nurtured over the past decades now finds itself facing award terminations or uncertainty about the potential future of microgravity research.30 Many of the leading scientists in the field have redirected their research into other areas where future research support is more stable. This is particularly true for university researchers, given that it takes 4 to 5 years for a faculty member’s students to complete doctoral research. ESMD representatives explained to the committee that the program can be revitalized later in the decade when the financial pressures of completing the ISS and the CEV become less intense. However, the committee notes that an entirely new generation of investigators will have to be recruited into the field at that time because the current researchers will have gone to other fields and will not return to a field with uncertain funding or a demonstrated lack of long-term commitment to its members and trainees. Given that the current research community is the product of some three decades of development and nurturing, the committee has concerns about how long it will take to regenerate a viable new research community and whether any investigators can be found to mentor the new researchers that NASA will need to recruit. One way to mitigate the demise of the microgravity research community is to maintain a credible ground-based program that can involve many more investigators at a lower cost than would be incurred with only a small number of flight programs. In fact, this continuing ground-based program would provide a much stronger basis for selecting only those programs that offer the promise of the greatest gain from a flight experiment should future funds and facilities for microgravity experiments become available. The current HHP program focuses on development and testing of existing technologies to meet NASA’s long-term needs. Given that the biological effects of radiation or of microgravity conditions that will be experienced by astronauts on their journey through space to Mars, or when they are living for extended periods on the Moon, are not currently well understood, no existing treatments have been developed and tested for these conditions. There is a small possibility that some interventions that have been developed for other purposes may provide some countermeasure function. However, the biological mechanisms underlying the body’s responses to the stresses of high-energy radiation and microgravity are 30   According to NASA representatives, 64 life sciences grants were canceled in 2005, impacting a total of 140 scientists, 45 post-doctoral trainees, and 70 graduate students. In the physical sciences, 176 physical sciences grants were canceled in 2005 impacting a total of 190 scientists, 125 post-doctoral trainees, and 154 graduate students.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs not well enough understood to enable development of a rational approach to selecting these agents for testing. Even if this were possible, replication of relevant conditions (e.g., radiation effects) on the ISS is not, and the number of astronauts is too small to develop appropriate controlled studies with large enough sample sizes to produce statistically significant results. Thus, the most reasonable approach would be to fund the critical ground-based research necessary to develop appropriate models and understand fundamental biological mechanisms leading to the effects of radiation and microgravity on humans. Analysis of the NASA FY 2007 budget suggests that funds will not be provided for the physical and biological research necessary to identify and define problems that are critical to human survival and function in long-term spaceflight or to develop new technologies and countermeasures to overcome these challenges. It is also not clear that NASA is effectively linking its ongoing applied research program on development of microgravity countermeasures for humans to fundamental life science research activities that are likely critical for its future success. Based on what is known about the effects of high-energy radiation and microgravity on human physiology over the long term, entirely new scientific breakthroughs likely will be needed to make it possible for humans to travel to Mars and return alive. This type of breakthrough will require fundamental life science research that combines ground-based and flight experiments, and rigorous clinical trials and analysis. Given the likely limitations of the ISS, including lack of funding for microgravity life and physical sciences research, the small number of astronauts who will be living in this environment, and the small percentage of their time available for biology-based research activities, even if the ISS research areas noted above can be supported, the committee reiterates the conclusions of prior NRC studies that a robust ground-based program is critical to help solve problems that are relevant to NASA’s planned human spaceflight. Studies necessary to identify the critical problems, to develop new and more effective countermeasures, and to subject them to clinical trials will still need a strong ground-based program, especially given statistical limitations related to the small sample sizes from studies done on the ISS. The effects of radiation on human health constitute one area that cannot be resolved by studies conducted on the ISS because the ISS is in relatively low Earth orbit. Therefore, continued research on ground-based radiation effects and preparation for research on the Moon will be necessary to make long-term human spaceflight to Mars a possibility in the future. If significant support is not restored for the more fundamental life and biomedical sciences research necessary to understand the biological mechanisms responsible for the deleterious effects of spaceflight on human physiology (most notably, effects of radiation, microgravity, bone and muscle loss, and behavioral adaptation), then it is highly likely that: The risks of eventually sending humans to Mars will be enormously increased; There will be significant difficulty in maintaining long-term human installations on the Moon; and An entire generation of space biologists will be lost, thus profoundly impacting the human space exploration program. In terms of space-based research, the committee generally concurs with the findings and recommendations of the recent NRC review of plans for research on the ISS,31 including the following areas where there are particular needs: Involvement of a broad base of experts and a rigorous and transparent prioritization process to develop and maintain a set of research experiments to be conducted aboard the ISS that would enable the full suite of exploration missions; 31   National Research Council, Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.

OCR for page 11
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs Scheduled periodic reviews of the ISS utilization plan with a broad group of stakeholders (internal and external, scientific and operations) to ensure that the plan remains appropriate and that it promotes an integrated approach to attaining the ultimate program goals; Long-duration experiments designed and conducted on the ISS to characterize temporal muscle atrophy and bone loss in the spacecraft environment; Evaluation of restoration of the animal habitat and glove box for muscle and bone studies, and of the utility of the animal centrifuge as a unique fractional gravity research tool and a potential countermeasure in the context of a martian outpost scenario; Critical analysis of both disaggregated and aggregated data (such as the data in the Longitudinal Study of Astronaut Health and the Life Sciences Data Archive32) to derive confidence bands for medical risks; Development of ground-based programs focused on understanding the effects of high-energy radiation (similar to that present in deep space) on whole-animal physiology and survival, as well as development of countermeasures or shielding protocols for protection of astronauts against these lethal effects; Additional hypothesis-driven, long-duration research on the ISS to refine confidence bands such that a reasonable statistical likelihood exists that the crew members’ adaptation during a long-duration mission will fall within a clinically acceptable range; Research into predictors of individual response on the ISS or during extended-duration spaceflight to allow individual tailoring of countermeasures; Use of previous recommendations (e.g., those of the Institute of Medicine bioastronautics roadmap committee33) to sequence additional needed experiments and to address in a timely fashion those critical issues that could be important for the design of architectures for future missions; Research or testing necessary to ensure fire safety at the design level and to mitigate the risks associated with fire safety for exploration missions; and Studies relevant to multiphase flow and heat transfer systems operating in microgravity environments, e.g., the motion of films and fluid particles at interfaces. The one area where the ISS is absolutely critical is in providing a laboratory where the effects of fractional gravity can be studied in animals, and eventually in humans. As suggested in past NRC reports, it is therefore critical that equipment that can create fractional gravity environments (e.g., a centrifuge) be reinstated in NASA’s plan and budget for future missions. 32   Institute of Medicine, Safe Passage: Astronaut Care for Exploration Missions, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001, p. 3. 33   Institute of Medicine, A Risk Reduction Strategy for Human Exploration of Space: A Review of NASA’s Bioastronautics Roadmap, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.