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,.~ " NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL COMMISSION ON PHYSICAL SCIENCES, MATHEMATICS, AND RESOURCES 2101 Constitution Avenue Washington, D. C. 20418 SPACE SCIENCE BOARD OFFICE LOCATION: JOSEPH HENRY BUILDING 21ST STREET AND PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, N. W. January 13, 1987 Dr. Burton I. Edelson Associate Administrator Office of Space Science and Applications National Aeronautics and Space Administration Washington, D.C. 20546 Dear Burt: At the October meeting of the Space Science Board's Committee on Space Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dr. C. Pellerin reviewed the present status and future prospects of the Explorer program for the committee. As you know, the Explorer program has been one of the most productive components of NASA's space research effort. Astronomy and astrophysics Explorers have .been. particularly successful: with pioneer surveys of the universe by satellites such as Uhuru and IRAS, and with rich, detailed studies of specific wavebands by missions such as IUE. Future missions such as COBE, EUVE, and XTE promise similar scientific rewards. The CSAA is concerned about the recent addition of substantial charges to the Explorer budget as a result of the Challenger accident. At the time when the CSAA report, "The Explorer Program for Astronomy and Astrophysics," (NAP, 1986), was completed (a few months ago), the Explorer budget was committed for about 4 years. This led to the recommendation for a substantial augmentation of the Explorer budget line. Now, because an additional 2 to 3 years of funds will be committed due to the costs expected to result from attempts to recover from the Challenger disaster, seven years must pass before resources will become available for new opportunities. This budget picture cripples progress in the innovative Explorer program and indicates that more than 15 years are now required to complete an Explorer mission. The response of the space science community to the recent Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) for Explorers demonstrates the deep interest in the program. In order to overcome the present crisis, we feel that the Explorer budget be augmented promptly. without this augmentation, NASA is faced with two choices in dealing with the responses to the DCL: select new candidate missions and thereby extend the already long queue, or return them and seriously demoralize the community. Neither of these options is satisfactory. Substantial augmentation of the Explorer budget would make evaluation of the responses to the DCL worth undertaking, shorten or eliminate the queue, and provide the frequent flight opportunities needed for a vigorous The National Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering to serve government and other organizations
... i- , Dr. Burton I. Edelson Page 2 Explorer program. The committee recognizes that you must weigh your decisions in the context of overall program priorities and budgets. In addition, it seems timely now to initiate development of a reusable Explorer platform. The CSAA Explorer report suggested the use of refurbishable spacecraft as one way to control costs and increase flight opportunities. EUVE and X~E seem particularly well-suited to this scheme: a reusable platform will allow these missions to be completed in a cost effective and timely manner. The long-term health of the Explorer program is vital to all space science. Planning should begin now to design a program containing a mixture of Shuttle-launched and exchanged platforms, and ELVis to achieve the frequency of flight opportunities so sorely needed to revitalize the Explorer program. Sincerely, ~ Blair Savage, Chairman Committee on Space Astronomy and Astrophysics