APPENDIX B
The Solar Telescope That Saw No Light (A Tale of Planning Gone Awry)

This is the story of how a proposed $25 million solar telescope for an early Space Shuttle mission grew into a proposed $360 million national facility for solar research. It tells how the facility further grew into a proposed $811 million laboratory and then finally was canceled. The story takes place between 1965 and 1992, during which time an estimated 1,000 person-years of work was devoted to planning the Orbiting Solar Laboratory (OSL). It is admittedly told from the research scientist's point of view, but the committee believes that it illustrates how the trend toward ''big'' science and excessive planning can undermine the nation's efforts to achieve important scientific goals.

OSL started in 1965 as a modest idea. By NASA standards it was definitely a "small" science project. It was an extension of a program at the California Institute of Technology (CIT) to improve solar imagery. Two scientists would direct the project. But by the time it was canceled in 1991, OSL had grown to look like big science. About 200 solar physicists (half the world's stock) would have been needed to operate it and analyze the data. It would have inspected the Sun at wavelengths from a thousandth of a nanometer (gamma rays) to a thousand nanometers (infrared). It would have been to solar physics what a completely successful Hubble Space Telescope is to astrophysics. The difference is that OSL was never built and probably never will be, but like the Hubble Space Telescope it raises painful questions about the conduct and cost effectiveness of big science projects. Table B.1 summarizes the OSL chronology.

SOLAR PHYSICS AND BIG SCIENCE

Big science is not new to solar physics and has in fact been beneficial to the field. The eclipse expeditions of the nineteenth century were major undertak-



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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? APPENDIX B The Solar Telescope That Saw No Light (A Tale of Planning Gone Awry) This is the story of how a proposed $25 million solar telescope for an early Space Shuttle mission grew into a proposed $360 million national facility for solar research. It tells how the facility further grew into a proposed $811 million laboratory and then finally was canceled. The story takes place between 1965 and 1992, during which time an estimated 1,000 person-years of work was devoted to planning the Orbiting Solar Laboratory (OSL). It is admittedly told from the research scientist's point of view, but the committee believes that it illustrates how the trend toward ''big'' science and excessive planning can undermine the nation's efforts to achieve important scientific goals. OSL started in 1965 as a modest idea. By NASA standards it was definitely a "small" science project. It was an extension of a program at the California Institute of Technology (CIT) to improve solar imagery. Two scientists would direct the project. But by the time it was canceled in 1991, OSL had grown to look like big science. About 200 solar physicists (half the world's stock) would have been needed to operate it and analyze the data. It would have inspected the Sun at wavelengths from a thousandth of a nanometer (gamma rays) to a thousand nanometers (infrared). It would have been to solar physics what a completely successful Hubble Space Telescope is to astrophysics. The difference is that OSL was never built and probably never will be, but like the Hubble Space Telescope it raises painful questions about the conduct and cost effectiveness of big science projects. Table B.1 summarizes the OSL chronology. SOLAR PHYSICS AND BIG SCIENCE Big science is not new to solar physics and has in fact been beneficial to the field. The eclipse expeditions of the nineteenth century were major undertak-

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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? TABLE B.1 Chronology of the Orbiting Solar Laboratory 1968 Caltech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory 65-cm telescope proposal for Skylab II 1972 65-cm prototype installed at Big Bear Solar Observatory 1973 MSVC/Itek 150-cm telescope study for shuttle 1973 Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) 100-cm telescope study for Spacelab 1974 Announcement of Opportunity for "Scientific Definition of Space Shuttle Missions for Solar Physics Spacelab Payloads" 1975 Initial work of One-Meter Solar Telescope Facility Definition Team 1976 Spacelab Optical Telescope proposed by Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., to NASA 1978 Spacelab Optical Telescope top ranked of four candidate solar facilities 1979 Solar Optical Telescope project started at GSFC 1980 Facility definition teams terminated 1982 Selection of science teams, telescope and instrument contractors 1983 Phase B studies completed 1983 Phase C/D deferred due to Spacelab budget reductions and difficulties with Hubble Space Telescope 1984 Formal NASA approval for FY 86 new start but FY 86 budget capped at FY 85 study level by Congress 1985 Phase C/D funds deleted from FY 87 budget request by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 1986 High Resolution Solar Observatory (HRSO) project started at GSFC; studied as Space Station payload 1986 Phase C/D funds deleted from FY 88 budget request by OMB 1987 HRSO redesigned as a free flier 1988 Restructuring of HRSO to restore capabilities lost in 1986 1989 New science objectives formulated to accommodate changes in hardware 1990 GSFC New Business Committee pledges center to OSL budget and manpower plan 1990 Request for proposals issued for Phase B contractors 1990 Favorable nonadvocacy review; favorable review by Space Science and Applications Advisory Committee (SSAAC) 1990 OSL listed as the highest-priority mission for initiation as early as 1992 in the Office of Space Science and Applications Strategic Plan 1991 SSAAC recommends 1998 as earliest start date for OSL

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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? ings, requiring extensive logistical support from the Army and the Department of the Interior. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, George Ellery Hale, a solar physicist, practically invented big science. Before the era of government funding for science, Hale convinced Charles Yerkes, the wealthy builder of Chicago's elevated railway, to finance construction of the largest telescope in the world. A few years later he persuaded Andrew Carnegie to finance the largest solar telescopes and the 60-inch and 100-inch nighttime telescopes on Mount Wilson. Each in its turn held the distinction of being the world's largest telescope. To support users of the telescopes, Hale founded the Mount Wilson Observatory of the Carnegie Institution, an early model of the Space Telescope Science Institute. Each of Hale's projects strained the technical and financial resources of the day. Hale was searching for support for the 200-inch Palomar telescope when nervous exhaustion forced him to retire. Hale had created a new kind of institution in America, one devoted solely to scientific research. It required huge and expensive facilities, and it was successful in making southern California the world center in astronomy. His was a big science success story. There are other such success stories as well. In 1961 the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) completed the world's largest solar telescope near Tucson, Arizona. Another major solar telescope for New Mexico was proposed to the Air Force in 1961, with approval in 1965. Each of these telescopes, to be used effectively, required a dozen solar physicists. Each was a successful big science project, and each moved from conception to completion in about four years. THE SKYLAB OPTICAL TELESCOPE In 1965 Harold Zirin and Robert Howard, two astronomers at institutions Hale built, started planning with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at CIT to build an orbiting solar telescope. They did not think of their Skylab Optical Telescope as big science. It was just a small experiment they would build and manage at a private institution, and they planned to oversee its scientific program. NASA was regularly launching orbiting solar observatories, a series of small satellites each with a half-dozen bantam telescopes. It was also planning the Apollo Telescope Mount, which would carry a cluster of larger solar telescopes on Skylab. Skylab was a manned mission, and the Apollo Skylab program was definitely a big science program. Analysis of its solar data was projected to eventually employ 200 scientists for most of a decade. But the Skylab telescopes and the orbiting solar observatories sent down pictures only of the Sun's outer atmosphere. Many solar physicists were more interested in the tiny magnetic elements on the solar surface, and Zirin and Howard's idea appealed to them. They knew that no one would ever see the

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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? basic structural elements of the solar surface with a ground-based telescope because of the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere. The only trouble with the 65-centimeter telescope proposed by the CIT astronomers was that it would not resolve the magnetic elements. To do that would require a 150-centimeter telescope. BIRTH OF A "FACILITY" After dropping plans for a Skylab II, NASA began the first of many planning exercises for Space Shuttle payloads. In 1973 it funded two studies of larger telescopes, one through the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and one through the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). Both studies concluded that the project was feasible. GSFC got the assignment for further work. MSFC and JPL were taken off the project, to the regret of solar physicists, who had strong confidence in MSFC because of its successful management of the Apollo Telescope Mount and because of its competent and growing solar physics group. In 1976 the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and CIT scientists submitted a proposal to build a Spacelab Optical Telescope and manage it as a facility for a wide range of users. The projected cost was $25 million, although some scientists even then thought this estimate was too low. NASA thought that AURA could not possibly assure the success of the project (although it had teamed up with a highly experienced space instrument contractor), so it was renamed the Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) and designated as a NASA facility. The scientific teams were disbanded. In the following two years (1980-1982), GSFC management built a sizable SOT project bureaucracy. Key scientists were not involved in this important phase when the project's structure and principles were developed. Finally, NASA did add scientist participation in planning the design and operation but not in the management of the SOT. All selected instruments were to become "government-furnished equipment" with virtually every detail of their design and use subject to government approval. Several who had conceived of and designed the telescope for CIT and AURA dropped out at this point. INFLATION AND DELAY By late 1985 the estimated cost of the SOT was $360 million. The project had been thoroughly studied, but design and construction were repeatedly deferred, due in part to difficulties with the Hubble Space Telescope. In Congress, opposition to the SOT was building because of its cost inflation, and finally, in February 1986, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) deleted all funds for the project. GSFC management told the SOT Science Working Group that a $100 million mission might be acceptable. To lower the cost the Science Working Group reduced the telescope aper-

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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? TABLE B.2 Capabilities Deleted from SOT 1. Delete ultraviolet capabilities throughout 2. Delete articulated primary mirror 3. Use Spacelab Instrument Pointing System for pointing 4. Delete steering feature of tertiary mirror 5. Use fast active optics on M4 only 6. Add simple white-light TV for pointing control 7. Delete wave-front sensor 8. Delete stand-alone focus sensors 9. Shorten telescope or reduce alignment complexity; Coordinated Instrument Package also becomes more compact 10. Greatly simplify contamination control system 11. Consider replacement of correlation tracker with boresight or limb sensor 12. Eliminate "Facility" command and power systems 13. Eliminate "Facility" ground support equipment 14. Reduce field of view to one arc minute 15. Delete background tunable filter-graph charged-coupled-device (CCD) camera, associated optics, and shutter 16. Replace two photometric filter-graph film cameras with a single CCD camera system—thus no steering mirror 17. No spectrograph grating carousel, no UV Schmidt mirror position, and no black mirrors 18. Delete initial UV-rejection moveable window 19. Delete polarization corrector slide 20. Consider spherical optics for primary mirror rather than parabolic 21. Greatly simplify heat rejection system ture to 100 centimeters, eliminated most of the ultraviolet capability, and removed one of the spectrographs (see Table B.2). The effect on the scientific capabilities was serious but not debilitating. Even so, the new GSFC cost estimate was still too high—$189 million. At this point, a team from the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and MSFC proposed to complete the project for $86 million. But NASA did not want to pull the job from GSFC. Reluctant to jeopardize SOT's chance to get started in the next year, NRL and MSFC backed down.

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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? The Challenger accident was another setback, because SOT had been planned as a shuttle payload. SOT got a new name, High-Resolution Solar Observatory (HRSO), and was studied as a Space Station payload. Then, because the Space Station berth proved to be prohibitively expensive, SOT was redesigned again, this time for launch by an unmanned vehicle. To replace the capabilities deleted earlier, NASA invited Germany, Italy, and the U.S. Air Force to supply additional experiments, at their own cost. NASA agreed to support an NRL-provided telescope for the payload. Relations between NASA and many solar scientists were severely strained at this point because the new instruments had been added without competition, although NASA argued that a full-blown competitive selection process would take too long. It was all in vain because the OMB deleted all funds for design and construction from the 1988 budget. Despite this history of dashed hopes and growing antagonisms, despite the Challenger accident, despite Hubble's cost overruns, the penultimate phase of the OSL project was grandiose, speculative, and briefly euphoric. Back in 1986, solar physics had moved from NASA's Astrophysics Division to the newly formed Space Physics Division, where the HRSO immediately became the biggest and oldest "gorilla" around. The SOT-HRSO was renamed the Orbiting Solar Laboratory (OSL) to emphasize its broad capabilities. Its new cost of $500 million seemed to be a positive factor, since it could establish a precedent for other big missions to follow in the Space Physics Division. Now it was 1990 and, like the $80 million Van Gogh paintings in the news that year, it seemed that something more expensive was better. After a series of planning sessions, the space scientists decided that big—very big—projects were most likely to succeed. The Earth Observing System and Hubble Space Telescope had paved the way. The cost estimate went to $811 million, not counting $53 million already spent. FROM FIRST PLACE TO LAST Through push and pull, plans for a truly marvelous and versatile laboratory had emerged. The scientists had broadened the scientific goals to include solar net energy and hard x-ray measurements. National Research Council committees and NASA advisory panels all agreed on the importance and urgency of getting the OSL started. Finally, there was no more planning to be done. The Office of Space Science and Applications (OSSA) moved the OSL to its first priority for the next "new start." The bubble burst on August 22, 1991, when NASA officials met with the Space Science and Applications Advisory Committee (SSAAC) at Woods Hole, on Cape Cod. Against a background of a faltering U.S. economy and a looming election year, NASA moved the proposed OSL start date from 1993 to 1998, saying that, for the Space Physics Division, small missions would be better. On

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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? the morning of that fateful day, Harold Zirin, the CIT physicist who had fought for the project since 1965, had felt more confident than ever of a final positive decision. But, like Alice watching the Cheshire Cat fade away, by evening Zirin knew that nothing was left of OSL but the smile. WHAT DOOMED OSL? The generation that invented and promoted it will probably never see it fly. Some of them struggled for 25 years to make it happen, but many forces outside their control helped doom it. In the 1980s each cost escalation of the Hubble Space Telescope amplified the SOT estimates. Then the Challenger accident forced its redesign as a free flier. The end of the Cold War meant the end of the space race and an end to large annual increases in NASA's budget. Soaring national budget deficits put all big expenditures under the knife. From the time NASA took over in the late 1970s to OSL's cancellation in 1991, the scientists thought they had no control over cost estimates. The details were off limits. NASA argued that the numbers could reveal proprietary information or that they could tip off potential hardware suppliers about the prices the agency expected to pay. The effect was to make it impossible for the scientists to do much to bring the costs down except cut back on the scientific capabilities. No review committee ever criticized the importance of the science or the technical feasibility. After so many studies, the scientific and technical cases for OSL were strong. The Science Working Group tried continually to gain more control over the project. Although it was generally told few details about why the costs were growing, the group did discover that data collection and analysis was a major cost driver. This issue frustrated and irritated the group for it knew that high cost estimates were jeopardizing the project and believed it could handle the data at far less cost than could the GSFC. More important, the group believed that responsibility for the quality of vital data was being taken away from it. GSFC was planning to create a Science Data and Operations Center to be responsible for management of science data processing, distribution, and archiving. The Science Working Group preferred a distributed data center, with nodes at the scientists' institutions and data banks under their direction. Starting with its designation as a NASA facility and its early cost escalation to $360 million, SOT-OSL was believed by some to be too expensive. The NASA chief scientist proclaimed it overpriced for the expected scientific return. After each higher cost estimate, a few more key people would privately conclude that the project would never happen. Before the end, more than $53 million and an estimated 1,000 person-years were spent over a 25-year period in planning the project. The OSL had evolved from a small to a big science project in a bureaucratic and committee-laden environment of the sort that rarely produces excellence.

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A Space Physics Paradox: Why has Increased Funding Been Accompanied by Decreased Effectiveness in the Conduct of Space Physics Research? One of many lessons to be learned from the OSL experience is that a project drawn out too long loses the inspiration and determination of its inventors. Long planning periods and frequent postponements erode morale. Ultimate success becomes less and less likely as the scientists are disenfranchised by cautious professional managers. An adversarial relationship can develop between researchers and the government. Flexibility fades, factions develop, heroes depart, consensus dissolves, and everyone looks for a younger, less-scarred project. EFFECT ON THE SOLAR PHYSICISTS How did the scientists feel about the project as it grew through the 1980s? The surprising result of an informal survey (see Chapter 5, footnote 1) is that many of them had decided as early as 1978, when NASA turned down the AURA proposal, that they would get nothing out of it. Most of the others quietly and privately wrote the OSL off after the repeated setbacks of the early 1980s. Despite their private and sometimes public pessimism, solar physicists had tried a number of times to regain control of the project and its costs. The NRL/MSFC proposal was one example. Another was a plan by Art Walker of Stanford to set up a committee of scientists not affiliated with the SOT to try an entirely new approach. NASA opposed these initiatives. Out of necessity, most of the major players had developed alternate research objectives, and many were not even planning to use the OSL data. By 1988 most OSL scientists saw the project as a good thing if it could happen, but they were putting their own energies into smaller science projects. EPILOGUE In January 1992 NASA officials suggested there might be a "distributed" OSL. Couldn't much of the same science be done gradually with a combination of ground-based telescopes, theory, rocket experiments, and a balloon-borne telescope? The price of the latter would be $20 million, part of a proposed $38 million "Research Base Enhancement" to help U.S. solar research in space recover from the past years of frustration. Within a year, this proposal too was abandoned.