evidence for the existence of such exotic objects as black holes and have revealed disks of dust and gas around very young stars that may evolve into planetary systems much like our own.

Equally impressive, space technologies have made possible our current scientific concept of the Earth as a complex system. From Apollo photographs of the Earth as a blue marble to the recent Shuttle-based radar images of rain tracks in the Midwest or ancient drainage structures under Middle Eastern deserts, the space perspective has revolutionized our understanding of atmospheric, oceanic, and land processes. We have measured centimeter-scale distortions of the Earth's crust associated with plate tectonics; detected and understood the polar ozone holes; begun to understand the dynamics and chemistry of the stratosphere and upper atmosphere; correlated climate variations with the Pacific El Niño and with major volcanic eruptions; learned to use satellite radiometry to estimate global atmospheric temperature and moisture profiles; bounded solar variability; measured the components of the Earth's radiation budget; and used satellite observations to validate greatly improved atmospheric models for prediction of weather and climate.

The life sciences, too, were an early element of the NASA program, both for supporting human spaceflight and for studying fundamental biological processes that occur in the space environment. When longer-duration operations at zero gravity became possible (Skylab, Shuttle, Spacelab), micro-gravity science took its place among the space sciences of NASA.

But many challenges and new opportunities remain. It is because of these opportunities for continued discovery and analysis that the place of space science in the program of NASA has been repeatedly reaffirmed, both in agency planning and in external reviews. In 1983 the NASA Advisory Council's Study of the Mission of NASA1 placed space science and exploration at the forefront of the space mission of NASA (Appendix C). In its 1990 report,2 the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program (the Augustine Committee) recommended that, in a balanced space program, highest priority be given to the space science program in the competition for NASA resources. The committee ranked science “. . . above space stations, aerospace planes, manned missions to the planets, and many other major pursuits which often receive greater visibility” (Appendix C). As the basis for its recommendation, the committee cited the central role of NASA in enabling basic discovery and understanding; gaining fundamental knowledge of our own planet to support improvements in the quality of life for people on Earth; stimulating education of future scientists; and giving vision, imagination, and direction to the space program. Subsequently, the NASA Advisory Council, in its 1994 Report on the Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program,3 reaffirmed the validity of most of those findings—and, in particular, those associated with the priority of space science.

Technology for Space Science

Technology for space science includes not only the technologies related to sensors, experimental apparatuses, and data analysis, but also those necessary for spacecraft and systems technologies such as spacecraft power, control and structural systems, and information handling. The space sciences have traditionally used new technologies to enable more ambitious missions for increasingly sophisticated observations. NASA developed the technologies for large, capable spacecraft and for complex flight operations for flagship missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Magellan Venus Radar Mapper.


NASA Advisory Council, Study of the Mission of NASA, October 12, 1983.


Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, Report of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, December 1990.


NASA Advisory Council, Report on the Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, October 1994.

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