3
The Role of the Research and Data Analysis Programs

Chapter 1 affirms the central role given science by NASA's charter, by top-level reviews of its mission,1 and by policy statements from the White House.2 The task group also introduces the theme of this report in Chapter 1—that vigor and quality in NASA's science enterprise require healthy R&DA programs as well as numerous flight projects; this theme is illustrated in Chapter 2. This chapter discusses critical science questions as one of the foundations of R&DA, differences and commonalities in R&DA across the agency, the importance of linking R&DA to NASA's strategic plans, and how R&DA is responding to a changing environment—for example, the impact that policies to streamline and shorten missions can have on both the expectations and the resource requirements for R&DA activities.

3.1 UNDERSTANDING THE BASIS OF R&DA

NASA's science is organized under three enterprises: (1) the space science enterprise managed by the Office of Space Science (OSS); (2) the Earth science enterprise managed by the Office of Earth Science (OES); and (3) the human exploration and development of space enterprise managed by the Office of Life and Microgravity Science and Applications (OLMSA) and the Office of Spaceflight (OSF). (See Appendix B for a diagram of NASA's organizational structure.) Each office has developed or is developing a strategic plan that includes its priorities in science. These priorities can be cast as critical science questions and used to guide the agency's science programs. Summaries of current sets of critical questions appear in the following sections.

1  

 National Commission on Space, Pioneering the Space Frontier, Bantam Books, May 1986; Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., December 1990; Space and Earth Science Advisory Committee, NASA Advisory Council, The Crisis in Space and Earth Sciences, November 1986.

2  

 National Science and Technology Council, "National Space Policy," The White House, September 1996.



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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis 3 The Role of the Research and Data Analysis Programs Chapter 1 affirms the central role given science by NASA's charter, by top-level reviews of its mission,1 and by policy statements from the White House.2 The task group also introduces the theme of this report in Chapter 1—that vigor and quality in NASA's science enterprise require healthy R&DA programs as well as numerous flight projects; this theme is illustrated in Chapter 2. This chapter discusses critical science questions as one of the foundations of R&DA, differences and commonalities in R&DA across the agency, the importance of linking R&DA to NASA's strategic plans, and how R&DA is responding to a changing environment—for example, the impact that policies to streamline and shorten missions can have on both the expectations and the resource requirements for R&DA activities. 3.1 UNDERSTANDING THE BASIS OF R&DA NASA's science is organized under three enterprises: (1) the space science enterprise managed by the Office of Space Science (OSS); (2) the Earth science enterprise managed by the Office of Earth Science (OES); and (3) the human exploration and development of space enterprise managed by the Office of Life and Microgravity Science and Applications (OLMSA) and the Office of Spaceflight (OSF). (See Appendix B for a diagram of NASA's organizational structure.) Each office has developed or is developing a strategic plan that includes its priorities in science. These priorities can be cast as critical science questions and used to guide the agency's science programs. Summaries of current sets of critical questions appear in the following sections. 1    National Commission on Space, Pioneering the Space Frontier, Bantam Books, May 1986; Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., December 1990; Space and Earth Science Advisory Committee, NASA Advisory Council, The Crisis in Space and Earth Sciences, November 1986. 2    National Science and Technology Council, "National Space Policy," The White House, September 1996.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis 3.1.1 Critical Science Questions For the Space Science Enterprise The space science enterprise encompasses the traditional scientific disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics, space and solar physics, and planetary science. Through investigations in these areas, NASA seeks to answer fundamental scientific questions, some of which are as old as the human race (Box 3.1). These questions have significance well beyond the scientific community; they lie at the heart of humanity's attempt to understand its place in the universe. OSS also investigates fundamental physical and biological laws using space environments as natural laboratories that cannot be duplicated on Earth. The tools of the space science enterprise are extraordinarily broad and varied. They include deep-space probes; Earth-orbiting astrophysical observatories; aircraft-, balloon-, rocket-, and ground-based observatories; and laboratory and theoretical investigations. These tools, used in concert, have facilitated understanding of complex questions about the universe and the solar system. 3.1.2 Critical Science Questions For the Earth Science Enterprise The Earth science enterprise consists of one program—Earth science—whose primary objective is to understand the interactions among Earth's land, oceans, and atmosphere that influence weather, climate, Earth's ecosystems, agriculture, and hazards to populations. This cross-cutting approach to Earth studies has come to be known as Earth system science. Critical science questions from NASA's earth science strategic plan are listed in Box 3.2. A sense of urgency emerged in the Earth sciences as investigators began to identify the strong linkages between phenomena as diverse as the depletion of stratospheric ozone and the terrestrial use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs); severe storms and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation; and the growth of infrared-active gases in the atmosphere and potential climate changes that will affect human health, economic decisions, fishery yields, and agricultural productivity. Progress in Earth system science is sensitively tied to the research strategy selected to attack these problems.3 3.1.3 Critical Science Questions For the Human Exploration and Development of Space Enterprise Unlike the space and Earth science enterprises, the human exploration and development of space (HEDS) enterprise encompasses much that lies beyond concerns usually attributable to science. These range from issues as grand as the expansion of human life beyond Earth to issues as practical as the commercialization of access to space. OLMSA manages the HEDS research program, which spans biology, medicine, materials science, fluid and combustion physics, and biotechnology. Life Sciences Research Critical questions within the life sciences largely concern the effects of gravity (or the absence of gravity) on plant, animal, and human physiological systems. For example, a primary question is, How do humans adapt to the space environment and readapt on return to Earth? 3    National Research Council, Board on Sustainable Development, Overview of Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1998.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis Box 3.1 NASA Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan Fundamental Questions1 How did the universe begin, and what is its ultimate fate? How do galaxies, stars, and planetary systems form and evolve? What physical processes take place in extreme environments such as black holes? How and where did life begin? How is the evolution of life linked to planetary evolution and to cosmic phenomena? How and why does the Sun vary, and how do Earth and the other planets respond? How might humans inhabit other worlds? NRC Research Strategy Questions Astronomy and Astrophysics2 To what extent are the origin and evolution of life a consequence of the evolution of the solar system? How did life arise on Earth, and are we humans unique? How old is the universe? What is the geometry and mass of the universe? Space and Solar Physics3 What are the mechanisms of solar variability? Can we predict solar variability? What is the physics behind the solar wind and the heliosphere? What are the structure and dynamics of magnetospheres, and what is their coupling to adjacent regions? What are the dynamics of the middle and upper atmospheres, and what is their coupling to regions above and below? What are the plasma processes that accelerate very energetic particles and control their propagation? Planetary Sciences4 How did the solar system originate? How have its constituents evolved? How, in general, do planets work? 1   The Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan: Origins, Evolution, and Destiny of the Cosmos and Life, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., November 1997, p. 4. 2   National Research Council, Space Studies Board, A New Science Strategy for Space Astronomy and Astrophysics, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1997. 3   National Research Council, Space Studies Board, A Science Strategy for Space Physics, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1995. 4   National Research Council, Space Studies Board, An Integrated Strategy for the Planetary Sciences: 1995-2010, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1994.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis Box 3.2 Questions from NASA's Earth Science Strategic Plan1 Can climate variation be predicted a season or year in advance? Can long-term climate variations be detected and drivers identified? What are the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems? How do terrestrial ecosystems respond to land cover change? How do sudden solid Earth changes affect the land surface? 1   Mission to Planet Earth Strategic Enterprise Plan 1996-2002, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C., March 1996. This question is related to physiological changes facing astronauts during extended space travel. Even relatively short spaceflights produce physiological alterations that include bone demineralization, cardiovascular deconditioning, muscular atrophy, immune dysfunction, and postflight vestibular disruptions. Although apparent in many astronauts during short space flights, these changes have generally remained below the level of a clinical problem. With increasingly longer exposures to a microgravity environment, such changes may become clinically pronounced. There are also issues of limiting exposure to ionizing radiation and the maintenance of mental health during long missions. Critical science questions for the life sciences are listed in Box 3.3. Microgravity Research Microgravity research focuses on understanding physical and chemical processes in the reduced-gravity environment. Not only are these processes central to the successful exploration and development of space, but the removal of gravitational constraints may also open new avenues for progress in science and technology. The specific systems and processes of interest span fluid dynamics and transport phenomena, materials science, combustion science, biotechnology, and low-temperature physics. Critical science questions are listed in Box 3.4. 3.2 UNDERSTANDING THE ROLES OF R&DA The role of R&DA programs—their relationship to other components of a science program—is obscured by the differing definitions and content of R&DA across NASA program offices (Box 3.5). Although these differences are explained, in part, by variations in the character of the science among science disciplines, some of the differences are clearly arbitrary. Similarly, the budget categories for R&DA-type activities are fragmented; funding can reside within the R&A program, the advanced technology development (ATD) program, the MO&DA program, or the suborbital program.4 The term "R&DA" used in the text of this report and in the data presented in Chapter 4 includes these elements (ATD, MO&DA, R&A, and suborbital programs). For many observers inside and outside the agency 4    The title "Supporting Research and Technology" was used by the Office of Space Science during the 1980s to encompass most of the programs included in R&DA. Use of the older title is avoided here to emphasize the complementary role of R&DA to flight programs rather than any "supporting" role.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis Box 3.3 NRC Research Strategy Questions1 Physiological and Psychological Effects of Spaceflight What are the physiological mechanisms that lead to bone and muscle deterioration during long-term spaceflight, and how can mechanistic insights be used to develop effective countermeasures? What are the bases for the adaptive compensatory mechanisms in the vestibular and sensorimotor systems that operate both on the ground and in space? What are the magnitude, time course, and mechanisms of cardiovascular adjustments for long-duration exposure to microgravity? What are the mechanisms underlying inadequate total peripheral resistance observed during postflight orthostatic stress? What are the carcinogenic risks following irradiation by protons and high-charge Z and high-energy particles? Will exposure to heavy ions at the level that would occur during long-duration deep-space missions pose a risk to the integrity and function of the central nervous system? Can the combination of radiation and stress on the immune system that occurs in space produce additive or synergistic effects? What role does the host response to stressors during spaceflight play in alterations in host defenses? What are the neurobiological and psychosocial mechanisms underlying the effects of physical and psychosocial environmental stressors during spaceflight? Graviperception and Gravitropism in Plants Which cells actually perceive gravity in a plant, and what are the intracellular mechanisms by which the direction of the gravity vector is perceived? What is the nature of the cellular asymmetry that is set up in a plant cell that perceives the direction of the gravity vector? What are the nature and mechanism(s) of the translocation of the signal(s) in plants that pass from the site of perception to the site of reaction? What is (are) the mechanism(s) by which gravitropic signals in plants cause unequal rates of cell elongation, and what are the possible effects of gravity on the sensitivity of these cells to the signals? Animal Graviperception, Reproduction, and Development What role does gravity play in normal development of the gravity-sensing vestibular system of animals? How does microgravity influence the development and maintenance of neural space maps in the brain? Are there developmental processes in vertebrates that are critically dependent on gravity? 1   This list is a sampling of types of studies recommended in National Research Council, Space Studies Board, A Strategy for Space Biology and Medicine in the New Century, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1998.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis Box 3.4 Overarching Research Questions in the Microgravity Sciences1 What are the microscopic and macroscopic effects of gravity on the physical and chemical processes associated with natural phenomena and human activities? How does gravity affect the common processes found in natural or industrial activities? What other physical mechanisms become dominant as the effective gravitational acceleration is reduced to a very low level? Can gravity be used as an adjustable parameter to perform controlled basic scientific and engineering experiments and to learn how to improve current technological processes? 1   The overarching research questions noted for microgravity research are based on previous discipline research priorities developed by the NRC: National Research Council, Space Studies Board, Toward a Microgravity Research Strategy, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1992; National Research Council, Space Studies Board, Microgravity Research Opportunities for the 1990s, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1995. who have not been students of the R&DA budgets, it has been difficult to correlate the impact of R&DA budget and policy changes with NASA science. There is no simple relationship between the agency's budget components and the goals for R&A outlined for each NASA science program office. The task group tried to bring the various programmatic elements together with their budgets as a first step toward linking budget trends to changing priorities. Despite the disjointed nature of R&DA, the task group and the Space Studies Board isolated a set of components they consider to be common, fundamental elements of R&DA programs. These components are (1) theoretical investigations; (2) new instrument development; (3) exploratory or supporting ground-based and suborbital research; (4) interpretation of data from individual or multiple space missions; (5) management of data; (6) support of U.S. investigators who participate in international missions; and (7) education, outreach, and public information. Their role, in part, is not unlike the sequential discipline of hypothesis, test, and synthesis referred to as the scientific method. 1. Theoretical Investigations. Theory plays a unifying role in the quest to understand nature by identifying important observational or experimental questions and providing a coherent framework for observations that may at first appear unrelated. Theory includes the development of numerical models and computer simulations that facilitate the broadest feasible applications of data from individual observations and the development of predictive capabilities. R&DA strategies support theoretical investigations that complement experimental programs. 2. New Instrument Development. Many of the instruments that have enabled research in space have been developed under R&DA programs by small groups of innovative researchers in NASA centers, universities, and industry. Even instruments that fly on major missions often have design and proof-of-concept heritages that were funded by R&DA programs. R&DA funding for instrument development assumes even greater importance for smaller, faster, cheaper and technology-driven missions. This applies equally to robotic spacecraft and piloted platforms such as the International Space Station (ISS).

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis Box 3.5 The Diverse Character of NASA's R&A Activities (FY 1999)1 The goals of the space science R&A program are to (1) enhance the value of current space missions by carrying out supporting ground-based observations and laboratory experiments; (2) conduct the basic research necessary to understand observed phenomena and develop theories to explain observed phenomena and predict new ones; and (3) continue the analysis and evaluation of data from laboratories, airborne observatories, balloons, rocket experiments, and spacecraft data archives. In addition to supporting basic and experimental astrophysics, space physics, and solar system exploration research for future flight missions, the program also develops and promotes scientific and technological expertise in the U.S. scientific community. The goals of the Earth science applied R&DA program are to advance our understanding of the global climate environment and the vulnerability of the environment to human and natural forces of change, and to provide numerical models and other tools necessary for understanding global climate change. The applied R&DA program is divided into two components: (1) Earth science program science and (2) Earth science operations, data retrieval, and storage. The activities under program science include research and analysis, Earth Observing System (EOS) science, airborne science and applications, the purchase and management of scientific data, commercial remote sensing, and the uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) science program. Operations, data retrieval, and storage include several independent activities responsible for the operation of currently functioning spacecraft and flight instruments, high-performance computing and communications, and the provision of computing infrastructure. Commencing with the FY 1999 congressional budget submission, the OLMSA budget structure has been realigned to reflect the reorganization of programmatic activities into five programs and three functions. Therefore, the life sciences R&A program is how divided into programs for advanced human support technology (AHST), biomedical research and countermeasures (BR&C), and gravitational biology and ecology (GB&E): The goals of the AHST program are to (1) demonstrate and validate full self-sufficiency in air and food recycling technology for use in space vehicles; (2) demonstrate and validate integrated, fully autonomous environmental monitoring and control systems; and (3) validate and incorporate human factors engineering technology and protocols to ensure the maintenance of 3. Exploratory Or Supporting Ground-Based and Suborbital Research. Many disciplines require extensive supporting ground-based research to make effective use of space-based opportunities. Examples include ground-based and airborne observations of planets or galaxies, ground-based validation of satellite observations, airborne sampling of the atmosphere, and drop-tower experiments of micro-gravity effects. 4. Interpretation of Data from Individual Or Multiple Space Missions. Major missions were once expected to fund extensive data analysis. With current policies that favor many much smaller missions making more limited observations and with the ascendancy of the ethic that publicly funded space data should rapidly be made public, data synthesis from one or more space missions to validate or refute hypotheses is increasingly the responsibility of R&DA programs. 5. Management of Data. Careful stewardship of data and information is central to maximizing near-and long-term payoffs from R&DA-sponsored programs. Data management includes creating cata-

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis high ground and flight crew skills during long-duration missions. The AHST program makes NASA technologies available to the private sector for Earth applications. The BR&C program develops understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the effects of spaceflight on humans. Its applied research activities also develop countermeasures to prevent the undesirable effects of spaceflight on humans. The program includes several areas of research: space physiology, environmental health, radiation health, operational medical research, and behavior and performance. The overriding goal of these activities is to enable the human exploration and development of space by minimizing risks and optimizing crew safety and performance. Finally, GB&E focuses on research designed to improve our understanding of the role of gravity in biological processes from the cell to global ecosystems. The emphasis in this program is on advancing fundamental knowledge in the biological sciences, but the research supported often also contributes to the other goals of the HEDS enterprise. The program solicits research in molecular, cellular, developmental, organismal, population, and comparative biology that seeks an understanding of basic mechanisms underlying the effects of gravity on these systems. NASA continues to value ground-based research leading to flight experiments that can confirm or refute the fidelity of ground-based models and hypotheses. The microgravity science R&A program seeks to understand basic physical phenomena and processes; quantify effects and overcome limitations imposed by gravity on the observation and evaluation of selected phenomena and processes, develop technologies related to research requirements; and expand, centralize, and disseminate the research database as widely as possible to the U.S. research and technology community. The primary goals of the microgravity research program are to advance fundamental scientific knowledge of physical, chemical, and biological processes; to enhance the quality of life on Earth by conducting scientific experiments in the low-gravity environment of space, and to mature the research of a large number of laboratory scientists into coherent groups of flight experiments. 1   ''Science, Aeronautics, and Technology FY 1999 Estimates Budget Summary," National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, D.C. logues for data, conducting inventories of the data, and archiving the data. The success of data management programs can be measured by the ease with and rate at which the research community can access the data. 6. Support of U.S. Investigators Who Participate in International Missions. NASA has a long record of productive international collaborations with other nations and groups of nations.5 The European Space Agency's (ESA's) Giotto mission, the Japanese Yohkoh mission, the Soviet Vega mission, the German Roentgen satellite, and the ESA Infrared Space Observatory are only a few of the many successful collaborative programs. R&DA programs have helped bridge research gaps in U.S. programs by supporting U.S. investigators' participation in international missions. 5    National Research Council and European Science Foundation, U.S.-European Collaboration in Space Science, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1998.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis 7. Education, outreach, and public information. The drama and adventure of science in space attract students to science and mathematics. Whether or not these students continue with space-related studies, the benefit to the nation of having a populace that is scientifically literate is unarguable. NASA's outreach programs and its R&DA programs are naturally complementary in that R&DA programs are often the source of the information that fuels outreach activities, and students who are influenced by outreach programs often find themselves working on R&DA projects first as undergraduates, then as research assistants in graduate school, and later as postdoctoral researchers.6 3.3 POSING A STRATEGY FOR R&DA PROGRAMS Although the contributions of R&DA activities to science and to the nation may be demonstrable, as illustrated in Chapter 2, the role and importance of R&DA to NASA and other agencies have been difficult to describe. Some agency and government officials have viewed the programs as "entitlements" for scientists. Moreover, decision makers report that they lack an appreciable understanding of R&DA, its direction, and its performance or output. Without question, the task of linking measurable and quantifiable outputs to R&DA activities is difficult and echoes attempts to find "metrics" for government-funded research and development. However, the link between R&DA and the agency and enterprise strategic plans is one means by which to assess R&DA's performance and direction. NASA's science strategic plans are all built on a sequence of key elements—goals, objectives, implementation approaches,7 priorities, performance measures— that define the strategy for the program. The fundamental underpinnings of the strategy are critical science questions that the science program seeks to answer; these questions constitute the basis for the goals of the program. Increasingly, agency strategic plans are also focused on the applications of space sciences to practical needs. These applications, if they are to be effective, must be anchored in a strong science base. R&DA provides an especially important and powerful means of ensuring that a strategy's goals, objectives, and critical science questions are rooted in good science and that they evolve to reflect scientific progress. It influences all elements of a strategy. For instance, R&DA serves as the platform from which to develop and improve implementation approaches (e.g., via development of new technologies) and through which the results of the program are extracted (e.g., via data analyses) to create meaningful results, performance measures, and progress in achieving initial goals and objectives. When programs are inadequately anchored by critical science questions, we find projects whose primary objectives are the collection of data; programs that continue without significant discoveries or advances; and results that can be forgotten without penalty. The more the R&DA activities are integrated into the strategy and managed with a view to enhancing the implementation and evolution of the strategy, the stronger is the overall program. The effectiveness of R&DA's contribution to a strategy relies on the balance and health of R&DA programs as a whole. R&DA can be evaluated by examining the extent to which it contributes to progress in implementing the strategic plan. For example, one can ask, What is the impact of R&DA on refining critical questions, defining new and better approaches and technologies, answering critical 6    The NASA Office of Space Science Web page provides details on education and outreach as well as links to several related space entities. See <http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/oss/education/index.htm>. 7    By "implementation approaches" is meant the portfolio of tools in implementing NASA's strategy, such as large and small flight missions; dedicated missions and flights of opportunity; spaceflights and suborbital programs; ground-based research; and principal investigator, consortia, and team-oriented projects.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis questions (data analysis), and placing answers within a scientific context (e.g., theory)? Other measures of R&DA contributions to NASA and the scientific community might entail exploring whether R&DA is sustaining an adequately sized research community, generating new ideas, identifying forward-looking technologies, providing infrastructure to permit widespread use of flight data, and providing training for new researchers and engineers. The task group recognizes that serendipitous discoveries often depend on investigators having flexibility within their grants to explore anomalous observations or occasionally follow their curiosity. The task group believes that this is the nature of a research grant as opposed to a contract and does not wish the distinction to be lost. Within this context, however, it is important that R&DA projects be linked to critical science questions and that the linkages be stronger as project costs increase. 3.4 RESPONDING TO THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT NASA's efforts to streamline and simplify missions so as to increase the flight rate also provide increased opportunities for investigators to access spaceflight data. Shorter-duration missions also allow effective responses to exciting new science discoveries, the rapid infusion of new technologies, and opportunities for involvement by young scientists. Examples of NASA programs employing this approach include the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program for applications and the Small Explorer (SMEX) and Discovery programs for solar system exploration. The task group supports these approaches and notes the Explorer program as an exemplary case (Box 3.6). The agency's move to smaller and shorter-duration flight programs has also introduced new demands on R&DA programs. For instance, much of the science and some of the technologies previously developed under lengthy flight projects will now be funded out of the research base. Similarly, those who submitted proposals to the ESSP program were directed to request only the funds necessary to collect and validate flight data; more general analyses of the data were to be provided through projects Box 3.6 Smaller, Faster, Cheaper and the Explorer Program The Explorer program played a crucial role in the early development of NASA's programs in astronomy, astrophysics, and solar and space physics. Focused on low-cost missions that could respond to scientific opportunities in a timely manher, the Explorer program was well suited to disciplines dominated by new discoveries. As the pressures to exploit discoveries with more sophisticated capabilities exceeded the resources available to support new starts for major missions, a number of large Explorers were approved and initiated. However, the heavy fiscal demands of these Delta-class Explorers greatly reduced the opportunity to mount at least one new Explorer mission per year, resulting in a backlog of innovative ideas and a dearth of flight opportunities. Returning the Explorer program to its original focus, by restricting it to small-and medium-class missions (SMEX and MIDEX, respectively) that are strictly limited in cost, has restored the opportunity for two to three missions per year and has resulted in a number of exciting new scientific investigations. This revitalization of the Explorer program is one of the best examples of the benefits of the smaller, faster, cheaper philosophy.

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Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis funded by R&DA programs.8 Previously, a significant fraction of data analyses were funded by flight programs. Other emerging stresses on the R&DA program include the trend away from long flight project development periods, which allowed the development of project-unique technologies. Some flight projects in the past even carried definition-phase funds to develop needed technologies. Now shorter flight projects may be expected to be ready for launch within 3 years of project approval. In such a compressed schedule there is no time to develop new technologies. Thus, mission-specific technologies are now expected to be funded out of the research base. The role of R&DA in supporting elements of the nation's scientific infrastructure is often obscured by NASA's image as a "mission agency." R&DA programs are primary sources of support for scientists outside NASA whose work benefits from access to space or use of aerospace technologies, and they are the dominant sources of support for NASA's in-house scientists. Not only are these programs of discovery, but they also educate each new generation of researchers in space-related sciences, engineering, and project management skills, and they stimulate interest in science and mathematics for many others. For space-related sciences, NASA's responsibility is equivalent to that of the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health for disciplines that rely primarily on ground-rather than space-based observations. In the face of flat or decreasing NASA science budgets, it is important to examine whether the agency's R&DA program can adequately meet the combination of traditional and new roles over the full range of scientific disciplines and research institutions. 8    NASA Announcement of Opportunity, Earth System Science Pathfinder Missions (ESSP), AO-96-MTPE-01, July 19, 1996, p. 13.