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Rationale and Basic Issues

The [Augustine] Committee concludes that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system.

—Augustine Committee Final Report (Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation), October 2009

The challenges faced by humanity in becoming a spacefaring species have been enormous. The United States has overcome many initial hurdles and delivered the lunar landings, the space shuttle, and, in partnership with other nations, the International Space Station. Looking to the future, significant improvements are needed in spacecraft, life support systems, and space technologies to enhance and enable the human and robotic missions that NASA will conduct under the U.S. space exploration policy. The missions beyond low Earth orbit to and back from planetary bodies and beyond will involve a combination of environmental risk factors such as reduced gravity levels and increased exposure to radiation. Human explorers will require advanced life support systems and be subjected to extended-duration confinement in close quarters. For extended-duration missions conducted at large distances from Earth, and for which resupply will not be an option, technologies that are self-sustaining and/or adaptive will be necessary. These missions present multidisciplinary scientific and engineering challenges and opportunities for enabling research that are both fundamental and applied in nature. Meeting these scientific challenges will require an understanding of biological and physical processes, as well as their intersections, in the presence of partial-gravity and microgravity environments.

Over the past decade NASA and the space enterprise in the United States have deemphasized these scientific challenges in favor of focusing resource allocations toward mission operations. However, to prepare the United States for its future as an enduring and relevant presence in space, science leadership in the life and physical sciences within NASA will need to be reinvigorated. The Committee for the Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space believes that any compelling future for NASA in space exploration will flow in large part from advances made in a strong life and physical sciences program. The research opportunities and imperatives that will be identified in the final decadal survey can be achieved most rapidly and efficiently by establishing a multidisciplinary and integrated research program within NASA itself. Such a program is needed to span the gaps in knowledge that represent the most significant barriers to extended human spaceflight exploration. A successful program will be dependent on the results of research that is possible only in the unique microgravity environment of space and will embody both life and physical sciences in a manner that facilitates multidisciplinary translational approaches to complex problems.

One of the most important elements of success for a NASA life and physical sciences research program is the stature of research within the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA. A healthy and sustainable research program of the type that will be outlined in the final report of the decadal survey is needed. Such a program (which is completely consistent with the ultimate mission of NASA as a scientific entity) would provide a foundation for the future of the human exploration program. However, the committee believes that the new research program that the decadal survey will elucidate is unlikely to be successful unless it (1) has the vigorous support of the exploration elements of NASA; (2) comprises co-located components that encourage appropriate interdisciplinary collaboration on efforts that reflect



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1 Rationale and Basic Issues The [Augustine] Committee concludes that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system. —Augustine Committee Final Report (Seeking a Human Spaceflight Program Worthy of a Great Nation), October 2009 The challenges faced by humanity in becoming a spacefaring species have been enormous. The United States has overcome many initial hurdles and delivered the lunar landings, the space shuttle, and, in partnership with other nations, the International Space Station. Looking to the future, significant improvements are needed in spacecraft, life support systems, and space technologies to enhance and enable the human and robotic missions that NASA will conduct under the U.S. space exploration policy. The missions beyond low Earth orbit to and back from planetary bodies and beyond will involve a combination of environmental risk factors such as reduced gravity levels and increased exposure to radiation. Human explorers will require advanced life support systems and be subjected to extended- duration confinement in close quarters. For extended-duration missions conducted at large distances from Earth, and for which resupply will not be an option, technologies that are self-sustaining and/or adaptive will be necessary. These missions present multidisciplinary scientific and engineering challenges and opportunities for enabling research that are both fundamental and applied in nature. Meeting these scientific challenges will require an understanding of biological and physical processes, as well as their intersections, in the presence of partial-gravity and microgravity environments. Over the past decade NASA and the space enterprise in the United States have deemphasized these scientific challenges in favor of focusing resource allocations toward mission operations. However, to prepare the United States for its future as an enduring and relevant presence in space, science leadership in the life and physical sciences within NASA will need to be reinvigorated. The Committee for the Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space believes that any compelling future for NASA in space exploration will flow in large part from advances made in a strong life and physical sciences program. The research opportunities and imperatives that will be identified in the final decadal survey can be achieved most rapidly and efficiently by establishing a multidisciplinary and integrated research program within NASA itself. Such a program is needed to span the gaps in knowledge that represent the most significant barriers to extended human spaceflight exploration. A successful program will be dependent on the results of research that is possible only in the unique microgravity environment of space and will embody both life and physical sciences in a manner that facilitates multidisciplinary translational approaches to complex problems. One of the most important elements of success for a NASA life and physical sciences research program is the stature of research within the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA. A healthy and sustainable research program of the type that will be outlined in the final report of the decadal survey is needed. Such a program (which is completely consistent with the ultimate mission of NASA as a scientific entity) would provide a foundation for the future of the human exploration program. However, the committee believes that the new research program that the decadal survey will elucidate is unlikely to be successful unless it (1) has the vigorous support of the exploration elements of NASA; (2) comprises co-located components that encourage appropriate interdisciplinary collaboration on efforts that reflect 3

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Pure basic Use-inspired Relevance for the advancement research basic research (Bohr) (Pasteur) of knowledge Pure applied research (Edison) Relevance for immediate applications FIGURE 1.1 Stokes begins Pasteur’s Quadrant with an analysis of the twin goals of developing new understanding and developing results that have an end use in scientific research, and he recasts the widely accepted view of the tension between understanding and use, building a convincing case that, by recognizing the importance of use-inspired basic research, we can frame a new compact between science and government. In Rising Above the Gathering Storm, the authoring committee pointed out that some research can simultaneously be inspired by use and also seek fundamental knowledge. the most important, shared visions and goals for NASA; and (3) has the appropriate processes and mechanisms in place to expedite the translation of basic research findings into practical applications and products, as appropriate. Ultimately, in the committee’s view, successful research programs are directed by a leader of significant gravitas who is in a position of authority within the agency and has the communication skills to ensure that the entire agency understands and concurs with the key objective to support and conduct high-fidelity, high-quality, high-value research. To improve the NASA research enterprise for life and physical sciences, and to facilitate a framework of multidisciplinary and multi-partner collaborations guided by a process of translation from discovery to missions, a sea-change in philosophy and approach will be needed in the exploration program at NASA. This sea-change (described below) can be introduced using the concepts illuminated in the book Pasteur’s Quadrant1 by Donald Stokes (and discussed in the 2007 National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm2) (see Figure 1.1). By segregating basic research from mission-driven research in a linear funding model, and by ignoring Pasteur’s Quadrant, the exploration program at NASA was able to justify a reduction in funding of the basic research program with the assumption that the agency could “get back to it” when pressing mission problems were solved and funding levels improved. Overt recognition is needed of Pasteur’s Quadrant, and of the intimate, ongoing circular link between basic research and research to meet mission requirements. Critical to the success of such a program is 1 D.E. Stokes, Pasteur’s Quadrant, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1997. 2 National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007. 4

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FIGURE 1.2 Translational research as a component of an active research program. inclusion of a translational element. Translating basic science discoveries into practical applications and solutions to real-world problems is a challenging task. Translational research (see Figure 1.2) as pioneered by the National Institutes of Health is defined as “the process of applying ideas, insights, and discoveries generated through basic scientific inquiry to the treatment or prevention of human disease.”3 The Department of Energy has hailed translational research as a core focus of its new ARPA-E program4 (ARPA-E will fund energy technology projects that translate scientific discoveries and cutting-edge inventions into technological innovations, and it will also accelerate technological advances in high-risk areas that industry is not likely to pursue independently). The National Science Foundation has created whole new funding opportunities around translational science (e.g., NSF Translational Research in the Academic Community, NSF-10-044 Program). The form that translational research takes is likely to vary widely according to the needs of the given project. Some examples cited in the NSF announcement include “prototyping, proof of concept tests and/or scale-up or implementation.”5 There are several reasons for the new emphasis on translational research. One is to fill real and pressing needs for answers to grand challenges in health, energy, climate, and national security. A number 3 See http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-02-138.html. 4 See http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/news/news_detail.cfm/news_id=12478. 5 See http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503524. 5

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of factors have combined to impede the flow of information between basic science and complex applications, perhaps most notably a lack of sufficient resources to support early studies and the challenges involved in sufficient testing at any scale to transition new ideas into practice in high-risk, high-value endeavors. The new focus on translational research aims to remove these obstacles and overtly facilitate and expedite the practical application of scientific discoveries. Another reason for the interest in translational research approaches is an increasing recognition that the pace at which basic scientific discovery has transitioned to societal value has not kept up with the pace of change in society, and particularly with the pace of information flows. Finally, in NASA’s exploration missions, there is increasing awareness in the science community that observations from ground-based models do not extrapolate well to space environments, particularly when considering placing humans in these environments for long-duration missions. In order for a translational research component to become part of an active research program there must be: 1. Mechanisms for horizontal integration,6 based on multi- and transdisciplinary approaches to complex problems; and 2. Mechanisms for vertical translation,7 based on meaningful interactions among basic researchers, applied and mission-focused scientists, engineers, administrators, and other professionals. Human exploration missions beyond the ISS will introduce many challenges related to long-duration isolation and exposure to micro- and partial-gravity, and extreme thermal and radiation, environments. These challenges must be overcome in a manner that optimizes crew safety and the likelihood of achieving scientific mission goals, while containing costs and minimizing schedule uncertainties. Many of these challenges will be solved only by obtaining fundamental new knowledge and then efficiently translating that knowledge to new options for exploration missions. Current deficits in scientific knowledge and the erosion of the relative stature of the United States in space exploration activities have, in part, been the result of inconsistent funding policies over the past several years. In addition to the level of funding per se, consistency of funding is necessary over time frames necessary to build a scientific enterprise, develop a pipeline of researchers, and allow their studies to bear fruit. Unfortunately, in 2004-2005, NASA’s life and physical sciences community suffered an abrupt and substantial funding decrement. As a result, many of the affected scientists are wary of returning to NASA-related work—a problem noted in the white papers and town hall meetings associated with the decadal survey. The institution of a research program with consistent goals, stable funding, and a real desire to seek new knowledge and solve important problems will help initiate the process of rebuilding NASA’s (and the United States’) capabilities in this vital area of scientific endeavor. In terms of research infrastructure for a life and physical sciences program, the ISS, while unique, is not the sole operational site. Many platforms, including terrestrial, will continue to be important for executing a coherent, integrated, multidisciplinary program—and the utility of these research platforms will be explicated in the final report of the decadal survey. However, the continuing great importance of the ISS warrants more immediate consideration and comment. Currently, the ISS is the only space platform available for near-term studies that require long-duration exposure to microgravity. It is also the only platform available today where experiments that require many repetitions for statistical validity can be conducted in a common microgravity environment. For the ISS to advance the science under consideration, the most crucial requirement is ensuring the will and commitment to exploration science. As discussed in Chapter 2 of this interim report, there are substantial problems with translational research efforts in space exploration. A critical advantage of the ISS is that it provides a platform for research programs that can, in fact, be translational. The committee believes that, to optimize the use of this 6 Integration of disciplines, scientific subdisciplines, and systems disciplines. 7 Integration of information, people, requirements, and discoveries across all elements of the NASA Exploration tasks, from basic research through mission design, to use in mission applications. 6

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research platform, and as part of setting up a revitalized research program in the life and physical sciences, initial efforts to develop a research program for the ISS will have to include an advisory process, utilizing at least some independent members, that provides oversight for the prioritization of ISS (and other) research as multidisciplinary research priorities, operational requirements, cost constraints, and policy priorities are being developed by the new administration. In this context, this interim report (1) discusses programmatic issues that are viewed as fundamental for a life and physical sciences research program and (2) presents suggestions for ISS research that can help steer the active discussions regarding additional lifespan for the ISS yet at the same time does not abrogate the prioritization process that is underway across the whole portfolio as part of the committee’s final survey report, which will give fuller consideration to all platforms and modalities of research. 7