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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs
enhance the quality of life.” While current government investments designed to stimulate a fragile economy can have near-term effects, investments in research in and from space can continue to lead to important future societal benefits, just as the pioneering work on concepts of electricity and magnetism in the 19th century led to uncountable (and unanticipated) applications in contemporary society.
The committee’s view is that there is no single rationale for the U.S. civil space program; rather, as a significant component of the nation’s R&D enterprise, the U.S. civil space program should be structured and supported to fulfill multiple responsibilities—to assist the nation in achieving its goals of exerting strategic leadership and improving the well-being of people. The U.S. civil space program should be preeminent in the sense that it can influence, by example, how nations take advantage of the opportunities afforded by space. For the United States to be a strategic leader, its civil space program must demonstrate breadth, competence, and a record of accomplishment so that U.S. leadership is accepted and welcomed.
The committee identified six major goals for U.S. civil space activities and elaborates on them in the sections that follow. All six goals serve the national interest, and steady progress toward achieving each of them will be a fundamental measure of the success of America’s space program.
To reestablish leadership for the protection of Earth and its inhabitantsthrough the use of space research and technology. The key global perspective enabled by space observations is critical to monitoring climate change and testing climate models, managing Earth resources, and mitigating risks associated with natural phenomena such as severe weather and asteroids.
To sustain U.S. leadership in science by seeking knowledge of the universeand searching for life beyond Earth. Space offers a multitude of critical opportunities, unavailable in Earth-based laboratories, to extend our knowledge of the local and distant universe and to search for life beyond Earth.
To expand the frontiers of human activities in space. Human spaceflight continues to challenge technology, utilize unique human capabilities, bring global prestige, and excite the public’s imagination. Space provides almost limitless opportunities for extending the human experience to new frontiers.
To provide technological, economic, and societal benefits that contributesolutions to the nation’s most pressing problems. Space activities provide economic opportunities, stimulate innovation, and support services that improve the quality of life. U.S. economic competitiveness is directly affected by our ability to perform in this sector and the many sectors enabled and supported by space activities.
To inspire current and future generations. U.S. civil space activities can continue to build on a legacy of spectacular achievements to inspire our citizens and to attract future generations of scientists and engineers.