The National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) was asked by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Office of Space Flight to convene a series of workshops on technology policy issues related to the interrelationship between government, industry, and other stakeholders in advancing human and robotic exploration and development of space (see Chapter 2 for more detailed information on the policy context and planning of the workshop). By design, the first workshop focused on policy issues concerning the development and demonstration of space technologies, specifically those related to a proposed new framework for space technology and systems development—Advanced Systems, Technologies, Research, and Analysis (ASTRA) for Future Space Flight Capabilities. The rationale, from the perspective of different stakeholders, for the long-term cultivation of advanced space systems was also a main topic.
In addition to a discussion of the ASTRA framework, the steering committee chose to focus on four policy topics during the first workshop—the rationale for human and robotic space exploration, technology as a driver for capability transformation,1 risk mitigation and perception, and international cooperation and competition. While other policy issues are also important to the formulation of a space exploration technology program, the steering committee felt these were topics that needed to be discussed in further detail in relation to the proposed ASTRA framework. The sections below set forth the main points from each panel discussion and provide a summary of the ASTRA framework. Each of these sections is discussed in further detail in the chapters which follow. The committee chose to present the material in the order of discussion at the workshop.
RATIONALE FOR SPACE EXPLORATION
Panel members provided various rationales for the exploration and development of space by humans and robots, including scientific discovery, economics, security, and exploration of the unknown. One panelist suggested that space exploration was necessary to increase our knowledge of space and to develop the means to use it to our advantage. The majority of panelists believed that robots should be used when they can do the job effectively and humans used only when necessary. Robots were also described as the tools for exploration. A few panelists and attendees suggested that instead of
arbitrarily partitioning funding between robotic and human exploration, a systems study of the appropriate roles of both kinds of efforts should be performed and an optimum ratio between the two determined. Two panelists recalled how effective the combined robotic and human exploration effort had been in the Apollo program.
In discussing the various roles of industry and government in space exploration, several panelists agreed that government’s role is to invest in the high-risk areas—programs that would be impossible to achieve elsewhere—while industry must focus on what can be profitable. Gary Martin suggested that industry’s role was to provide innovation and creativity. One panelist, Donna Shirley, mentioned the emerging role of wealthy individuals as investors in space technology (e.g., participants in the X-PRIZE foundation) and suggested that more private enterprise be brought into the space exploration effort.
Panelists at various times mentioned several technology investments that would be needed to enable space exploration beyond low Earth orbit. This is not an exhaustive or prioritized list nor one developed through a systematic process, but is a set of top-level technologies and issues, as suggested by various panelists, which the government should investigate:
Launch and vehicle costs,
Human factors (survival and effectiveness, unknown effects of long-duration spaceflight, etc.),
The role of the public in deciding the future of space exploration was also a topic of discussion. Several panelists believed that the public should be directly involved in the debate and included in the process. As echoed in the panel discussion on international cooperation, these panelists believed that NASA must improve its credibility before the public (or international partners) will become engaged.
NASA EXPLORATION SYSTEMS AND ARCHITECTURES
NASA provided an overview of the new space exploration vision and a framework for technology development and systems analysis. Several previous architecture studies for lunar and Mars missions were also presented to the workshop participants. The new vision was described as a means to implement a sustained and systematic exploration of the solar system using an integration of humans and robotics to extend the human presence beyond Earth orbit. The development of technologies, systems, and processes to do this is part of the vision. Both the NASA speaker, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Craig Steidle, and other participants noted that possibly the biggest risk to the vision was the ability to sustain it through several administrations and Congresses.
A strategy-to-task-to-technology process2 was presented wherein modeling and simulation would be used to focus technology investment on critical operational environments and to guide critical trade studies. Spiral development3 would be used to insert advanced technologies and evolve architectures. The new NASA organization, the Office of Exploration Systems (Code T), was described. The office will rely on lessons learned in NASA and the Department of Defense (DOD) about large projects and systems and will employ incentives and opportunities in a manner unique to NASA. The need for technology was discussed by the steering committee and presenters. Steidle said there was a huge role for technology development within the new vision and that he would be looking to industry to fulfill many technology needs.
John Mankins, director of human and robotic technology in the Development Programs Division of Code T, presented an overview of the Advanced Systems, Technologies, Research, and Analysis (ASTRA) framework. ASTRA is a “collection of road maps, priorities, gap analysis results, and metrics for the development of future spaceflight capabilities for human and robotic exploration.”4 Dr. Mankins said that successful implementation and pursuit of the new vision will require advances in diverse technology areas, and that a resilient, adaptive process is necessary to plan and execute investments in space technology.
Steering committee and audience members mentioned the need for infusion of new, innovative technologies external to NASA into the ASTRA plan. Dr. Mankins and other participants acknowledged that there was no good means to bring new, nontraditional ideas into the NASA procurement process, and that a better means is necessary.
TECHNOLOGY AS A DRIVER FOR CAPABILITY TRANSFORMATION
This panel session focused on the various ways that technology can be used to transform5 current capabilities. Panelists provided input on the topic from their
respective areas of expertise and experience—global positioning system, fuel-cell research for automobiles (FreedomCAR), joint government-agency programs (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)), small business, NASA, and the DOD. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) model was described by panelist Joseph Guerci as a bridge between current and nearterm armed services science and technology programs and long-term fundamental research programs. DARPA’s lean management structure and short project timelines were given as examples of why DARPA is successful. Bradford Parkinson, during his presentation on the GPS transformation of navigation technology, defined “disruptive” as something that used to be really hard and is now taken for granted. His message boiled down to three key enablers for technology: focus, time, and leadership. Christine Sloane presented a model for technology development in the automotive industry.
David Hardy, in his presentation from the perspective of the DOD Space Experiments Board, suggested two key barriers to timely technology development: (1) timescales for technology development and (2) the process through which thought is converted into an operational system. He also mentioned the difficulties of working in a cross-agency environment due to cultural and organizational differences. Jacqueline Haynes provided a small business perspective. She mentioned several concerns that the small business community might have with the new exploration vision, including (1) the perceived inability of small businesses to break into NASA’s new programs in the face of existing relationships between NASA and larger companies and (2) their difficulty of developing new lines of communication and relationships with NASA.
The interagency program NPOESS was highlighted as an example of a joint program among many federal agencies. According to Stanley Schneider, the success of this program comes from the staff’s ability to work in a unified manner and to leave behind all previous loyalties to their respective employing agency. Another unique part of the program is the sharing of responsibility for the systems engineering program with contractor TRW. NASA’s New Millennium Program was presented by Christopher Stevens as an example of a program used to explicitly accelerate the infusion of technologies into NASA science missions at lower cost and risk.
RISK AVERSION—FLYING IN THE FACE OF UNCERTAINTY
Risk, in its various forms, was also discussed by the workshop participants and panelists. Panel moderator Molly Macauley pointed out that something that is uncertain is not necessarily risky, and that risk need not result from that which is uncertain. Risk can result from a lack of care or from poor management decisions even in informed, familiar situations, and it can be managed in a variety of ways. Panelists provided varied input to the discussion of risk and the need for its treatment within a technology development program in which many kinds of risk inhere. Allen Mazur discussed risk from a sociological viewpoint, suggesting that sociological models of accident events reveal different dimensions affecting media coverage and public perception from those revealed by engineering models.
John Barry discussed the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report and emphasized that human spaceflight is not routine and has many risks associated with it.
He stated that the CAIB findings are just as relevant to the new exploration vision as to the space shuttle program. Many in the audience agreed that although NASA is a riskaverse organization, it does not appear to have learned lessons from the Challenger accident. Panelists also discussed issues of communication and agency integration. Joseph Fuller addressed the idea of management risk in addition to technical risk. He stated that the ASTRA plan presented to the workshop does not address risk. He also mentioned that perception of risk is a function of the level of how much is known about a program or technology. While making informed decisions is key and risk assessment is necessary, Fuller noted that probabilistic risk assessment is not the only method available for consideration.
Gregg Hagedorn cited the Naval Sea Systems Command as an example of an organization that has experience with day-to-day management of risk associated with its fleet. Hagedorn commented that the public understands risks to humans but has less appreciation of risks to technology. There is a challenge in separating programmatic and technical risks to avoid conflict of interest. Leadership is also necessary to encourage people to admit when mistakes have been made.
The U.S. Congress, as had been mentioned by Neil Armstrong in the first panel, is ultimately responsible for seeing that the federal government acts in the best interest of the public. Richard Obermann stated that Congress understands risk and deals with decisions that must be made quickly, often based on a limited amount of information. He also commented that members of Congress perceive risk based on past experience with NASA and are therefore likely to view cost estimates with skepticism.
Michael Stamatelatos of NASA’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance described the use of probabilistic risk assessment at NASA in various programs. He agreed that there is a need to improve risk awareness organizationally and develop in-house expertise to understand probabilistic risk requirements.
Several participants mentioned that the use of probabilistic risk assessment in a vacuum is short-sighted. Understanding NASA’s culture and the institutional barriers within the agency are key to the effective treatment of risk.
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION/COMPETITION—WHY, HOW, WHEN?
The panel began with an overall discussion of the rationale for and history of international cooperation and competition. Panelists agreed that international cooperation is not altruistic but instead is enacted because the individual partners conclude that they can benefit in some way. They also mentioned that cooperation would most likely increase the complexity and cost of the overall project but could make its pursuit more affordable for the individual partners. The International Space Station (ISS) was cited as an example of a scientific and engineering program becoming a foreign policy tool. However, Ian Pryke cautioned that a project could also become hostage to foreign policy.
Most panelists mentioned in their remarks that President Bush had decreed that the new exploration vision would involve international cooperation of some kind.6 The questions are when and how. Panelists also stressed that any cooperation on the
implementation of this new vision should begin sooner rather than later in the process. Panelists warned that other nations might decide not to participate but instead to form their own cooperative space exploration programs without the United States. There are also several types of international involvement that could be pursued in implementating the vision, including program interdependence (e.g., ISS) and coordination (e.g., NPOESS). Several panelists agreed that the U.S. needs to meet its commitments on the ISS before other countries will agree to be involved in the new exploration vision. Legal issues surrounding the end of the ISS program were also discussed. International cooperation is not mentioned explicitly in the ASTRA framework. Although she recognized the need for infrastructure, Joan Johnson-Freese said the framework appears to be linear—that is, it assumes an equal-increment progression from step 1 to step 2 to step 3. This progression seems improbable and concerns were expressed that NASA might emphasize process at the expense of product.
The legal and international issues entailed in space exploration are usually resolved as necessary. Panelists felt that the current treaties adequately address any near-term issues and that the current legal environment is based on past precedents involving technology. When asked about examples of multinational cooperative efforts in industry, panelists cited several examples, including pan-European industry consolidation and new private agreements between various global industrial partners.