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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 6.4 NASA’s Space Science Programs: Review of Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request and Issues STATEMENTS BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPACE AND AERONAUTICS May 2, 2007 Statement of Lennard A. Fisk NRC Space Studies Board Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here to testify today. My name is Lennard Fisk and I am the Thomas M. Donahue Distinguished University Professor of Space Science at the University of Michigan. I also served from 1987 to 1993 as the NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications. I appear here today in my capacity as the Chair of the National Research Council (NRC) Space Studies Board. The views I share with you today, however, are my own and not necessarily those of the NRC. You have asked me to testify on the top three goals for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD); the top three programmatic risks facing SMD; the top three strategic investments that should be made in SMD; and also to comment on the balance among the various science themes within SMD. The first three items are of course interrelated. The goals in part should be to eliminate the major risks, and identify the strategic investments needed to do so. I will thus answer these three questions as an interrelated set. I will then comment on the balance among NASA’s space science disciplines. Before considering the questions, I would like to comment on the recent history of SMD, since this context determines the goals, the risks, and the investments required. Throughout much of the history of the space program, space and Earth science in NASA was considered to be a fixed fraction of the NASA budget. In the mid-1990s, however, that rule was discarded, and the budget for space and Earth science was allowed to grow at the same rate as non-defense discretionary spending. Human space flight was not permitted this growth, and so the budget for space and Earth science became an increasingly larger fraction of the overall NASA budget. Whether deliberate or accidental, the result was that science in NASA was considered to be part of the Nation’s investments in science, not simply as a fixed part of the investments in space. This rapid growth in science, however, was not uniform. The traditional space science disciplines—astrophysics, planetary sciences, and heliophysics—did very well. However, even in these times of growth in science funding, Earth science was kept at a constant budget, and then in FY2000 it began a steep decline in funding. With the advent of the Vision for Exploration in FY2005, to extend human presence first to the Moon and then beyond, dramatic changes have occurred in the funding for SMD. Initially, the overall funding for space and Earth science, taken together, was projected to do well. Some disciplines, favored in the Vision, did very well, in some cases at the expense of other disciplines; but summed together, the funding for space and Earth science continued to increase. However, it became increasingly obvious that NASA was not being provided with the funds required to execute the Vision; return the Shuttle to flight, and complete and use the International Space Station; maintain a healthy science program; and support its other missions such as aeronautics research. And so the squeeze was on. One by one, the funding for the various missions that NASA is responsible for have been reduced to a sub-optimum and, in some cases, critically inadequate funding level. In the case of the funding for SMD, some $3 billion was removed from the run-out budget primarily to pay for the cost of the return to flight of the Shuttle and the completion of the International Space Station. There is no way to remove that much money from a budget without causing disruptions in ongoing programs and distortions in the balance among programs. Ongoing major flight programs, well into development, have priority; new flight programs—the future of the program—are seriously delayed or in effect cancelled. Small flight missions and basic research support—for technology development, the training of students, theory, data analysis, and new mission planning—all become vulnerable when there is a sudden and unanticipated change in the expected growth in funding. To understand the inadequacies in the SMD budget, we need to consider how science is conducted. Science is about making discoveries—they can be profound discoveries that alter the concepts we hold of our place in the cosmos, or they can be minor discoveries that reveal some new aspect of a previously studied process. Discoveries
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 lead to insight, insight to knowledge, and in some cases knowledge yields immediate applications that benefit society. Knowledge almost always benefits society in the long run. A measure, then, of the health of a science discipline is the pace at which discoveries are being made. Similarly, the prospects for the future of a science discipline can be measured by whether there are any factors that limit the pace of discovery. Space and Earth science is primarily an observational science. Our discoveries thus come from observations. In each of the disciplines in space and Earth science there are, in fact, extraordinary opportunities to make discoveries. Technology is advancing to where more detailed and revealing observations can be made. And our understanding of prior observations has improved to where we can search intelligently for new knowledge. Given that abundant discoveries await us, if we are only bold enough to make the observations, the primary determinant of a bright future for space and Earth science is the rate at which we make new observations; that is, the rate of new space missions. And here the trends are very disturbing. For each of the disciplines in SMD there is a sobering downward trend in missions and thus opportunities for discovery. In the mid-1990s there was an average of 7 launches per year for missions in space and Earth science. In the last few years, the rate is more like 5 per year. In 2010-2012, the rate is projected to be under 2 per year. There are some disciplines for which the downward trend in opportunities for discovery is clearly unacceptable. In Earth science, society is demanding to know the consequences of global climate change in order to plan our future. In the other disciplines of space science, it is a grating waste of the nation’s capabilities to reduce our pace of discovery. We have painstakingly built the infrastructure to make the nation foremost in the scientific exploration of space. To allow it to atrophy borders on neglect. There is another consequence of the inadequacies of the SMD budget, and that is the vitality of our disciplines. The issue for space and Earth science is how do we ensure the infusion of new and better observing techniques, new minds, new ideas that challenge the established concepts? It is in fact very difficult to ensure the infusion of revolutionary technologies and concepts in budgets that are not growing. Rather, there needs to be new investments. There is a need to maintain or, better yet, optimize the pace of discovery. There is a need to maintain the quality and vibrancy of the NASA science program through the introduction of revolutionary technologies and concepts. Both requirements demand a budget for space and Earth science that is growing. I remind you that the projected budget for space and Earth science in NASA grows at only 1% per year, which is a declining budget when inflation is included. There needs instead to be real growth. Strategic Goals, Risks, and Investments for the Science Mission Directorate The first strategic goal of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) might well be stated—get back the money that was lost. A more constructive way to make this statement would be to note how inadequately NASA as an agency is currently funded. The agency is being asked to do too much with too little, and as a result all components of the agency, including science, are sub-optimally funded. We all need to recognize that without major relief to the total funding for NASA this nation does not have a viable space program capable of meeting the broad national needs that have been assigned to it. And we should all make it a strategic goal to provide NASA with the funding that is required. The risk to SMD from inadequate funding is that it cannot perform its assigned tasks. The charge to the space and Earth science program in NASA is to explore the universe and lay down the foundational knowledge for the human expansion into space. It is to determine the future of the Earth, so sound policy decisions can be made to protect the future of our civilization. It is to contribute to the capability of the United States to compete in the world, whether it is through new knowledge, new technology, or a new workforce. The funding for space and Earth science in NASA, particularly the growth in funding in the years ahead is inadequate to perform this job, and failure to address this problem is a fundamental risk to the success of SMD in being able to fulfill its obligations to the scientific excellence of the nation. The investment required in SMD is the same investment that the nation is prepared to make in the American Competitiveness Initiative. ACI has resulted in increases in funding for programs in fundamental science in, e.g., the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science in the Department of Energy. These programs were among only a few that saw increases beyond their FY2006 budget level in the enacted FY2007 budget. It is difficult, in fact, impossible, to distinguish between the fundamental science conducted by NASA in SMD and the fundamental science conducted by the NSF or the DoE Office of Science. It is interesting to note that had the funding for SMD
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 been allowed to increase in the same proportion as the NSF it would have followed the pattern of growth it had enjoyed in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, and would have provided funding that was better able to support the needs of the space and Earth science program. The second strategic goal is for SMD to make more cost-effective use of the funds that have been provided to it. There is a disturbing upward trend in the cost of flight missions. The problem seems to be most egregious in the case of moderate and small flight missions. We seem unable to execute a mission of comparable complexity today for anywhere near the cost that was required in the previous decade. The cost of launch vehicles has increased. The cost of management oversight is increasing. We take actions that are perceived to reduce risk, but may not be cost effective. Whatever the reason, it should be a strategic goal to get the maximum science for the minimum funding, and, in my judgment, the most likely place to realize cost savings is in the execution of moderate and small flight missions. There is a risk to SMD should it fail to improve the cost-effectiveness with which it executes moderate and small flight missions. Under any circumstance, funding will be limited. We need to get the maximum science for the minimum available funding, if for no other reason than to introduce flexibility into the SMD budget to fund new missions and needed investments. Investments are required to achieve the strategic goal of improving the cost-effectiveness of small and moderate missions. Investments may be required in new launch vehicles so that the cost of access to space is reduced, particularly with the planned retirement of the Delta-II launch vehicle. Investments will be required in innovative management procedures and new technologies. There needs to be a concerted effort made to make full use of the best of the nation’s vast infrastructure to conduct cost-effective space missions. We have great talent in this country for space hardware. We need to ensure that we are using this talent properly; that our processes ensure good engineering solutions and not simply someone’s perceived reduction in risk. If new funds for SMD can be provided, if missions can be executed more cost-effectively, or preferably both, the third strategic goal should be to use the funds realized to rebalance the program. When the funding in the out-years for SMD was reduced, the large flight programs under development were protected. It is the future that has been sacrificed. Missions still in technology development were halted. The pipeline that is essential to the development of technology and human capital—the Research and Analysis programs, sounding rockets, small flight missions—have been seriously disrupted. The portfolio of activities in SMD needs to be rebalanced so that we complete what we have begun, while at the same time we recognize that the scientific exploration and utilization of space is a long-term effort that will extend into the indefinite future. The investments that we make now, in people, in technology, in balloons and sounding rockets, in small flight missions, in the planning for future flight missions, will determine the vibrancy and the success of the scientific exploration and utilization of space in the decades ahead. The risk of failing to meet the strategic goal of rebalancing the SMD program is, in my judgment, the most serious risk. The pipeline of human capital and technology has been disrupted, and the future of the space and Earth science program is at risk. Consider a case in point. Almost every experimental space scientist currently practicing learned his/her trade in the sounding rocket or balloon programs. Yet with recent budget cuts, these programs are unable to perform this task. Small flight missions are the next step in the natural evolution of experimental capabilities, whether it is the development of new technology or the development of experienced scientists and engineers. And yet with recent budget cuts, the flight rate of small missions has been diminished compared to its previous rate. It follows, then, given the importance of rebalancing the SMD program to protect the future of space and Earth science, that an investment that ensures a proper pipeline in human capital and technology will have the highest return. Research and analysis funding, sounding rockets and balloons, and small flight missions all need to be restored to their proper place in the SMD program. The Balance Among the Science Disciplines in the Science Mission Directorate Each of the science disciplines in SMD—astrophysics, planetary sciences, heliophysics, and Earth science— has important tasks to perform, ranging from providing fundamental knowledge of the universe, to, in the case of Earth science, providing knowledge that is a direct and immediate benefit to society. Each of the disciplines has need of more funding, more cost-effective use of its funding, a rebalanced program, and the investments required to achieve these goals, as we discussed above. In the case of Earth science, however, no amount of efficiencies, no internal rebalance within the discipline, no modest investment will provide the resources necessary. There is not adequate funding for Earth science in NASA
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 to accomplish the mission that it has been assigned—to use the global vantage point of space to provide information on the immediate future of Earth, on which we can base sound policy decisions to protect our future. This deficiency is the result of a downward trend in the funding for Earth science that has persisted for a decade, and which has been in serious decline since FY2000. The recent NRC decadal survey for Earth science outlined the measurements and flight missions that NASA needs to accomplish, to provide society with the knowledge that is required. And the survey pointed out that these measurements can be made only if the Earth science budget, over the next several years, is increased back to at least the level of funding that was available in FY2000, an approximately $500 million increase over the current budget. This is not a rebalancing question, in the sense that Earth science should grow at the expense of other science disciplines. Nor should it grow at the expense of other programs within NASA. All of NASA’s programs are currently inadequately funded. And all have a role to play in the national priorities. Rather, it is time for a new initiative, a specific directed task to NASA, with requisite funding provided, to pursue a vigorous Earth science program, in which the required measurements on the future of Earth are all made. We need to consider NASA as an agency with many important tasks to perform. It is not just the agency that is to return us to the Moon, and all else is a secondary priority. Space is integral to the fabric of our society. We depend on it in our daily lives; we protect our nation through our space assets; we use space to learn about our future; we enrich our society with knowledge of our place in the cosmos; we are moving our civilization into space; we expect the next generation of scientists and engineers to be versatile in the utilization and exploration of space. NASA has an essential role to play in each and every one of these national pursuits, and its role in each pursuit needs to be properly funded. Thank you very much. May 2, 2007 Statement of Daniel N. Baker Director, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics Professor, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department University of Colorado at Boulder Introduction Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority member, and members of the committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity today to address key issues that face the NASA science enterprise. I want specifically to address the impacts of the proposed FY2008 budget on the NASA Heliophysics program. My name is Daniel Baker and I am a professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences at the University of Colorado. I am also the Director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU-Boulder. The Laboratory is a research institute that has over 60 teaching and research faculty in the several disciplines of space and Earth sciences. My institute, which we call LASP for short, receives some $50-$60 million per year to support experimental, theoretical, and data analysis programs in the Space and Earth Sciences. The vast majority of these resources come from NASA. Other strong support comes from NSF, NOAA, and other federal agencies. LASP presently supports some 120 engineers, dozens of highly skilled technicians, and over 20 key support personnel. We are very proud, as well, that LASP has over 60 graduate students and another 60 undergraduate students who are pursuing education and training goals in space science and engineering. I myself am a space plasma physicist and I have served as a principal investigator on several scientific programs of NASA. I am now a lead investigator in the upcoming Radiation Belt Storm Probe (RBSP) mission that is part of NASA’s Living With a Star program. I am also an investigator on NASA’s Cluster, Polar, MESSENGER, and Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) missions. Presently, I serve as Chair of the National Research Council’s Committee on Solar and Space Physics. By virtue of that position, I also am a member of the Space Studies Board, chaired by my colleague, Dr. Len Fisk. The views I am presenting here are my own, however. First, and foremost, I would like to begin by commending the American people, and you as their representatives, for the significant investment made in NASA science. The scientific community is well aware of how difficult it has become to find funding for the many worthy programs that you must consider. We sincerely appreciate continued support from Congress and from the American public. It is a major and lasting achievement of our nation that it finds
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 the means and the will to look beyond the pressure of present-day concerns, to focus on questions about humanity’s place in the universe, our relationship to our Sun and the nearby planets, how the Earth and its environment have functioned in the past, and how they may change in the future. I believe—as do you, I suspect—that the United States has benefited greatly from investment in space research. Not only is the technological base of our country strengthened by NASA innovations, but our prestige and competitiveness in the world and our educational investment in the future technical workforce are greatly enhanced by NASA science leadership. Overview of FY2008 Budget Impacts to the Heliophysics Program The National Research Council’s (NRC’s) 2003 solar and space physics (SSP) decadal survey, The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics, laid out a clear, prudent, and effective program of basic and applied research. The envisioned program would address key science objectives such as: understanding magnetic reconnection—the physical process underlying much of space physics; discovering the mechanisms that drive the Sun’s activity and produce energetic particle storms in the heliosphere; determining the physical interactions of the Earth’s ionosphere with the atmosphere and magnetosphere; as well as addressing a host of other questions that are essential to understanding our local space environment. The Decadal Plan would also have allowed an end-to-end view of the connected Sun-Earth system through NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program, thereby enhancing greatly the ability to provide realistic specification and forecasts of space weather. Through both its basic research component and its applied component, the Heliophysics Program would therefore contribute substantially and directly to national needs and to the Vision for Space Exploration. At present, the Heliophysics Division (HPD) of NASA has a number of exciting projects that have been launched or are ready for launch. The dual-spacecraft STEREO mission is being commissioned and is returning amazing new 3-dimensional views of the Heliosphere. Detailed images of the Sun are also being provided by the newly-launched Hi-node mission, a joint Japan-U.S. venture. The five-spacecraft THEMIS mission was successfully launched in February 2007 and is already providing remarkable multi-point measurements in Earth’s magnetosphere. Because of our large role in the program, we at LASP are very excited about the successful launch just last week of the upper atmospheric AIM spacecraft as part of the Explorer program. The first LWS mission, Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), is well into development preparing for launch in 2008. Thus, the HPD program has several highly capable new space assets that are joining the Heliophysics Great Observatory constellation of operating spacecraft. Beyond this good news, however, there are significant concerns. Beginning with the FY2005 NASA budget plan, and continuing through the FY2008 budget and its 5-year run-out, the future Heliophysics program has been significantly compromised. The Solar-Terrestrial Probes (STP) line of missions has had over half of its budget content removed, resulting in at least a 6-year gap in STP launches. Within the current NASA budget horizon extending to 2015, the STP line is now down to a single mission launch, the Magnetospheric Multi-Scale (MMS) mission. The venerable and highly successful Explorer mission line (managed by HPD for all of NASA) has had over $1 billion of budget authority removed in the run-out from FY2005 onward. As shown in the figure below, the Explorer budgets in the FY2008 and its run-out are about half of what they would have been expected to be based on the FY2004 budget and its run-out. As Principal Investigator (PI)-led missions with a rapid development time, Explorers have proven invaluable for investigating the broad range of Heliophysics science. The drastic funding reduction in this line has greatly reduced HPD’s ability to respond effectively to new science/technology advances. The sounding rocket program (and, indeed, the entire suborbital program) is at a dangerously low, bare-bones resource level. The research and analysis (R&A) program was deeply cut last year and no funding restorations seem likely at present. The impact of these cuts will be felt for many years since R&A, Explorers, and Suborbital programs are key elements in capitalizing on the investments that have already been made and for attracting and training the next generation of space scientists and engineers. Moreover, the high priority “Flagship” mission for Heliophysics, the Solar Probe Mission, is not presently contained in NASA’s plan. The other major component of the Heliophysics program is Living with a Star (LWS). The funding profile for LWS as defined by the FY2005 and FY2006 budgets allowed for a robust program. In the FY2008 budget plans, however, LWS funding is stretched out so that simultaneity between missions such as Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) and Ionosphere-Thermosphere Storm Probes is lost. Alarmingly, and rather inexplicably, the previously-budgeted funding for the RBSP Missions of Opportunity is eliminated from the FY2008 plan. Such reductions to LWS are threatening the success of the immediate program as well as the timely implementation of missions such
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 as Sentinels, which are necessary to fulfill the President’s 2004 Vision for Space Exploration. These reductions are impeding progress in understanding the origins of the severe space weather events that have the potential to disrupt civil and military satellite communications, applications that rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS), and power generation and transmission systems. Given the large investments that NASA will make to fulfill the Vision for Space Exploration and the investments that the nation, as a whole, is increasingly making in space-based technology, it seems ill-considered to decrease support for LWS, the NASA program that is most closely directed toward protecting those investments. To be sure, some of the fiscal problems in Heliophysics and elsewhere are related to mission cost growth. Much of this problem, however, lies in non-technical issues that the science community and the Decadal Survey could not have anticipated, including substantial increases in launch vehicle costs, the effects of full-cost accounting, and mandates for additional layers of oversight and review. As noted above, the problems with the Heliophysics program started well before the FY2008 budget plan, but the trends have been perpetuated in the FY2008 budget and its 5-year run-out. Specific Questions Concerning Heliophysics I present here my detailed answers to the questions addressed to me by the Chairman in his letter of 11 April 2007: Perspective on the balance of the NASA Heliophysics program and its mix of program elements. Considerable anxiety is being caused in the science community due to the anticipated and extraordinary reductions in the smaller mission opportunities and sustaining research programs that form the support for much of the university-based research (in which students and early-career scientist are involved). Small missions, such as those in the Explorer and Earth System Science Pathfinders programs, provide projects in which new concepts are tested for a modest investment and where students first learn the space science and engineering trade. This particularly applies to sounding rockets, balloons, and aircraft flights that provide opportunities on a time scale that falls within the educational horizon of a graduate student. Since 2000, the historical sounding rocket launch rate has dropped more than half (from about 30 to 10 missions per year), with anticipated further reductions as a result of the FY2008 budget. The present run-out budget places even the regular launch facilities, such as those at Poker Flat in Alaska, in danger by 2008. Staff reductions may be necessary at the Wallops Island Flight Facility in a matter of months if additional funds are not forthcoming to the sounding rocket program. I am delighted that Dr. Alan Stern, the new Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Associate Administrator, is taking actions now to remedy the suborbital situation. The Explorer program is another prime example of the severe impacts in the Heliophysics program. Explorers are the original science missions of NASA, dating back to the very first U.S. satellite, Explorer I. They are universally recognized as the most successful science projects at NASA, providing insights into both the most remote parts of our universe and the detailed dynamics of our local space environment. The Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) now stands as our sentinel to measure, in situ, large mass ejections from the Sun and the energetic particles that are a danger to humans in space. Two relatively recent Explorers, TRACE and RHESSI, study the dynamics of the solar corona where large solar storms originate, storms that often threaten satellites and other technological assets on which we depend. The recently launched THEMIS constellation and the AIM mission were both done under the Explorer program aegis. Explorers are among the most competitive solicitations in NASA science, and offer opportunities for all researchers to propose new and exciting ideas that are selected on the basis of science content, relation to overall NASA strategic goals, and feasibility of execution. As noted in the figure above, the FY2008 proposed run-out for Explorers will mean a program that is reduced by over half from its proposed FY2004 guidelines. I am again encouraged by the fact that a new Announcement of Opportunity for Small Explorers will be released, thanks to Dr. Stern, by October 2007. A specific continuing concern to university-based scientists is the impact on the sustaining Research and Analysis (R&A) budgets. The R&A program initiates many of the new, small scientific efforts that eventually lead to the major missions that NASA pursues. R&A grants are highly competitive, maximize the science investment of on-going missions by allowing all scientists to use available data, and are heavily geared toward student and young faculty participation. These are moderate-duration efforts, usually lasting three to four years, where new hardware and theoretical approaches are explored. NASA was forced last year by budget realties to propose an across-the-board reduction of 15% in these programs. This may not appear catastrophic at first sight, but a sudden reduction in
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 such a long-term program can have huge effects. If the budget were allowed to grow once again, the R&A program would slowly recover over the next few years. However, with the present budget prospects, there is skepticism about such future restoration. There is widespread recognition that these realities will inevitably reduce the number of new students who enter university programs such as mine. Does the Heliophysics program reflect the priorities of the NRC Decadal Survey in solar and space physics? Whereas NASA is attempting to implement some of the highest priority programs from the NRC’s 2003 Decadal Survey, the pace and balance of activities seems highly unlikely to achieve the Decadal goals. In 2004, an NRC committee was tasked to assess the role of solar and space physics in the Vision for Space Exploration—Solar and Space Physics and Its Role in Space Exploration. This committee stated that: NASA’s Heliophysics program depends upon a balanced portfolio of spaceflight missions and of supporting programs and infrastructure. There are two strategic mission lines—Living With a Star (LWS) and Solar-Terrestrial Probes (STP)—and a coordinated set of supporting programs. LWS missions focus on observing the solar activity, from short-term dynamics to long-term evolution, that can affect the Earth, as well as astronauts working and living in a near-Earth space environment. Solar-Terrestrial Probes are focused on exploring the fundamental physical processes of plasma interactions in the solar system. Solar and Space Physics and Its Role in Exploration examined the 2003 Decadal Survey and made the following three recommendations: To achieve the goals of the exploration vision there must be a robust program, including both the LWS and the STP mission lines, that studies the heliospheric system as a whole and that incorporates a balance of applied and basic science. The programs that underpin the LWS and STP mission lines—MO&DA [Mission Operations and Data Analysis], Explorers, the suborbital program, and SR&T [Supporting Research and Technology]—should continue at a pace and level that will ensure that they can fill their vital roles in Heliophysics research. The near-term priority and sequence of solar, heliospheric, and geospace missions should be maintained as recommended in the Decadal Survey report both for scientific reasons and for the purposes of the exploration vision. These recommendations remain valid today and the mission priorities within the basic (STP) and applied (LWS) science mission lines as listed in the original Decadal Survey are basically reflected in the Heliophysics budgets for these two mission lines. Where NASA has deviated from the Decadal Survey is in putting greater weight on Living With a Star missions and losing the balance between applied and basic science. Such a priority of emphasizing short-term capability of predicting space weather over the long-term goal of understanding the underlying physical principles may have some practical expedience. A more critical issue, however, is the fact that small missions and supporting research have not kept pace. If these budgets are allowed to decline greatly, Heliophysics will quickly cease to be a robust, viable discipline. It now appears that with mission cost growth and reduced Heliophysics funding, it is very unlikely that most Decadal Survey missions will be completed within the decadal window. The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond was the first Decadal Survey conducted by the solar and space physics community. The Decadal Survey involved hundreds of scientists in discussions that spanned nearly two years. The scientific priorities set out in the survey remain valid today and there is no community movement to change them. But Decadal Surveys are not just a list of science priorities. To design a coherent program across a decade it is essential to have a realistic budget profile as well as reasonably accurate estimates of both technical readiness and costs of each mission. The Decadal Survey committee worked hard with engineers and NASA management to develop realistic mission costs and a program architecture that fit within budget profiles anticipated in the FY 2003 budget. But changes to the budget profile beginning in FY 2005 necessitated a substantial stretching of the mission schedule. Furthermore, under-costing of just a few missions wreak havoc with even the best-laid plans. The scientific community needs to work with NASA to find ways to cost missions accurately, particularly large missions (for example, by applying lessons learned from management of smaller, PI-led missions as appropriate, and insisting upon greater accountability). What are the three top risks facing the Heliophysics program over the next 5 years? Heliophysics, like most of the NASA science enterprise, is significantly affected by some very basic, systemic issues. These issues spread throughout all programs, projects, and missions. A continued forward propagation of
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 these problems ultimately represents a huge level of risk for the subdisciplines of the SMD and for the Agency as a whole: Prudent Management of Risk. Getting into space, working in space (either for humans or for machines), and returning appropriate data from space is an inherently “risky” business. Despite highly competent people exercising all sensible and prudent care, there can be failures of space missions. For those programs involving humans and human life, truly heroic measures must be employed and extraordinary efforts must be extended to assure that missions do not fail: In the human space flight realm, failure is not an option. In the robotic exploration realm, there are a wide range of mission sizes and costs. Very large, high-profile missions of great complexity, international prominence, and resource investment may have to be safeguarded by many levels of review and hardware redundancy. Such approaches tend to drive up program costs tremendously. However, for smaller missions, there is a proper level of redundancy, scrutiny, and oversight that matches the program scale. To do more than this “due diligence” drives costs for even small-end missions to extraordinary levels. Such fear of failure, or undue “risk aversion” is having very detrimental effects on Heliophysics missions. What we really need to focus on is the management of risk. Since the first Explorer, almost 50 years ago, NASA science projects have been extraordinarily successful. But over the years, the management procedures and quality assurance burden for robotic science projects has grown to an almost unsustainable level—commensurate with human spaceflight missions—without any quantifiable impact on improving the ultimate reliability of science missions (as far as many scientists can discern). In my view, the American people accept the idea that the space business is risky, especially during launch and re-entry. Given launch risks, it makes no sense to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on procedures that might improve the reliability of payloads far beyond, say, the 98 percent or 99 percent reliability level. There is considerable debate whether present reliability approaches are actually achieving more assurance than this. We have all learned that unnecessary risk in human spaceflight programs has tragic consequences and clearly more must be done to minimize that risk. It is equally true that not taking risks in leading-edge robotic science projects has undesirable results. Not only must science continue to push the technological envelope where failure is a risk that accompanies new ideas, but these projects provide opportunities for training staff and students in an environment where failure is not life-threatening, and where a student can gain hands-on experience in the real work of building state-of-the art instrumentation. Having gained this expertise, these students can go on to form the workforce of future operational robotic science missions and human spaceflight missions. Lack of affordable access to space. A major hallmark of the past science program of NASA has been the regular, frequent launches of a balanced portfolio of small, medium, and large missions to address key science questions and to test new enabling technologies. “Balance” in this context does not mean equal dollars in all mission categories, but rather it means appropriate investment in small-end missions targeted toward specific science questions and toward workforce development, as well as investments in major flagship programs. In my view, there should be heavy emphasis on smaller spacecraft and suborbital missions. (This idea has been endorsed by last year’s NRC report An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs). Unfortunately, the cost of launching missions into space has grown out of all proportion to the cost of small scientific satellites and payloads. This imbalance between payloads and launch costs is destroying the ability of the Heliophysics Division to develop and maintain its regular, frequent launches of Small Explorers, University-Class Explorers, and even Solar-Terrestrial Probe missions. The risks associated with increasing costs of access to space, in my view, are threatening to sink the entire carefully-laid plans for Heliophysics science. There are some disturbing recent signs in the access to space arena. One of the longest-serving launch vehicles for NASA missions, the Boeing Delta II vehicle, is being eliminated as an option for future science programs. Much of the NASA medium-lift needs for Earth-orbiting and planetary missions was carried out using the Delta II. Losing the “sweet spot” around which so many NASA launches were planned will, I fear, propagate in highly detrimental ways throughout the space science enterprise. I have also mentioned above the removal of funding for the RBSP Missions of Opportunity. It is hard to imagine a more cost-effective investment that NASA can make than to launch instruments on commercial or partner-nation spacecraft. For a relatively small NASA investment, the science enterprise gains access to a highly leveraged program and can often provide a complementary science capability that lends a robustness and insurance that could not be afforded any other way. I am very encouraged that Dr. Stern has voiced strong public support for MoOs.
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Erosion of trained workforce. A key to the success of NASA as a whole, and Heliophysics in particular, is the availability of hardware-educated scientists and “hands-on” trained engineers. Nearly all space projects require a great deal of technical competence, and a correspondingly competent workforce. There has been a steady erosion of that workforce, not only at NASA but across the entire country, and this fact has been decried from many quarters. The NRC report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” makes this case most emphatically. Other technical industries have been able to compensate somewhat by tapping the pool of highly-trained immigrants and foreign students, and they often outsource work abroad. But spacecraft are ITAR sensitive items, so this pool is not available to NASA or to its outside space-enterprise partners, even to universities, because of the constraints of the law. All the space programs at NASA, DOE, NOAA, and the DOD feel this shortage acutely. And the situation will probably just get worse unless something is done. NASA commissioned the NRC to study how the workforce necessary to carry out the Vision for Space Exploration can be maintained given the impending retirement of much technical talent. The report, released earlier this week, cites the need for more highly skilled program and project managers and systems engineers who have acquired substantial experience in space systems development, and identifies limited opportunities for junior specialists to obtain hands-on space project experience as one of the impediments to NASA’s ability to execute the Vision. The report recommends that NASA place a high priority on recruiting, training and retaining skilled program and project managers and systems engineers, and that it provide hands-on training and development opportunities for younger and junior personnel (Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, p. 7). It is clear that there is a shortage of engineers and scientists who have actually built space hardware, and know how that hardware can be integrated and function within larger, more complex systems. NASA science programs are a critical source of this needed native talent, whether they remain in NASA science programs or move out into the larger industrial base. Education at its very best is a process of discovery and of trial-and-error: the efficacy of learning-by-doing has been proven over many years. NASA needs to maintain its investment in space science programs that allow universities to attract and engage undergraduate and graduate students in all aspects of mission development and deployment—from proof of concept studies, to proposal submittal, to prototype development, to launch, data analysis, and publication. Whether these programs have short or long time horizons, there are ways to allow the next generation of space scientists to participate in all aspects of an exciting NASA mission. What would be the top three investments that could be made to benefit the Heliophysics program over the long-term? The Heliophysics Division would benefit substantially in the long-term from several immediate investments. These include not only dollars, but “intellectual capital” and renewed commitments to a properly balanced experimental, theoretical, and modeling program. Lower cost and frequent access to space. In my view, the single greatest impediment to a healthy and vigorous Heliophysics program is the uncertainty and cost of getting spacecraft and suborbital missions launched. Obviously, the Heliophysics Division cannot, and should not, pay for developing new launch vehicles. But HPD, NASA in general, the Congress, and other stakeholders should work together to make sure that every avenue for launching space hardware is made readily available to research teams. This should include less expensive domestic launch vehicles, “military” launchers (such as the Minotaur rocket), secondary launch capabilities on commercial and U.S. military vehicles, and unfettered access to non-U.S. launch vehicles. In the latter category are launches on European, Indian, Japanese, and other launch systems that can offer very attractive prices for access to space. A secondary launch on an Ariane 5 vehicle, for example, could be obtained for as little as $1 million or so. In this category of access to space, I would also place Missions of Opportunity (MoOs). Launching NASA instruments or payload suites on commercial or military vehicles, or onboard foreign spacecraft, can provide tremendous “bang for the buck.” I know from public statements by Dr. Stern that he recognizes the power and benefits of MoOs and I hope this avenue to space can be pursued aggressively. The MoO component should certainly be restored explicitly to the Radiation Belt Storm Probe program. Regular cadence and more frequent small-end missions. As pointed out above, the key to a healthy, robust Heliophysics program is to have more and better opportunities for Small Explorer (SMEX), University-Class
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 Explorer (UNEX), and suborbital missions. This emphasis is wholly consistent with the Decadal Survey recommendations and it fulfills a wide variety of programmatic, educational, and workforce training goals that I have alluded to above. The investment necessary to achieve the desired outcome in this arena could be readily accomplished (I believe) by restoring the Explorer mission line to the budgetary level that existed in the FY2004 budget plan (~$350 million per year). The combination of sound management approaches, reasonable launch costs, sensible numbers of reviews, and appropriate levels of risk tolerance would, I maintain, allow a very vigorous small-mission capability within Heliophysics for a very modest amount of new budgetary authority. Improve management of mission costs. As has been alluded to above, the Heliophysics missions—as with most of NASA programs—have increased in cost to well above the levels planned in the 2003 Decadal Survey. Much of this has been due to factors touched on earlier: access to space has become prohibitively expensive and “risk aversion” has increased mission development costs to extraordinary heights. I believe that Heliophysics should invest time and money now into developing an approach to mission management that uses prudent levels of reviews and much wiser risk mitigation strategies. Some years ago—perhaps a decade or so—“best practices” were developed for PI-led missions and I firmly believe those practices could and should still serve as the basis for managing essentially all Heliophysics instrument and spacecraft programs. A small investment now in improved management approaches both at NASA Headquarters and NASA Centers would pay tremendous future dividends. Summary Fortunately, smaller-end programs such as R&A, sounding rockets, and the Explorer mission line could be restored to the levels anticipated in the FY2004 budget by infusions of modest amounts of budget authority. For the larger Heliophysics programs (Solar-Terrestrial Probes and Flagship missions), comparatively higher levels of resources are required. Better management of programs and containment of cost growth is clearly necessary to stretch available dollars. However, absent a restoration of more balanced budgets to levels planned as recently as FY2004, it will not be possible to have a robust program that is capable of meeting high priority national needs. Thank you very much for your attention. May 2, 2007 Statement of Joseph A. Burns Irving P. Church Professor of Engineering and Astronomy Vice Provost for Physical Sciences and Engineering Cornell University Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: I appreciate having this opportunity to testify before you today. For most of my professional life, I have been an active planetary scientist and an unabashed enthusiast for space exploration. I chaired the 1994 National Research Council (NRC) strategy for solar system exploration, and more recently I was a member of the NRC’s 2003 decadal panel on planetary sciences. I also served as a panel member on the NRC’s 2001 decadal report for astronomy and astrophysics. We meet at a time when, once again, NASA’s planetary missions are returning truly remarkable results. For the last three years, the twin Mars Rovers have marched systematically across Mars’s arid surface, poking their instruments into assorted rocks. These measurements and observations by several superb orbiting spacecraft have revolutionized our perception of the Red Planet, revealing it to have previously been episodically much wetter and perhaps even hospitable to life. Cassini, the most recent planetary flagship mission, is orbiting Saturn, where its broad instrument suite has been surveying this ringed beauty for nearly three years, finding that a disparate pair of Saturnian satellites—Titan and Enceladus—are potentially habitable islands in this frigid world. Stardust’s capsule has returned samples of comet Wild-2’s dust back to Earth and this material has testified about the turbulent nature of the gas/dust cloud that gave birth to our local planetary system. New Horizons peeked at Jupiter as it streaked past on its voyage to Pluto. And just last week, a Swiss team spied the 229th extra-solar planet, and a most special one: the first known so far, but for Earth, to reside in its star’s habitable zone, where water—life’s requisite ingredient—remains fluid. The early 21st century is truly a time of extraordinary discovery in planetary and other
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 space sciences. The continuing generous and unwavering support of Congress and the American people has made these accomplishments possible. Starting with Sputnik’s launch fifty years ago this October, all Earth’s peoples—including you and I—have been privileged to participate as our planetary environs have been “explored, discovered and understood,” to invoke NASA’s mantra. Scientists believe that this exploration program addresses profound questions about our origins and that it provides unique insights into how our Earth functions as a planet. At the same time the public finds this investigation of Earth’s surroundings to be inspiring and meaningful. January’s issue of the popular magazine Discover listed its top-ranked one hundred findings across all scientific disciplines during 2006. Of these, fully one-seventh came from astronomy, with half concerning solar system objects or extrasolar planets. So what could be better? The reason why we aren’t all celebrating is, because, while America’s planetary exploration program is indeed doing well currently, its future is quite uncertain. I submit to you that an appropriate analogy might be that today’s planetary program is like a powerful ship that appears to be staunchly cruising along, making good progress as its crew explores and probes a rich, ever-surprising shoreline. But our vessel is sailing so smoothly nowadays principally because of yesterday’s investments. Without continued attention, the ship’s momentum will inexorably be drained away. In fact, today’s craft is running low on fuel, some of its machines are not being properly maintained and upgraded, improved replacement instruments are unavailable, and sadly the boat’s crew is aging. Surprisingly, this ship is from the nation that has always led in exploration of the cosmos. Maybe other nations instead will guide humankind’s search of the next shoreline, just as four centuries ago England replaced the Portuguese and the Spanish, partway through the exploration and subsequent development of the New World. Only if we are vigilant today will our ship’s journey be secure, with it resupplied, its instruments revitalized and its crew replaced. To carry our nautical analogy one step further, fortunately during these treacherous times NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has a new admiral—Alan Stern—and the Planetary Science Division has a new captain—Jim Green. These are excellent choices—enthusiastic, knowledgeable and creative scientists who happily are also experienced and successful managers. They will be energetic advocates for—and tireless workers toward—a productive, healthy and effective planetary program. I now respond to the topics that you have asked me to address. Please note that my ordering is a little different than yours and that many of these items are linked so that my answers to one may overlap with another topic. Mission Mix Here I will restrict my comments to a consideration of missions; these engineering marvels provide us the capability to “explore” as NASA’s slogan states. Technology development and research funding will be discussed in later sections. Planetary science’s 2003 decadal survey recommends a finely tuned mix of mission sizes, each with its own programmatic purpose, cost cap and launch rate. Discovery missions (e.g., Deep Impact that slammed into comet Tempel-1 on July 4, 2005) permit rapid response to discoveries across a range of topics; such missions should launch every eighteen months or so. New Frontiers spacecraft (e.g., the New Horizons mission en route to Pluto and beyond) allow thorough study of pressing scientific questions, with a selection every two or three years. Flagship missions (e.g., the Cassini spacecraft presently observing the Saturn system)—comprehensive investigations of extraordinary high-priority targets—should be flown at the rate of about one per decade. The separate Mars program has a comparable breakdown of mission classes into large, medium and small (Mars Scout) categories. How do the various missions and their mix fare in the FY08 budget and beyond? The pace of future Discovery missions seems about on track, after several years of delayed selections. The New Frontiers line has fallen to half the planned rate; the next selection should be made in the next year to get this program back on track. Once again, no new Flagships have been started. The Europa Geophysical Orbiter has been indefinitely deferred; it was THE Flagship mission recommended for this decade by the decadal study. In fact, at present, no planetary flagship mission is in development, an unprecedented situation that has not happened since the start of the American planetary program. Hence, in view of the necessary preparations and required budget, no major mission will be launched until 2017, and even that schedule will require a significant augmentation to the budget. I am somewhat encouraged that NASA has recently initiated $1M studies of four potential very capable missions to satellites of Jupiter and Saturn; three of these spacecraft would reconnoiter their targets for their suitability to sustain
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 life. Nonetheless it should be recognized that no funds are available in the foreseeable future to actually build and fly any Flagship, if one were to be selected. Mars flight missions have been reduced from a nominal two launches per opportunity to just one every two years. To accommodate this change, the number of medium-class missions to the Red Planet is lowered, and two Mars Scouts are eliminated. In terms of Flagships, during the FY 2006 budget-rebalancing exercise, Mars Sample Return, a crucial mission to understand the Martian mineralogy and to develop a Martian chronology, was delayed from “early in the next decade” until at least ~2024. The reining-in of the aspirations of the planetary program is a direct consequence of fewer dollars being available. The agency budget has not grown to accommodate the President’s exploration vision, and so NASA has covered its shortfall by draining $3 B from the science program, 97 percent of that coming from solar system exploration, especially Mars. Thus the planetary program has become a source of funds to support other demands for NASA’s needs. I am puzzled that NASA would chose to lessen robotic solar system studies, especially investigations of Mars, given the ultimate destination for the President’s vision. The NRC’s Space Studies Board has been steady in its belief that robotic exploration and human exploration are complementary ventures to understand and exploit Earth’s neighbors. At the time when the American solar system exploration program is slowing down, our international partners (and competitors) are expanding theirs. The European Space Agency has very capable spacecraft orbiting each of Earth’s planetary neighbors, as well as another well-instrumented craft on its way to land on a comet. And soon yet more European spacecraft will be exploring the Moon, where it will join scientific missions from Japan, China and India. Now, when other nations have improved capabilities, we should be pursuing increased interactions with them. However, ITAR regulations hamper international cooperation on existing and planned space missions. Much of the slowdown in America’s exploration of the solar system is not presently apparent because most of pain has been deferred to beyond 2011 … to the next administration. But planetary missions require extended advanced planning, especially if we are to collaborate with international partners. For example, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, on which I am a member, started planning in the early 1980s, selection of payload instruments and team members took place in 1990, launch in 1997, arrival in 2004. Scientific results were not returned until more than twenty years after the mission was initially devised. The reduced run-out budget for the planetary division, coupled with growth in the cost to mount each of these mission classes, means that the planetary survey’s plan is not attainable. New flight projects, especially for outer planet (see below) and Mars exploration, will not be started. The reduction in missions can be painlessly accommodated in the short term because the affected missions occur beyond 2011. However, if the workforce drifts away to other areas and if technology development lags, the loss to the U.S. planetary program will become increasingly irreversible. Analysts suggest that a minimum of at least $200 M more annually would be needed in the PSD budget in order to bring it in line with the strategic plans of the decadal survey. Research and Analysis Funds Now I will address the support for research and analysis (R&A) and technology development. The 2003 planetary survey recommended “an increase over the decade in the funding for fundamental research and analysis programs at a rate above inflation…[till it reaches] closer to 25 percent of the overall flight-mission budget.” Instead R&A funding has fallen one-quarter from its FY05 level. The budget that you are considering today recommends that this budget line continue to slip further behind the inflation rate, in clear contradiction to the decadal report. Yet it is only through these studies that the American populace “understands” the data being returned from Mars, Saturn and other scientific stations. This continuing decline in R&A funding is troubling for several reasons. Improved understanding and answers motivate our visits to other solar system bodies; to accomplish these goals requires follow-up studies. When funds for supporting research are tight, scientists who are early in their careers are most affected. I know several young scientists who are contemplating career changes because they perceive bleak prospects with space missions. Moreover, any shortfall in the science and engineering workforce will damage the long-term technical and scientific capabilities that underpin the solar system exploration program. Finally, with few academic posts as yet in this emerging discipline and with limited interest to date from the defense/commercial sectors, a higher fraction of the planetary community is supported by soft money than in other astronomical disciplines. Taking a bigger view, I am
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 surprised that NASA’s science program has not been considered part of the America’s Competitive Initiative, for this program has drawn many to engineering and science as careers. NASA’s goal to “discover” becomes somewhat problematic if only limited opportunities exist to analyze mission results. Funding for data analysis should increase in proportion to the growing data volume and the diversity of targets, now including solar wind samples, comet dust, remote-sensing data obtained by dedicated missions at terrestrial and giant planets and measurements taken at academic laboratories. Top Risks for Next Five Years The future U.S. space enterprise is jeopardized by the loss of core competencies (both technology development and personnel) as a consequence of inadequate base-program resources. Furthermore, the rapid growth in mission costs limits the nature and number of flights that can be flown. Finally the lack of long-lived power sources will prevent missions to the outer solar system. Monies for technology development are limited. Nonetheless the American planetary program needs more capable instruments to perform more effectively in more difficult environs. For example, dollars could be saved and mission opportunities expanded if in-space advanced propulsion and more efficient radioisotope power systems were available. Future missions will require that samples be returned from inhospitable places and/or that on-site analytical tools be accessible. A healthy funding level would support new instrument development through spaceflight qualification. A limited budget causes a chicken-and-egg problem: present-day funds cannot support both capable missions and the technology that makes those missions as worthwhile as they might be. Mission costs are rising quickly for several reasons. For some years NASA has been risk-averse and, in today’s litigious society, this tendency has only increased. This leads to unnecessary oversight and documentation, with attendant costs, both financial and programmatic. The absence of an adequate technology development program requires either the costly ab initio development of new instruments or flying last year’s technology. ITAR, which considers satellite technology to automatically be munitions under State Department rules, hamstrings spacecraft operations and complicates international space programs. Expendable launch vehicle costs are growing faster than inflation, because of the limited market. Discovery has a separate problem: the imminent phase-out of the Delta-II expendable launch vehicle, which will require future flights to be flown aboard the more-expensive and too-capable EELV (evolved extended launch vehicle) fleet, namely Delta-IVs and Atlas-Vs. Given Discovery’s fixed cost cap, substantial increases in launch-vehicle costs erode the science that these missions can achieve. The usual power supply for missions beyond Jupiter—RTGs containing plutonium-238—is increasingly scarce, meaning that new starts to outer solar system are no longer feasible. Unless this issue can be resolved to provide power on distant flights, the solar system no longer extends to comet belt, but rather it stops at Jupiter, something similar to halting Henry Hudson at the Azores. This is especially troubling as many of the discipline’s highest priority targets—Jovian and Saturnian satellites plus Neptune/Triton—are very distant. These power generators are also preferred for energy-intensive explorations of Mars. Especially Beneficial Strategic Investments Investments in core technologies, science instruments and infrastructure will be most fruitful for the long-term health of the planetary exploration program. Such investments are likely to also benefit other parts of NASA, additional federal agencies that have space platforms and the commercial sector. The overall budget for solar system exploration should be reinstated so as to allow a continuing reasonable rate of Discovery and New Frontier flights, but also a new Flagship mission, since all classes play important roles in any balanced plan. A sharp increase in R&A funds is essential to a healthy program. The Human Exploration program needs to be stabilized in order to minimize its potentially adverse impact on science programs. The Shuttle should be retired by 2011 to obviate serious concerns about its safety. Moreover, the operational costs of the Shuttle are eating NASA’s lunch (and dinner!). Place of NASA’s Proposed Lunar Science Initiative In spite of the current drought in new mission starts, humankind’s exploration of the Moon is reasonably robust, thanks in part to significant international involvement. At the Moon, or soon to be launched, are six lunar missions:
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Space Studies Board: Annual Report 2007 four from other nations (Europe, China, Japan and India) as well as a U.S. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and a U.S. Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. With this expansion of information about the Moon, it may be time to reassess the adequacy of the current lunar research budget line to benefit fully from the returned results about the surface and interior of Earth’s natural satellite. In addition to these more focused missions, one of the decadal study’s recommended New Frontiers was to return samples from a deep lunar crater, partly to learn what the lunar interior can tell about the Moon’s origin, but also to develop technology that may be deployed at Mars and Venus as well as on comet nuclei. This mission has not yet been selected, but it undoubtedly will be a candidate in the next round. In the more distant future, we have the prospect of human exploration of the moon beginning as early as 2020. All told, these programs form a sustainable initiative of lunar science exploration. Concluding Remarks These are exciting times for the planetary program. Unfortunately budgetary constraints are jeopardizing the future of this program. If the United States is to “explore, discover, understand” Earth’s surroundings, as NASA claims it wishes to do, more attention and additional funding seem to be required. The planetary science community believes that, with Congressional support, and new very capable leaders at the helm of our ship of discovery, our nation’s exploration of the solar system will continue to make great progress in understanding our neighboring worlds. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I thank you for your attention today, but most of all for your continuing support to NASA’s planetary exploration program.