REPORT OF THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON THE FUTURE OF THE U.S. SPACE PROGRAM WASHINGTON, D.C., DECEMBER 1990

From the Executive Summary:

A Balanced Space Program. It is our belief that the space science program warrants highest priority for funding. It, in our judgement, ranks above space stations, aerospace planes, manned missions to the planets, and many other major pursuits which often receive greater visibility. It is this endeavor in science that enables basic discovery and understanding, that uncovers the fundamental knowledge of our own planet to improve the quality of life for all people on Earth, and that stimulates the education of the scientists needed for the future. Science gives vision, imagination, and direction to the space program, and as such should be vigorously protected and permitted to grow, holding at or somewhat above its present fraction of NASA's budget even as the overall space budget grows.

From the Principal Recommendations:

Principal Recommendations Concerning Space Goals

It is recommended that the United States' future civil space program consist of a balanced set of five principal elements:

  • a science program, which enjoys highest priority within the civil space program, and is maintained at or above the current fraction of the NASA budget (Recommendations 1 and 2);

  • a Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) focusing on environmental measurements (Recommendation 3);

  • a Mission from Planet Earth (MFPE), with the long-term goal of human exploration of Mars, preceded by a modified Space Station which emphasizes life sciences, an exploration base on the Moon, and robotic precursors to Mars (Recommendation 4, Recommendation 5, Recommendation 6 and Recommendation 7);

  • a significantly expanded technology development activity, closely coupled to space mission objectives, with particular attention devoted to engines (Recommendation 8);

  • a robust space transportation system (Recommendation 9).

Principal Recommendations Concerning Programs

With regard to program content, it is recommended that:

  • the strategic plan for science currently under consideration be implemented (Recommendation 2);

  • a revitalized technology plan be prepared with strong input from the mission offices, and that it be funded (Recommendation 8);

  • Space Station Freedom be revamped to emphasize life sciences and human space operations, and include microgravity research, as appropriate. It should be reconfigured to reduce cost and complexity; and the current 90-day time limit on redesign should be extended if a thorough reassessment is not possible in that period (Recommendation 6).

Principal Recommendations Concerning Affordability

It is recommended that the NASA program be structured in scope so as not to exceed a funding profile containing approximately 10 percent real growth per year throughout the remainder of the decade and then remaining at that level, including but not limited to the following actions:

  • place the Mission from Planet Earth on a go-as-you-pay basis, i.e., tailoring the schedule to match the availability of funds (Recommendation 5).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement