activities would need to commence. The research required to support implementation will have to be initiated well in advance of the desired implementation date; however, the exact time required to accomplish the needed research is uncertain due to technical reasons, as well as to budget and political factors, all of which are beyond the ability of the panel to predict with any precision. The strategic and tactical decisions regarding if and when a research program should be undertaken appropriately fall to those responsible for the implementation of the various missions under consideration. Since NASA’s exploration mission schedule has been notional at best for decades, the “Prior to 2020” period should be viewed as representing near-term activities (e.g., near-Earth human exploration activities), while the “2020 and Beyond” period represents activities that enable longer-term exploration goals (e.g., human exploration of the lunar surface, planetary surfaces, or deep-space missions).
While there is always more that can be learned to further the understanding critical to enabling future exploration, prioritizing the various areas of potential study allows the critical needs to be translated into a plan that can be implemented successfully. Since NASA’s missions, budgets, and priorities cannot be predicted, selecting one particular technology over another would be premature. Instead, this chapter describes the attributes of and development issues associated with viable technology options and explains the critical research gaps that need to be addressed if a particular option is taken. The chapter therefore divides technologies and their associated research challenges into two categories: “required” and “highly desirable.” A required technology is one NASA needs to achieve an exploration objective. A highly desirable technology is one that offers a significant benefit in performance, efficiency, cost savings, or likelihood of mission success. The rating as either required or highly desirable applies directly to the technology or operational system; research challenges in the life and physical sciences are listed with the technology or system they enable. The committee’s prioritization process took the following factors into account:
• The relative importance of the research to its topic area,
• The topic area’s impact on overall exploration efforts,
• The interdependencies among topic areas and how knowledge in one area could be an enabler or prerequisite for advancing knowledge in another area, and
• Whether the topic area’s knowledge needs were unique to NASA’s exploration requirements such that they would be left unaddressed were NASA not to pursue them.
Table 10.3 at the end of the chapter summarizes the technologies (and their associated research challenges) required for implementation prior to 2020. Table 10.4 similarly summarizes the technologies (and their associated research challenges) required for implementation in 2020 and beyond.
The Integrative and Translational Research for the Human Systems Panel considered the realities and challenges of transitioning new technology to enable or greatly improve systems unique to NASA and critical to space exploration. The transition process requires that engineers understand and apply the research results of scientists and that research scientists work within the parameter space of specific mission categories. Successful transition from research results to implemented technology requires that program managers, engineering leaders, and research leaders create an environment where scientists interact with engineers on the specifics of system requirements. NASA leadership will know that a success-oriented environment has been achieved when they no longer hear the familiar refrains: “the engineers are not talking to the scientists,” “the scientists are not working in the regimes of interest to the engineers,” and “the program managers are risk-averse and not qualifying improved components/subsystems for flight.” Chapter 12’s section “Linking Science to Mission Capabilities Through Multidisciplinary Translational Programs” contains an in-depth discussion of the issues associated with creating organizations that can successfully translate research into technologies and technologies into exploration systems.
NASA’s power generation, energy storage, and heat rejection technology needs in the coming decades are driven by three major and diverse categories of missions: (1) platforms for near-Earth science, resources (such