FIGURE 5.3 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenge attracted 15 teams from all over the country to develop an autonomous robotic vehicle. Many of the teams had never worked on a Department of Defense project before and raised their own money to participate. SOURCE: Courtesy of DARPA.


Most scientific research in the disciplines relevant to space exploration technologies and systems, including astronomy and astrophysics, planetary (and lunar) science, solar and space physics, Earth sciences, life and biomedical sciences, and microgravity physical sciences, is carried out in university laboratories. Other institutions—NASA and other federal laboratories, not-for-profit organizations, and industry laboratories—certainly play significant roles, but the universities are the predominant performers in the United States.4 The scientific activities involve all phases of the research process, including advanced technology development, definition of mission concepts and long-term planning, flight instrument development, flight mission science operations, and data analysis and interpretation. Based on NASA’s current plans to support human exploration of space and at the same time continue a broad and balanced program of scientific research, the committee expects that U.S. universities will


An important example of a critical scientific role played by scientists at NASA centers is the role of the project scientist. Ever since NASA’s inception, project scientists have served as on-site representatives of the teams of scientists who participate in NASA science missions and who work on a day-to-day basis with project managers and engineers to assist in weighing trade-offs between often-competing technical, budgetary, and scientific demands or constraints of a mission. The in-house NASA scientists provide the expertise to help project managers make effective decisions about such trade-offs in a fashion that is quite similar to the way experienced project managers and engineers help make “smart buyer” decisions.

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