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1 Introduction Where there is no vision, the people perish. Prov. 29: The past quarter century of space science has been extraordi- narily productive. The United States has held the lead in space science during most of these years, exploring new worlds, discover- ing new phenomena in space, and providing new ways to observe and predict changes in the global environment. The national space science program has amply fulfilled the objective of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 to extend Inhuman knowledge of the Earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and in space. Moreover, it has contributed substantially to other objectives set forth in the act, including the development of space technology, the preservation of U.S. leadership in space, and the fostering of international cooperation. National investment in space science has produced a treasure of trained people and facilities that can continue to be productive far into the future. It is a perishable treasure, however, and it is eroding rapidly with the present lack of scientific missions and the aging of academic facilities. For the past 30 years, scientific investigation has been neither the only objective of the space program of the United States, nor even the dominant one. The Apollo project and the development of 1
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2 the Space Transportation System and, more recently, of the Space Station were not primarily designed to respond to requirements set by the various disciplines of space science. ~stead, establishing a human presence in space and accomplishment of large engineering projects for their own sake have driven a major part of our space program since the establishment of NASA in 1958. The steering group for this study recommends that the present ordering of priorities in the national space program be changed. The steering group proposes that, as the nation considers its fu- ture in space' the advance of science and its applications to human welfare be adopted and implemented as an objective no less central to the space program of the United States than any other, such as the capability of expanding man's presence in space. Other related activities, such as the development of space technology, should be carried out so as to maximize scientific return. The steering group believes that attaining the objectives of science can provide any degree of challenge to the development of space technology that may be desired. This will ensure that the scientific and engineering resources available are effectively utilized in the national interest, as required by the act of 1958. This same standard~btaining the greatest scientific advance for the available resources should prevail when determining the balance between manned and un- manned space activities as well. Provided the nation recovers Fill access to space rapidly after the Challenger accident, a large number of scientific missions will be in space or well along toward launch—by the last years of this century. These missions promise a rich harvest of scientific results that wall significantly improve our understanding of the universe. The challenge to the space sciences is to take a bold leap forward after 1995, carrying them closer to answers for the most funda- menta] questions about the nature of the universe. By responding to this challenge, space science will also contribute to our under- standing of the delicate ecological balance that sustains life on Earth. Together, these advances will provide deeper insight into the world and our relation to it. Applications of this knowledge will directly enhance the quality of life for Al humans. Moreover, new technology developed to meet the requirements of science will have many earth-bound applications. Someday it may be possible to launch and maintain factories in space where we can profitably manufacture exotic materials. Today, there is no way to predict whether or not this will be
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3 feasible. Only a grasp of the underlying science, developed from performance of fundamental experiments In the low-gravity envi- ronment of space, will allow us to decide whether or not these aspirations are realistic, and, if so, to select the most prom~s- ing avenues for development. The steering group believes that such beneficial applications of space technology as these have their best and perhaps only- chance to flourish if science is made the principal objective of the civilian space program. This study focuses on large-scale scientific undertakings. There is every reason to believe that, if they are to succeed, they must be built on ~ solid foundation of supporting research and technology, and on such small-scale exploratory projects as the present Explorer, Observer, Spartan, and suborbital programs. Supporting research must include stable funding for vigorous the- oretical and laboratory studies. It is these that will provide the framework for understanding the data obtained from scientific · e missions. The past 40 years of international activities at high alti- tudes and ~ space have generated a remarkable range of scientific achievements. The twenty-first century promises to build on these achievements at an accelerating rate, provided the nation furnishes the necessary resources and does not repeat its mistake of denying itself a sturdy, redundant system of access to space. Automated spacecraft, remote sensing instruments, and manned space sta- tions will continue to add profound insights into the nature of the universe. This report discusses the opportunities for space science in the period from 1995 to 2015. The study on which this report is based was devoted to six subjects: (1) the planet Earth; (2) plan- etary and lunar exploration; (3) solar system space physics; (4) astronomy and astrophysics; (5) fundamental physics and chem- istry (relativistic gravitation and m~crogravity science); and (6) life sciences. Each subject was developed by a separate task group and is discussed In an individual volume. Collectively, these volumes set forth the scientific opportunity that exists in space research and its applications. Exploiting this opportunity should be the paramount consideration in the national debate on the goals of the civilian space program. This overview volume contains a per- spective on progress in the six disciplines of space science. It also includes the prospects for major achievements by 1995 from mis- sions already under way or awaiting new starts. Finally, it presents
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4 a get of lon~r~ge gods far these dl~lphues durlog the Arm tan decades ~ the ~enty-Arst century. Abe fig pages present broad themes far future sclentlOc pu~ults and bighllg~ some examples of blg~prlorhy ~sslons far the turn of the century. A ~w ~co~endatlons are cued far each disciple to suggest bow these tbe~s might be developed.
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