NASA Letter of Request
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546-0001
September 30, 2005
Program Analysis and Evaluation
Dr. Lennard Fisk
Space Studies Board
National Research Council
500 Fifth Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Dr. Fisk:
The national Vision for Space Exploration calls for “a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond … starting with a human return to the Moon in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations.” The Vision projects a robust scientific program and the development and utilization of the space systems to enable substantial progress towards the lunar goals within ten years and the possibility of human Mars missions within 30 years. The implications for the future U.S. aerospace and scientific workforce to carry out such a sustained effort are every bit as urgent and challenging as the technological aspects.
The task of meeting NASA’s workforce needs is daunting in view of the fact that the U.S. aerospace sector has been facing growing recruitment and retention problems for a number of years. In its 2004 report, the President’s Commission on Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy stated that “there is perhaps no greater imperative for ensuring successful and sustainable space exploration by this nation … [than to] … aggressively educate and train a new generation of explorers.”
Central to the workforce problems are the capabilities of the nation’s research universities, which will have the responsibility both to encourage students to pursue careers in space and to provide the required training. This issue was
also noted in the 2004 report: “At present, there are insufficient methods for students to acquire hands-on experience in the scientific and technical disciplines necessary for space commerce and exploration. Therefore, a new alliance between NASA and universities should be formed.”
Consequently, there is a compelling need to carefully assess the current and future supply of a qualified U.S. aerospace workforce and to identify realistic, actionable solutions. At this time, I request that the Space Studies Board conduct a study in collaboration with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board to explore long-range science and technology workforce needs to achieve the Vision for Space Exploration, identify obstacles to filling those needs, and explore solutions for consideration by government, academia, and industry. Specifically, the study should undertake the following:
assess current and projected demographics of the U.S. aerospace engineering and space science workforce needed to accomplish the Vision;
identify factors that impact the demographics of the affected workforces;
assess NASA’s list of the workforce skills that will be needed to implement the Vision for Space Exploration, both within the government and in industry;
identify the skills that will be needed to implement the Vision for Space Exploration within the academic community;
assess the current workforce against projected needs;
identify workforce gaps and analyze obstacles to responding to the workforce needs, in particular, analyze the proper role of academia and the obstacles for achieving this proper role; and
develop recommendations for specific actions by the federal government, industry, and academia to address those needs, including considerations such as organizational changes, recruiting and hiring practices, student programs and workforce training and improvement.
The study should utilize existing statistical data to assess the current and future shortfall of a qualified U.S. aerospace workforce and focus on the particular needs of NASA and the larger aerospace science and engineering community in the context of the long-term Vision for Space Exploration, recognizing legislative requirements regarding national security.
We would like to incorporate the results of the initial stage of the study into our strategic planning process during the current year; to do so, we need to receive your initial input by late in the first quarter of FY06. The report that presents findings and recommendations on the long-term workforce requirements and proposed solutions would be most useful if delivered by the last quarter of FY06.
Please feel free to contact Ms. Trish Pengra at (XXX) XXX-XXXX in my office for more information.
Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation