and Applications (OSSA) included all the science elements of the agency's program: the traditional space sciences (astrophysics, space physics, and solar system exploration), the life sciences (bioscience, space medicine, and exobiology), Earth science, and microgravity science.
On October 15, 1992, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin announced a number of changes in the NASA organization to “better focus NASA 's programs, to streamline how we do business so we can meet the challenges ahead.” Among these changes was division of OSSA into two parts: the Office of Mission to Planet Earth (OMTPE), including Earth science and applications programs, and the Office of Planetary Science and Astrophysics (later renamed the Office of Space Science—OSS), consisting of the three traditional space science programs, astrophysics, space physics, and solar system exploration. At that time, no mention was made of the life sciences or microgravity science. Concurrently, the Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications was appointed to the position of Chief Scientist for NASA, a position occupied during the 1970s and 1980s, but vacant since the late 1980s. Acting associate administrators were announced for OSS and OMTPE.
These changes were formally implemented on March 11, 1993, and an Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications (OLMSA) was established (effective March 8, 1993). OLMSA incorporated life and biomedical sciences, microgravity science and applications, flight support systems, and aerospace medicine and occupational health. With these changes, the NASA space sciences, which had been collected within OSSA for the 10 preceding years, were now distributed among three program offices—traditional space science in OSS, Earth science in OMTPE, and life and microgravity sciences in OLMSA.
During the summer of 1993, the Senate Subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies (NASA's appropriations subcommittee), which had been a strong supporter of the unified OSSA science office and its management prior to this reorganization, requested in the report accompanying its FY 1994 appropriations bill that the National Academy of Sciences “undertake a comprehensive review of the role and position of space science within NASA.” The subcommittee, citing as especially effective the strategic planning, cross-disciplinary priority setting, and management controls of OSSA, directed that the study consider the possibility of creating an “Institute for Space Science” within NASA roughly analogous to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the Department of Health and Human Services. (The following year, the subcommittee restated its concerns about a lack of new science missions in NASA planning in the report accompanying the FY 1995 appropriations bill, and suggested that the Academy consider this also in its study.) Appendix A provides the subcommittee report language.
On April 7, 1994, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin wrote to the National Research Council (NRC), the operating arm of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, to request initiation of the study (Appendix A). Study responsibility was given to the Space Studies Board, which established a “Future of Space Science” project. The committee structure proposed by the Board and approved by the NRC was a steering group and three task groups charged with tackling specific aspects of the study. The project statement of task and charges to individual task groups are provided in Appendix B.
The steering group of the committee met four times to review and guide progress on the study (August 2-3, 1994; and January 4-5, June 9-10, and August 7-8, 1995) and to hear from a number of key NASA managers on issues under study (Appendix H). The already-existing Joint Committee on Technology for Space Science and Applications (operated jointly with the NRC Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board) was charged as a first task group with examining how to improve technology development and utilization in the agency 's science programs. A new Task Group on Research Prioritization was established to analyze the general problem of research prioritization and to address the problem of sheltering NASA's ability to promote and support highly innovative and unproven research in a highly competitive funding environment. A Task Group on Alternative Organizations was also formed to consider alternative organizations for the management of NASA space science.