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.