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Suggested Citation:"2 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11020.
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2
Introduction

This chapter provides a discussion of the state of space technology and space exploration policy at the time of the workshop’s planning and actual convening. During this 2-month period, vast changes in policy occurred that directly affected the topics discussed at the workshop. Chapter 3 presents the discussion in the first panel session, on the rationale for human and robotic exploration and the development of space. Chapter 4 provides a short overview of the presentations made by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the workshop. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 provide an overview of the proceedings during the final three panel sessions.1

CONTEXT FOR THE WORKSHOP

During the past two decades, several studies have suggested the need for a clear goal for the exploration and development of space—in particular, for human exploration2—and a national aerospace policy.3 This debate continued after the Columbia accident4 and has been debated in many forums, including a workshop hosted by the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council.5 That workshop report discusses much of the debate in greater detail.

Because the nation’s vision for space exploration was not fully defined following Apollo, technology researchers have looked for various ways to make strategic investments in new space technology. NASA’s Office of Space Flight’s Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) Exploration Program was focused on long-term objectives, such as human exploration, while NASA’s Offices of Space and Earth Sciences were focused on robotic and remote sensing missions, whose goal was scientific discovery. One previous effort in the Office of Space Flight was Technology for Human/Robotic Exploration and Development of Space (THREADS), which focused on three main areas: (1) systems analysis and advanced concepts, (2) HEDS-enabling advanced research and technology, and (3) technology flight demonstration projects.

1  

Workshop presentations can be found online at <http://www7.nationalacademies.org/aseb/Space_Tech_workshops.html>. Accessed March 1, 2004.

2  

Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, Report of the Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, December 1990, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

3  

Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry, Final Report, November 2002. Available online at <http://www.aerospacecommission.gov/AeroCommissionFinalReport.pdf>. Accessed March 17, 2004.

4  

Columbia Accident Investigation Board, Report, Volumes I-VI, August 2003, Washington, D.C.:. U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online at <http://www.caib.us/news/report/default.html>. Accessed March 17, 2004.

5  

NRC, Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space Policy, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2004. Available online at <http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10899.html>. Accessed on May 5, 2004.

Suggested Citation:"2 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11020.
×

THREADS was a new framework6 for space technology research and development investment described as being driven by science and addressing NASA’s grand challenges.7 The new strategy was to be incremental (e.g., it described stepping-stones of investment), to leverage partnerships, and to emphasize education, all in a cost-effective manner.

The National Research Council was tasked in the summer of 2001 with providing a multiyear review of the requirements, priorities, processes, and content of the THREADS roadmaps. The THREADS project, canceled by NASA Headquarters in September 2001, was perceived by many as the only means for strategic planning of space technology development within the HEDS portfolio. The NRC study was also canceled.

The need for strategic planning in space technology at NASA continued despite the cancellation of the THREADS project. NASA then contracted with the National Research Council to plan and host a series of workshops on the topic, including one with a focus on the interrelationship between government, industry, and other stakeholders in advancing human and robotic space exploration and development

During planning for the first workshop, one major event occurred that changed the policy climate with regard to space exploration. On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush announced a new national vision for space exploration.8 This new vision provides a set of goals in human and robotic exploration by which technology development timelines and investments can be created and managed. While debate continues on the new vision in the Congress, technology sectors, the U.S. public, and abroad, this new climate could, at least for the short term, focus technology investments at NASA on more specific challenges than before the vision was announced. In response to the new vision, NASA has reorganized its programs in space exploration to better focus its work on the new vision.9 The Office of Exploration Systems was “established to set priorities and direct the identification, development, and validation of exploration systems and related technologies.”10 Subsequently, on January 30, 2004, President Bush created, by executive order, the President's Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond to make recommendations to the administration on realization of the new vision and to advise NASA on issues related to long-term implementation.11

The workshop reported on in this document did not specifically address the new vision or NASA organization. While most speakers did mention the new vision in their remarks in some manner, future workshops in the series should instead—as this

6  

John C. Mankins, Manager, Advanced Concepts Studies, Advanced Programs Office/Office of Space Flight, NASA, “Technology for Human/Robotic Exploration and Development of Space [THREADS]: An Overview,” presented to the NRC Committee on Technology for the Human/Robotic Exploration and Development of Space (THREADS) on July 14, 2001.

7  

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2003 Strategic Plan. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

8  

George W. Bush, “A Renewed Spirit of Discovery: The President’s Vision for U.S. Space Exploration,” presented to the nation at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., on January 14, 2004. Available online at <http://www.whitehouse.gov/space/renewed_spirit.html>. Accessed on May 5, 2004.

9  

NASA, The Vision for Space Exploration, February 2004.

10  

NASA Announces New Headquarters Management Alignment – NASA Press Release, January 15, 2004.

11  

Executive Order Creating the Presidential Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, January 30, 2004.

Suggested Citation:"2 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11020.
×

workshop did—contribute to the public discussion of technology policy for human and robotic exploration and development of space.

A framework for space technology investment and development, Advanced Systems, Technologies, Research, and Analysis (ASTRA), has been under development within the NASA human exploration of space organization. The framework, discussed in greater depth in Chapter 4, is intended to establish technology investment planning for space technology. When presented this framework at its December 2003 planning meeting, the steering committee deliberately chose to focus the first workshop in the series on specific policy issues that might need further treatment in the framework. The committee also planned input from other industrial sectors and government programs known for their innovative technology development processes. The committee recognized that many policy and technology issues could have been addressed in connection with the framework but decided that limiting the discussion to a few areas, including risk assessment and mitigation, international participation, and timelines and models for technology development; would allow for a more focused dialogue at the 2-day workshop.

ORGANIZATION OF THE WORKSHOP

The workshop agenda was divided into five discussion topics, including four panels and a series of NASA presentations:

  • Panel on the Rationale for Human and Robotic Space Exploration;

  • NASA exploration presentations—NASA Exploration Systems Office overview; Advanced Systems, Technologies, Research, and Analysis (ASTRA) for Space Flight Capabilities; and recent lunar and Mars architecture studies and technology drivers;

  • Panel on Technology as a Driver for Capability Transformation;

  • Panel on Risk Aversion—Flying in the Face of Uncertainty; and

  • Panel on International Cooperation/Competition—Why, How, When?

Several speakers were asked to serve as panelists on four of the topics. Each panelist was asked to provide a short oral presentation on the topic, after which session moderators directed the discussions. The first session centered on the rationale for civil human and robotic exploration and development of space and included discussions of specific roles for humans and robots (Chapter 3). The second session (Chapter 4) featured presentations by NASA personnel related to the new space exploration vision and NASA’s new organizational structure. Also presented at this session were system architectures for lunar and Mars missions. The third session examined the role of technology as an agent for organization and capability transformation (Chapter 5) and covered both barriers to and catalysts for transformation in various sectors. The fourth session focused on different aspects of risk and risk management as they relate to space exploration and technology management (Chapter 6). The final session discussed various issues involved in international cooperation in space exploration (Chapter 7).

Suggested Citation:"2 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11020.
×
Page 7
Suggested Citation:"2 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11020.
×
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"2 Introduction." National Research Council. 2004. Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11020.
×
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NASA’s Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) program within the Office of Space Flight has proposed a new framework for space technology and systems development—Advanced Systems, Technology, Research, and Analysis (ASTRA) for future space flight capabilities. To assist in the development of this framework, NASA asked the National Research Council to convene a series of workshops on technology policy issues concerning the relationship of the various stakeholders in advancing human and robotic exploration and development of space. The first workshop, which is the topic of this report, focused on policy issues about the development and demonstration of space technologies. Four policy topics—selected by the project steering committee as the foci of this first workshop—are discussed in the report: the rationale for human and robotic space exploration; technology as a driver for capability transformation; risk mitigation and perception; and international cooperation and competition.

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