program of major optical and infrared, x-ray, and gamma ray observatories). All of the recommended major space astronomy missions were ultimately built and launched, albeit at later dates than the surveys envisioned.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the SSB prepared a series of planning documents across a wide range of space science fields. During the same time, NASA began to establish its own network of internal advisory bodies that provided advice to space science program managers, discipline division directors, and the science associate administrator. Thus, these NASA committees enabled the scientific community to be thoroughly involved in the execution of the program and to contribute to a flow of information from the scientific community up and down the NASA management chain.
Fisk described a key milestone for NASA’s science budgets at the time of the initiation of the space station program in 1984 when NASA Administrator James Beggs wrote to SSB Chair Thomas Donahue saying that NASA was “willing … to commit to budgeting 20 percent of NASA R&D funds for space science and applications, and [to] protect these funds from Space Station development.” One important consequence of that commitment was that the NASA headquarters Office of Space Science and Applications (OSSA) had ample resources to manage its program and to set its own course. Thanks, at least in part to the Beggs-Donahue agreement, when the NASA budget doubled from 1988 to 1991, so did the science budget. Consequently, Fisk noted, there was a fertile environment for strategic planning when he became the associate administrator in 1987. In parallel with OSSA’s efforts in strategic planning, and with NASA’s encouragement, in 1989 the NRC consolidated the SSB and the Space Applications Board so as to form the Space Studies Board, thereby creating a single NRC entity to advise OSSA.
The fourth astronomy decadal survey, published in 1991,5 endorsed the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) as the fourth of the Great Observatories. However NASA’s period of budget growth was coming to an end, and so SIRTF faced descoping and an extended delay before becoming a reality.
Fisk indicated that the early 1990s marked the onset of a new era in NASA management approaches to science programs. Daniel Goldin became NASA administrator in 1992 and broke OSSA into three separate science offices, transferring increased program management responsibility to the NASA field centers, reducing headquarters staff, and emphasizing smaller and faster mission classes. According to Fisk, cost growth problems in the space station program also led to greater oversight into all NASA programs by the Office of Management and Budget in the late 1990s. Goldin was succeeded by Sean O’Keefe in 2000, and after the space shuttle Columbia accident, NASA priorities were heavily influenced by President George W. Bush’s 2004 Vision for Space Exploration (VSE).6 Consequently, Mars exploration was accorded an especially high priority while studies of Earth, the Sun, and astrophysics were relegated to a category of activities not directly aligned with the VSE and referred to as “other science.”
The next astronomy decadal survey, published in 2001,7 recommended a balanced program of small-to-large mission sizes and endorsed the Next Generation Space Telescope (now called the James Webb Space Telescope, JWST), but subsequent growth in the JWST program imperiled the recommended balance. An important milestone for the decadal survey process was the development of the first surveys for planetary science and for solar and space physics in 2003.
In 2004 Michael Griffin succeeded O’Keefe as NASA administrator. Fisk noted that Griffin abolished most of NASA’s internal advisory committee structure and also espoused a different view of NASA-science community relationships than had been accepted in the past. Namely, Griffin considered the scientific community to be analogous to the aerospace contractor community, and he described the former as “suppliers, not customers.” Thus, the tradition of viewing scientists as customers who determine what science is to be pursued was turned on its head, thereby also altering the perspective from
5 NRC, The Decade of Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics, The National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1991.
6 NASA, The Vision for Space Exploration, NP-2004-01-334-HQ, Washington, D.C., 2004.
7 NRC, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, The National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001.