initiatives of national significance. For this report, the committee’s statement of task did not encompass issues of balance and priorities among multiagency initiatives. Instead this report focuses exclusively on an analysis of the match between goals and proposed activity within NASA’s own programs, and balance across disciplines within these programs, in support of the Vision as well as to meet broader national scientific objectives.
Congress, in the report accompanying the FY 2005 appropriations bill for NASA, expressed support for a broad view of science as part of its vision for NASA. It called for “a strategy by which all of NASA’s science disciplines, including Earth science, space science, and life and microgravity science, as well as the science conducted aboard the International Space Station, can make adequate progress towards their established goals, as well as providing balanced scientific research in addition to support of the new initiative.”6 Finally, in the NASA Authorization Act of 2005,7 Congress gave NASA program responsibilities as follows:
The Administrator shall ensure that NASA carries out a balanced set of programs that shall include, at a minimum, programs in—
human space flight, in accordance with subsection (b);
aeronautics research and development; and
scientific research, which shall include, at a minimum—
robotic missions to study the Moon and other planets and their moons, and to deepen understanding of astronomy, astrophysics, and other areas of science that can be productively studied from space;
earth science research and research on the Sun-Earth connection through the development and operation of research satellites and other means;
support of university research in space science, earth science, and microgravity science; and
research on microgravity, including research that is not directly related to human exploration.
Thus, a broad program of scientific studies continues to be an integral element of NASA’s charter, but a challenge remains to accomplish a balanced scientific program within a broader, balanced portfolio of commitments that also must include human spaceflight and aeronautical research. In presenting NASA’s proposed program and budget for FY 2007 to the House Science Committee on February 16, 2006, Administrator Griffin said, “The plain fact is that NASA simply cannot afford to do everything that our many constituencies would like the agency to do. We must set priorities, and we must adjust our spending to match those priorities. NASA needed to take budgeted funds from the Science and Exploration budget projections for FY 2007-11 in order to ensure that enough funds were available to the Space Shuttle and the ISS. Thus, NASA can not afford the costs of starting some new space science missions.”
With respect to research in the microgravity sciences Griffin noted, “While NASA needed to significantly curtail projected funding for biological and physical sciences research on the [ISS] as well as various research and technology projects in order to fund development for the CEV [Crew Exploration Vehicle], the U.S. segment of the [ISS] was designated a National Laboratory in the NASA Authorization Act…. However, the research utilization of the ISS is limited primarily due to limited cargo and crew transportation.”
Griffin stated clearly that the agency’s decisions about support for science did not reflect an intention to move away from science as a core NASA mission, but he explained that the issue was about balancing priorities. He said, “My decision to curtail the rate of growth for NASA’s Science missions is not intended in any way to demonstrate a lack of respect for the work done by the NASA science team.