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Space Studies Board Annual Report-1994 (Congressional Testimony) Space Studies Board Annual Report—1994 5 Congressional Testimony 5.1 Nurturing Science in an Era of Tight Budgets Space Studies Board member Anthony A. England delivered the following testimony before the Subcommittee on Space of the U.S. House of Representatives on April 14, 1994. Mr. Chairman, Ranking Minority Member, and members of the committee: thank you for again inviting the Space Studies Board here to testify this morning. Board Chair Louis Lanzerotti was not able to be here today, and has asked me to come to speak to you on his behalf and that of the Board. My name is Anthony England, and I am a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. My research field is Earth science, specifically in REPORT MENU remote sensing of land and land cover. I flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-51F NOTICE in August 1985. FROM THE CHAIR CHAPTER 1 Mr. Chairman, as you know, the Space Studies Board has been the CHAPTER 2 principal independent advisor to the civil space research program since NASA CHAPTER 3 was created by statute in 1958. Today, the Board continues to advise on strategic CHAPTER 4 issues across the agency's entire portfolio of science and applications, now CHAPTER 5 distributed into three separate offices at the agency. APPENDIX A.1 APPENDIX A.2 APPENDIX A.3 You have invited us here today to address the FY95 budget proposal, its five-year runout, and their impact on NASA's science programs. The FY95 proposal and the long-term projection are two different issues, and I would like to address them separately. First of all, the FY95 proposal: it is not a perfect budget for science, but it is a good one. My colleagues and I would all like to spend more on science, but as taxpayers and citizens we recognize that hard choices have already been made to preserve many important projects in our space science program in this FY95 budget. It is a good science budget in our present circumstances, and we urge the Congress to approve it. file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an94ch5.htm (1 of 6) [6/18/2004 10:42:52 AM]

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Space Studies Board Annual Report-1994 (Congressional Testimony) In the out-years, on the other hand, the situation is bleak for new activities and innovation in science. Some have called it a "going out of business budget" for space science. There are problems with the Earth Probes, with the Discovery program, and with space laboratory science. The budget trend for the Office of Space Science appears to follow the roll-off of development spending for Cassini and AXAF after FY95, with little or no yearly funding freed for new flight mission starts. The other witnesses today have elaborated on many of these problems, so I will not reiterate them; the Board has discussed issues in ShuttleÐMir science in a recent letter report. Additionally, the Research and Analysis (R&A) accounts are predicted flat, except for erosion by inflation. Earth science R&A is being absorbed into the EOS program. It is on the role and importance of R&A that I want to focus today for the remainder of my time, but first I want to comment briefly on the recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, Reinventing NASA. The CBO analyzes the present NASA budget as trying to do too much with too little, and interprets the current budget plan as a strategy of "marginal adjustment." The CBO says some major pieces of NASA's program may have to be jettisoned to keep the remainder healthy. Mr. Brown, himself, has said as much. The Space Studies Board does not have the expertise to improve or contest these assessments of the robustness of the present budget approach. The Board is obviously in favor of a strong science program, however it fits into the agency's overall agenda. It is not certain that if one of NASA's major thrusts were excised, the savings would remain to nourish the survivors. Our working assumption has to be that money for new things will have to come out of today's level of funding, or less. So the hunt for "wedges" is on—in the science accounts, in the human flight accounts. Money is needed for new technology, new instruments, new spacecraft, new launches, and operations. Where will this money be found? Mr. Chairman, surveying the options brings me to my theme for today: If a line item mission is canceled, something specific and visible goes away, perhaps something a lot of money has already been spent on. Launch costs are unavoidable, imposed by physics and our present launch technology. And there's a limit to how much can be shaved from piloted flight before safety is impacted. So what about the science budget catch-alls called Research and Analysis (R&A), or Mission Operations and Data Analysis (MO&DA)? Can they be trimmed, maybe a lot? This is a question that is now being asked. file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an94ch5.htm (2 of 6) [6/18/2004 10:42:52 AM]

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Space Studies Board Annual Report-1994 (Congressional Testimony) What is R&A, and what is it used for? R&A is largely spent on the underlying ground research in new instrumentation and new analytical capabilities, both physical and theoretical. The R&A dollar is used for doing the background work for space research, for doing what can or should be done on or from the ground. It supports the theoretical basis for science in space, and pays for innovations in instrumentation and data interpretation. In short, it's used for formulating the questions to ask in space, and for advancing our fundamental competence for getting answers in space. Asking a question and making a measurement are the two halves of the scientific method. Summed up across the three science offices, R&A totals about $425 million in the FY95 budget. It is dispensed in smallish awards to researchers, principally at universities, for soft money salaries, laboratory equipment and support, computing, and students. The Board's report Assessment of Solar System Exploration Programs—1991 (pp. 31-33) describes the important role of R&A in discovery. Both this report (p. 33), and a companion report, Assessment of Satellite Earth Observation Programs—1991 (p. 58), caution against raiding these accounts for remedying other shortfalls. The Board's Assessment of Programs in Solar and Space Physics—1991 (p. 26) likewise warns of a perceived erosion in the research base. Nothing in the present budget climate assuages these fears. What recent signals do we have about how R&A fits into NASA's strategic thinking in the present budget environment? At its 112th meeting at the end of last February, the Space Studies Board was given a copy of "Draft 6" of NASA's Strategic Plan. This useful document is short, direct, and clearly written, and its creation is a giant step forward for the agency. The second entry in its Mission statement is to "[a]dvance scientific knowledge." Yet, it is worrisome that the section entitled "The Scientific Research Enterprise" seems exclusively oriented to flight missions. The section mentions "set[ting] the stage for future space ventures," but is silent about theory, ground laboratory work, instrumentation development, or suborbital science in the paragraphs that speak about implementation. So the Board is concerned about the future of R&A programs. Their present situation is not lavish, their future is projected as stagnant or declining, and their presence in agency strategic thinking is not prominent. What about Mission Operations and Data Analysis (MO&DA)? Let me digress for a moment from R&A onto this closely related topic. What does MO&DA money support? MO&DA funding runs the control centers that operate spacecraft; it distributes data to researchers, and it pays for other researchers to study data that have already been obtained and filed away. There are several ways to look at this expenditure. It is a lot of money. According to the recent CBO report, MO&DA for the file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an94ch5.htm (3 of 6) [6/18/2004 10:42:52 AM]

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Space Studies Board Annual Report-1994 (Congressional Testimony) physics and astronomy, planetary exploration, and Earth science programs totaled $728 million in 1993—quite a bit. But this category includes some mission- like costs, as well. For example, the COSTAR repair package and servicing expenses for the Hubble Telescope are included in the physics and astronomy MO&DA (the Hubble Telescope claims nearly a third of the agency's MO&DA budget). There are undoubtedly efficiencies possible in MO&DA activities, particularly operations, some of them only now becoming achievable thanks to new engineering and computational technologies. But MO&DA is the payoff for the investment in designing, building, and launching scientific spacecraft. If the R&A pays to pose and understand the science questions of space research, MO&DA pays to handle and interpret the data for answering them. The CBO report points out that: "Adjusting NASA's program to fit within smaller future budgets by reducing spending for mission operations and data analysis could significantly decrease the benefits of past investments" (p. 13). Before concluding, there is one more issue I would like to address: This is the notion, which surfaces from time to time, that these programs, particularly R&A, are "entitlement" programs for scientists. This is a pernicious myth that needs to be challenged head-on. Mr. Chairman, if someone is doing a job that is important, that job is not called an "entitlement." When something is called an entitlement, there's an implication that payment isn't earned, or is rendered for something without value. So the real question is whether what is being done with R&A and MO&DA money is something the country attaches value to—whether as a nation we're paying for a job that we want done. But we've already seen that R&A and MO&DA are the two pillars of science in space. This brings us squarely to the issue of the role of science, itself, at NASA. The Board will soon be starting work on a multi-part study on this precise topic in a study originated by the Senate in its FY94 appropriations report. We recognize that NASA is a mission agency. Science is not naturally or fundamentally a mission activity—it has a different style and cadence. Nonetheless, science does provide the discipline and framework to achieve the mission, whether that mission is robotic exploration of the solar system, or human exploration that involves prolonged human exposure to the space environment. As expressed in the Board's report, Setting Priorities for Space Research—Opportunities and Imperatives (NAP, 1992), the military metaphor goes back to Apollo, and emphasizes the "penetration of a difficult domain, rather than the information and knowledge to be acquired" (p. 9). Science has had a central role in the first 36 years of the space program, and been a source of pride to Americans and the envy of the world. NASA Administrator Goldin has it right when he talks about the role of the space program as Inspiration, Hope, and Opportunity. For many, space discoveries have been the gateway to an interest in science and file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an94ch5.htm (4 of 6) [6/18/2004 10:42:52 AM]

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Space Studies Board Annual Report-1994 (Congressional Testimony) technology that has led to a technical education and career on the ground, benefiting our whole society. In late 1990, the Augustine Committee ranked science #1 in priorities for the space program. Members of this panel were not all scientists, or even mostly scientists. But they looked at past achievements and recognized that science is the best reason for the expense and risk of going into space. They called science the "fulcrum" of the space program, on which all the other elements balanced. The Board's Setting Priorities report recommended that "development of new knowledge and enhanced understanding of the physical world and our interactions with it should be emphasized as the principal objective of space research and as a key motivation for the space program" (p. 8). The purpose for going into space must be to learn things, not just to hurl people and machines into the void. The R&A programs are the intellectual engine that powers space science, and the MO&DA programs provide the results, the traction for forward motion. It is true that individual flight projects are the fundamental means by which new space measurements are obtained, and an adequate new start rate is essential. But if science is to be a significant element of our future in space, the vitality of the R&A and MO&DA programs must be carefully preserved and nurtured. Thank you for your attention; I would be happy to try to answer any questions that you might have. file:///C|/SSB_old_web/an94ch5.htm (5 of 6) [6/18/2004 10:42:52 AM]