assessments, facilitates international research coordination, and promotes communications on space science and science policy among the research community, the federal government, and the interested public. The SSB also serves as the U.S. National Committee for the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council for Science.


The Space Studies Board is a unit of the NRC’s Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences (DEPS). DEPS is one of six major program units of the NRC through which the institution conducts its operations on behalf of NAS, NAE, and IOM. Within DEPS there are a total of 13 boards that cover a broad range of physical science and engineering disciplines and mission areas.

Members of the DEPS Committee on Engineering and Physical Sciences (DEPSCOM) provide advice on Board membership and on proposed new projects to be undertaken by ad hoc study committees formed under the SSB’s auspices. About every 3 years, DEPSCOM reviews the overall operations of each of the DEPS boards. The last review of the SSB took place in 2013.

The “Space Studies Board” encompasses the Board itself, its standing committees (see Chapter 2) and ad hoc study committees (see Chapter 3), and its staff. The Board is composed of prominent scientists, engineers, industrialists, scholars, and policy experts in space research appointed for 2-year staggered terms. They represent seven space research disciplines: space-based astrophysics, heliophysics (also referred to as solar and space physics), Earth science and applications from space, solar system exploration, microgravity life and physical sciences, space systems and technology, and science and technology policy. In 2013, there were 23-24 Board members. The Executive Committee (XCOM) assists the chairs of the Board in oversight of activities. A liaison member of the NRC’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) and the U.S. representative to COSPAR are ex officio participants. A standing liaison arrangement also has been established with the European Space Science Committee (ESSC), part of the European Science Foundation.


The organization of the SSB in 2013 is illustrated in Figure 1.1. Taken together, the Board and its standing and ad hoc study committees generally hold as many as 30 meetings during the year.

Major Functions of the Space Studies Board

The Board provides an independent, authoritative forum for information and advice on all aspects of space science and applications and serves as the focal point within the National Academies for activities on space research. The Board itself does not conduct studies, but it oversees advisory studies and program assessments conducted by ad hoc study committees (see Chapter 3) generally formed in response to a request from a sponsor. All projects proposed to be conducted by ad hoc study committees under the auspices of the SSB must be reviewed and endorsed by the chair and vice chair of the Board (as well as other NRC officials).

Decadal surveys are a signature product of the SSB, providing strategic direction to NASA, NSF, the Department of Energy, NOAA, and other agencies on the top priorities over the next 10 years in astronomy and astrophysics, solar system exploration, solar and space physics, and Earth science. (The astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey is a joint effort with the NRC’s Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA).) The 2011 decadal survey on biological and physical sciences in space, a joint effort with ASEB, established priorities and provided recommendations for life and physical sciences space research, including research that will enable exploration missions in microgravity and partial gravity for the 2010-2020 decade.

The Board serves as a communications bridge on space research and science policy among the scientific research community, the federal government, and the interested public.

The Board ordinarily meets at least two times per year (Spring and Fall) to review the activities of its committees and to be briefed on and discuss major space policy issues. Every second year the Board hosts a workshop on a topic of current interest, resulting in a workshop report.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement