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Microgravity Research Opportunities for the 1990s: Preface Microgravity Research Opportunities for the 1990s Preface For many years, the Space Studies Board (SSB) has provided scientific advice to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in discipline- oriented strategy reports intended to assist NASA in developing the best possible scientific research programs for the future. In 1989, the SSB created the Committee on Microgravity Research (CMGR) to investigate the maturity and readiness of the field for the development of a long-range, comprehensive research strategy. The report of that committee, Toward a Microgravity Research Strategy (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1992), concluded that "the field as a whole would benefit from the formulation of a long-range research strategy and that such a strategy should be developed as soon as possible" (p. 1). The CMGR was then made a standing committee of the SSB and was charged with developing that strategy. After careful consideration of the current REPORT MENU status and content of the microgravity program at NASA, the committee found it NOTICE necessary to modify this charge somewhat. Due to the diversity and breadth of MEMBERSHIP this field, the committee has chosen to place the emphasis of this report on PREFACE priorities and recommendations. The scientific disciplines contained within the EXECUTIVE SUMMARY microgravity program, and which are covered in this report, include fluid PART I mechanics and transport phenomena, combustion, biological sciences and CHAPTER 1 CHAPTER 2 biotechnology, materials science, and microgravity physics. This represents an PART II enormously broad spectrum of science, and a determination of the relative CHAPTER 3 amount of support that is justified for individual disciplines and subdisciplines is CHAPTER 4 difficult to make without a set of overriding criteria (such as the value to industry) CHAPTER 5 to use in the evaluation process. In the absence of such criteria, the formulation CHAPTER 6 of a detailed program strategy was not possible. Therefore, the committee CHAPTER 7 believed that providing general program guidance in the form of priorities and PART III recommendations for research was a more useful and appropriate response to CHAPTER 8 the given charge. The following report represents the result of that effort. APPENDIX A APPENDIX B Among the previous National Research Council reports in this field, the following are particularly relevant. Materials Processing in Space (National Academy of Sciences, file:///C|/SSB_old_web/mgopppreface.htm (1 of 3) [6/18/2004 11:15:00 AM]
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Microgravity Research Opportunities for the 1990s: Preface Washington, D.C., 1978; the "STAMPS" report) attempted to provide guidance for NASA's program by assessing the scientific and technological underpinnings of the materials processing in space program and providing a clear understanding of the benefits, if any, to be expected from exploitation of the characteristics of the space environment for processing materials. As an early examination of NASA's low-gravity experiment program (pre-shuttle), the report addressed fundamental scientific and administrative questions about the directions that program should follow. One such issue was the production of materials in space for commercial use, which the report concluded was not feasible. The scientific recommendations detailed the specific research areas most likely to benefit from a low-gravity environment, and the administrative recommendations included a call for a rigorous peer review process and an extensive ground research program. In fact, the current NASA program closely mirrors the report's recommendations. Though recent flight experiments are considerably more sophisticated than those examined by the STAMPS committee, the continuing scarcity of available flight results requires that assessments of the utility of many areas of microgravity research be based on their potential rather than on past performance. Space Science in the Twenty-First Century: Imperatives for the Decades 1995 to 2015. Fundamental Physics and Chemistry (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1988) attempted to identify opportunities for future research efforts in relativistic gravitation and microgravity science (but not including applied research or industrial and manufacturing processes). NASA requested this study in 1984, in part because it expected the space station to become available around 1995 and wanted to be prepared with a viable space science strategy that had been implemented on missions prior to space station operations. At the time the report was written, NASA's microgravity research was concentrated under the Physics and Chemistry Experiments in Space (PACE) program. Only about 15 investigations were funded under PACE, in comparison with more than 200 investigations in the 1993 microgravity program at NASA. The report reflected the relatively small scale of the early program by primarily addressing specific research questions as opposed to the broad disciplines into which microgravity research is now divided. A number of people who assisted the committee during its preparation of this report deserve special thanks for their contributions: Robert Rhome, Roger Crouch, Gary Martin, and Brad Carpenter of NASA Headquarters; John Givens and George Sarver of NASA Ames Research Center; Jack Salzman of Lewis Research Center; Dudley Saville of Princeton University; and Gregory Dobbs of United Technologies Research Center. file:///C|/SSB_old_web/mgopppreface.htm (2 of 3) [6/18/2004 11:15:00 AM]