elements of this process, but they are only a part of the science enterprise. Flight projects are founded on research that defines clear scientific goals and questions, designs missions to address these questions, and develops the required technologies to accomplish the missions. This research is funded primarily by NASA's research and analysis (R&A) programs. Data from flight projects are transformed into knowledge through analysis and synthesis—research that is funded both by R&A programs and by the data analysis (DA) portion of mission operations and data analysis (MO&DA) programs. R&A and DA programs are the subject of this report and are grouped for convenience under the single heading of research and data analysis (R&DA).3

Beyond NASA's mandate for science, the agency embraces as an integral part of its objectives sophisticated technology—such as new microelectronics and detectors, innovative launch systems, robotics, and artificial intelligence—that enables flight projects and contributes to other terrestrial applications as well. R&DA defines, focuses, and integrates scientific and technical objectives to take maximum advantage of this technological progress. Similarly, R&DA contributes to the scientific foundation that underlies the development of many of the applications that result from NASA's work. Recent advances in such areas as global communications, navigation, and weather prediction are dependent on a combination of advanced science and advanced technology.

In speaking of "science" in NASA's programs and of the impact of R&DA activities on science, the task group means much more than just the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Important basic research is often stimulated by some societal need, and conversely good basic research often opens the way for new tools and approaches that are translated into societal or economic benefits. In a paper marking the fiftieth anniversary of Vannevar Bush's report Science: The Endless Frontier,4 Princeton University political scientist Donald Stokes referred to this aspect of science as "use-inspired basic research." 5 A substantial number of the key scientific questions framing NASA's science programs, especially in the Earth and life and microgravity sciences, reflect such a use-inspired orientation.

1.2 CRITICAL SCIENCE QUESTIONS

The R&DA grants and contracts that fund university and industry researchers facilitate the agency's link to the nation's intellectual resources. Through them, NASA provides science to inform public policy debate, opportunities to train the nation's young scientists and engineers, scientific developments that stimulate technology breakthroughs, and new avenues for education at all levels. These ground-based programs identify the critical science questions that can be addressed through the use of aeronautics and space technologies and through access to unique suborbital and orbital laboratories and spacecraft or deep-space probes. Among these questions are the following:

  • How did the universe begin and what is its ultimate fate?

  • How and where did life begin?

  • How do galaxies, stars, and planetary systems form and evolve?

3  

The task group originally coined the composite term "R&DA" to designate research and data analyses that were funded outside of spaceflight projects. Because NASA budgets do not separate cleanly this way, R&DA became a catch-all surrogate for all science-related activities that were funded outside of spaceflight projects. More specific alternatives to "R&DA" were defined for the discussion of budget trends in Chapter 4.

4  

Vannevar Bush, Science: The Endless Frontier, Appendix 3, "Report of the Committee on Science and the Public Welfare," U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1945.

5  

Donald Stokes, Vannevar Bush II: Science for the 21st Century, Sigma Xi, Research Triangle Park, N.C., 1995, p. 28.



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