Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
2 Goals for U.S. Civil Space Activities The United States faces major challenges today: these include ensuring national security, providing clean and affordable energy, preventing environ- mental degradation, meeting 21st-century needs for education, sustaining global economic competitiveness, improving technologies for transportation and medical care, and promoting beneficial international relations. The U.S. civil space pro- gram has become a major force to be applied in meeting those challenges. In the 21st century, civil space activities affect our daily lives and also advance the national interest in a variety of ways. Space systems play integral roles in government, business, and personal communications, positioning, and navigation; in weather monitoring and forecasting; in producing remote-sensing information for agriculture, urban land-use planning, and natural resources man- agement; in commercial enterprises that are becoming increasingly significant factors in global economic competitiveness; and in opening new windows on humanityâs place in the cosmos. While those few examples illustrate the impor- tance of space activities in the present, space activities have crucial consequences for the nationâs future as well. Because civil space endeavors are technologically and intellectually challenging, they stimulate innovation that over the long term leads to advances with applications beyond the space sector. Emphasizing the importance of research and technological innovation, the NRC report Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future recommended strengthening science and engineering research âto maintain the flow of new ideas that fuel the economy, provide security, and â NationalResearch Council, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005. 15
16 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE enhance the quality of life.â While current government investments designed to stimulate a fragile economy can have near-term effects, investments in research in and from space can continue to lead to important future societal benefits, just as the pioneering work on concepts of electricity and magnetism in the 19th century led to uncountable (and unanticipated) applications in contemporary society. The committeeâs view is that there is no single rationale for the U.S. civil space program; rather, as a significant component of the nationâs R&D enter- prise, the U.S. civil space program should be structured andÂ supported to fulfill multiple responsibilitiesï£§to assist the nation in achieving its goals ofÂ exerting strategic leadership and improving the well-being of people. The U.S. civil space program should be preeminent in theÂ sense that it can influence, by example, how nations take advantage of the opportunities afforded by space. For the United States to be a strategicÂ leader, its civil space program must demonstrate breadth, competence, andÂ a record of accomplishment so that U.S. leadership is accepted andÂ welcomed. The committee identified six major goals for U.S. civil space activities and elaborates on them in the sections that follow. All six goals serve the national interest, and steady progress toward achieving each of them will be a fundamental measure of the success of Americaâs space program. â¢ To reestablish leadership for the protection of Earth and its inhabitants through the use of space research and technology. The key global perspective enabled by space observations is critical to monitoring climate change and testing climate models, managing Earth resources, and mitigating risks associated with natural phenomena such as severe weather and asteroids. â¢ To sustain U.S. leadership in science by seeking knowledge of the universe and searching for life beyond Earth. Space offers a multitude of critical opportuni- ties, unavailable in Earth-based laboratories, to extend our knowledge of the local and distant universe and to search for life beyond Earth. â¢ To expand the frontiers of human activities in space. Human spaceflight continues to challenge technology, utilize unique human capabilities, bring global prestige, and excite the publicâs imagination. Space provides almost limitless opportunities for extending the human experience to new frontiers. â¢ To provide technological, economic, and societal benefits that contribute solutions to the nationâs most pressing problems. Space activities provide eco- nomic opportunities, stimulate innovation, and support services that improve the quality of life. U.S. economic competitiveness is directly affected by our ability to perform in this sector and the many sectors enabled and supported by space activities. â¢ To inspire current and future generations. U.S. civil space activities can continue to build on a legacy of spectacular achievements to inspire our citizens and to attract future generations of scientists and engineers.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 17 Success in advancing those five goals will result in a world-class U.S. civil space program and will serve as a basis for achieving the sixth goal, which is of particular importance: â¢ To enhance U.S. global strategic leadership through leadership in civil space activities. Because of the growing strategic importance of space, all nations that aspire to global political and economic leadership in the 21st century are developing and increasing their space-faring capabilities; continued U.S. global leadership also depends on continued U.S. leadership in space. APPLY SPACE RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY to Stewardship of Earth Earth has a dynamic and fragile ecosphere (Figure 2.1). And it is home to life as we know it now and in the foreseeable future. However, humankind, by virtue of its numbers and its use of energy, now threatens the planet that supports its very existence: for example, by affecting climate and exhausting resources. Proper stewardship of Earth is thus an urgent responsibility of all people. While everyone, from individuals to countries, must be better stewards of planet Earth, the committee believes that the United States, as a global leader, bears a special responsibility to share its expertise and the knowledge and under- standing it develops on how best to care for the planet. Americans must accept a global responsibility, or risk abandoning this important moral high ground to others. Many people live in areas that are vulnerable to severe weather, flooding, and rising sea levels. Most food production depends on the availability of rainfall, water, and adequately long growing seasons. Earthâs climate is changing, and at the same time, a growing global population is increasing the stresses on natural resources. There are, of course, natural climatic changes, but the consumption of fossil fuels and resulting greenhouse gas emissions are accelerating changes that are predicted to threaten the well-being of people throughout the world. The potential consequences of energy generation policy and climate change are tightly linked in ways that could further accelerate changes in the climate system. While climate change is one of the most important global environmental problems facing the world today, other aspects of Earth stewardship also demand attention. They include improving weather forecasts; developing new tools for monitoring and managing Earthâs water and land resources; and gathering infor- mation to quantify and mitigate risks from solar disturbances in space and colli- sions from asteroids or comets. A goal of the U.S. civil space program is to reestablish leadership for the â SeeNational Research Council, Understanding and Responding to Climate Change: Highlights of National Academies Reports, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008.
18 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE FIGURE 2.1â Earthâs oceans, land surface, cryosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere form a complex coupled system whose interactions provide a unique habitable environment. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA. protection of Earth and its inhabitants through the use of space research and technology. By achieving this goal, the United States and its international partners will â¢ Establish a comprehensive satellite Earth observation system, and the links to ground-based observing and information networks, that provide ï£§The data necessary to understand Earthâs changing climate and to predict its regional consequences, ï£§Reliable predictions of weather throughout the world, and ï£§Comprehensive satellite observations of societyâs use of Earth and of the natural phenomena that can affect our environment;
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 19 â¢ Develop an understanding of asteroids and the trajectories of those that may conceivably impact Earth and plans that can be invoked in the event of an impending collision; and â¢ Establish a comprehensive research program and satellite network that allows prediction of space weather events that are dangerous or disruptive. Climate Perhaps the single most important task that can be assigned to the U.S. civil space program is to provide observations of Earth from the vantage point of space. The resulting data can help scientists and policy makers to understand the physi- cal mechanisms that control the climate system of Earth and the influence that humans are having on them, as well as to make projections and develop future climate scenarios. That Earth is warming is already established. Citizens and governments now need to understand current and future regional consequences of climate change, including how precipitation patterns and habitability and produc- tivity of specific regions can change; by how much, and when, sea levels can rise or ice sheets melt; and how alternative approaches for providing critical energy resources will relate to future climatic conditions. Understanding the potential consequences of global warming is a challenging problem that will require comprehensive, uninterrupted satellite observations, as well as qualified scientists to interpret the data and develop predictive models. This is not a problem that the United States needs to tackle alone, nor can it. Many nations have the capability to develop remote sensing satellites, and scientists worldwide stand ready to help in developing reliable predictions of future climate conditions. Coordinated international approaches and action will depend on full participation in understanding the changes that are occurring. Its technical and scientific resources and experience put the United States in a unique position to contribute so that all the nations of the world, including our own, can take prudent steps to protect the future of the planet. While the United States now has substantial projects and plans in place to respond to this challenge, the committee believes an even greater commitment is needed to reverse the pro- jected decline in operational and research Earth observing missions, prepare to replace aging spacecraft, and initiate new high-priority missions. Weather There is a need for ever-improved weather forecasts, particularly if climate change induces severe weather events, and the difference between inconvenience and catastrophe can depend on having adequate warning. Significant progress has â SeeNational Research Council, Understanding and Responding to Climate Change: Highlights of National Academies Reports, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008.
20 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE been made in improving weather forecasts, in large part as a result of more com- prehensive and accurate satellite observations. But more needs to be done, such as transitioning certain proven research capabilities (e.g., vector sea-surface winds and radio occultation temperature, water vapor, and electron density soundings) into operational use. Key measurements (e.g., tropospheric winds, all-weather temperature and humidity profiles, aerosol-cloud discovery, and air pollution) still need to be made, and there is a need to ensure that satellites in orbit are suf- ficiently reliable to be able to accomplish the tasks on which people depend and that backups can quickly be brought into service when failures occur. Conducting these key measurements has been and should continue to be done in cooperation with other nations. Managing Earthâs Resources Changes in land-use patterns, agricultural productivity, ecosystemsâ health, and forest resources are readily observed from space; their management can be enhanced by the use of accurate position-sensing information and diagnostic measurements taken at multiple wavelengths and as a function of time. Space observations are thus an essential component of the ability to manage the planetâs resources, a source of knowledge that might protect against the effects of its most damaging forces, and a tool to verify the impact of international environmental agreements. Near-Earth Solar System Objects There are low-probability, very-high-consequence threats to humankind from space, most notably impacts by asteroids but also possibly from comets. Such events have occurred in the geological past, and although the probability of a near-term event is low, they can be expected to occur at various times in the future. Understanding the properties of near-Earth asteroids, how they are likely to behave upon impact, their locations and likelihood of collision with Earth, and options for mitigation are essential tasks for the U.S. civil space program. It would be prudent to develop a comprehensive strategy to prepare for a potential asteroid impact. This strategy would involve multiple federal and international agencies. Space Weather As governments and private companies increase their use of space services that are now an integral part of the economic infrastructure, users also increase âNational Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008, p. 38. â Ibid., pp. 313 and 322.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 21 their vulnerability to space weatherï£§disturbances in the upper atmosphere and the near-Earth space environment that are driven by the magnetic activity of the Sun. Space weather can temporarily or permanently disable a satellite and can also have effects at Earthâs surface, such as disruptions in power grids. Because the physical processes that govern space weather are not adequately understood, there is a need for a comprehensive research program that builds on current efforts, as well as an observational network of satellites that allows adequate warning of pending space weather events. Such an effort should be undertaken in coopera- tion with other nations. SEEK Knowledge OF THE UNIVERSE AND SEARCH FOR LIFE BEYOND EARTH Among the most profound questions that humankind can ask are, Where did we come from? Where are we going? Are we alone? Four hundred years after the invention of the telescope and 40 years after placement of the first telescope in space, humankind has come a long way in its quest to understand how the laws of natureÂ revealÂ our origins and future in the context of the universe around us. Observations made from space have dramatically advanced what we know about the universe. Space observations have shown that the universe began with the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago; that it has been expanding ever since; and that the expan- sion is accelerating due to the repulsive force of an effect called dark energy, about which little is currently known (see Figure 2.2). The first stars and galaxies formed a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, and all galaxies are held together by the gravity of dark matter, made of yet-to-be-identified particles. The evolution of the chemical elements from primordial hot plasma to the materials that make up our world and ourselves is well understood. We can now count more than 300 planets orbiting other stars and suspect that a good fraction of the 100 billion stars within our galaxy have one or more planets. Even more questionsâincluding the cause of the Big Bang, the nature of dark matter and dark energy, what causes the solar activity cycle, how our solar system and other planetary systems formed, how common are habitable planets, whether there are nearby life-bearing planets, whether diverse life forms exist in the cosmos, or what is the destiny of our universeâare ripe to be answered. A goal of the U.S. civil space program is to sustain U.S. leadership in science by seeking knowledge of the universe and searching for life beyond Earth. âSpace weather takes on a new dimension as human spaceflight into deep space becomes common, because radiation from solar disturbances can injure or even kill astronauts who do not have adequate shielding and may cause long-term cancerous and noncancerous effects.
22 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE FIGURE 2.2â The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe measured the tiny variations in the microwave echo of the Big Bang (0.001 percent). These variations provide a snapshot of the distribution of matter when the universe was 380,000 years old, before galaxies and stars were formed. Their analysis has revealed important clues about the origin of the universe and its properties today (including its shape, age, and composition). SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA. By achieving this goal, the U.S. civil space program willÂ â¢ Dramatically extend the understanding of the origins, evolution, and des- tiny of our starâthe Sunâour solar system, and the universe, and of the physical laws that govern them;Â â¢ Use unique opportunities in space to discover and understand life else- where and extend our understanding of life here on Earth; and â¢ Share the knowledge that enriches our understanding of our place in the universe with all of humankind. Understanding the Universe If history is any guide, advances in understanding the basic physical laws of our universe ultimately have transformative practical and economic benefits. Past examples include Faraday and Maxwellâs research in electricity and magnetism; Einsteinâs special theory of relativity (and his famous formula E = mc2); and quantum theory. When quantum theory developed during the early part of the 20th century, it could not have been further removed from any practical end and, indeed, seemed like a mysterious curiosity. Today, devices based on quantum mechanicsâfrom central processors and memory in computers to lasers and network routers that make massive information transfer possibleâhave enabled
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 23 the information economy that is critical to our nation and our high standard of living. The economic and information potential presented by the Internet was made possible by the creation of the World Wide Web, a tool originally developed for basic research. Space-borne observatories have proven essential to furthering modern physi- cal understanding, as they provide a means for addressing important scientific questions in ways that cannot be done on Earth. Earthâs atmosphere makes observations difficult because it absorbs most forms of electromagnetic radiation and cosmic rays, and its turbulence distorts and limits the clarity of images in the visible region of the spectrum. An Earth-based laboratory has to cope with many sources of interference to sensitive measurements. Earth-based laboratories are limited in size as well. Space, on the other hand, provides a vast, quiet laboratory largely free of the handicaps imposed by the terrestrial environment. For instance, scientists know that Einsteinâs theory of general relativity is correct largely because of experiments that include accurate measurements of the motions of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and asteroids, as well as various spacecraft. Knowledge of plasmas (essential for achieving fusion energy, not to mention the development of everyday items like fluorescent lightbulbs) would be far more limited without studies of the plasmas in our own solar system. Space- based measurements of solar energy output, activity, magnetic fields, and coronal mass ejections have contributed dramatically to an understanding of the Sun and of its profound effects on Earth. Robotic investigation of other planets and moons provides important insights into their formation and the formation and evolution of the Earth, as well as the potential for similar solar systems to have developed around other stars (see Box 2.1). While the examples listed above have been essential to confirming and refin- ing the breakthroughs made at the turn of the 20th century, recent advances hold the potential for further transformational increases in understanding. The ability to observe gravitational wavesï£§ripples in spacetime itselfï£§will open a revo- lutionary new window on the universe, observing many phenomena that cannot be detected directly with traditional telescopes. Observational evidence for dark matter and dark energy, for which scientists have no current explanation, shows that the laws of physics as they developed in the 20th century are not complete, and further investigation is necessary. The civil space program supports research vital to answering a number of open questions about the nature of the universe and the physical laws that govern it. Although it is not clear where the advances driving future technology develop- ment will come from, the committee believes that scientific observations from space will very likely play a crucial role. Leading the world in the conduct of âNational Research Council, NASAâs Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementa- tion, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007.
24 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE BOX 2.1 Seeing Titan Up Close In the 1990s, Saturnâs moon Titan appeared to be little more than a fuzzy yellow ball when observed with the best ground-based telescopes. The radar on the Cassini spacecraft penetrated Titanâs dense atmosphere and revealed river valleys feeding into apparent lakes, which the spacecraftâs infrared detec- tors then determined to be at least partly composed of liquid methane and ethane (Figure 2.1.1). Titanâs âhydrologicalâ cycle is driven by methane that plays waterâs role on Earth. This discovery was made possible by the abil- ity of spacecraft to make investigations in ways impossible to achieve from Earthâs surface. FIGURE 2.1.1â Radar imaging data from the Cassini flyby of Saturnâs moon Titan provides convincing evidence for large bodies of liquid on Titan. Top: In this false-color image, the lakes are dark blue and the surrounding terrain is tan. Bottom: The coastline and island groups of a large sea reveal channels, islands, bays, and other features typi- cal of terrestrial coastlines, and the liquid, most likely a combination of methane and ethane, appears very dark to the radar instrument. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 25
26 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE this research will help ensure that the United States remains at the technological forefront in the coming decades. Life in the Universe One of the great questions that space studies can illuminate is whether there is, or has been, life other than on Earth. In the words of the NRC report The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems, âIt is certain that nothing would alter our view of humanity and our position in the cosmos more than the discovery of alien life.â Alien life could be discovered on Mars, on moons in our solar system, or on extrasolar planets or their moons. Such a discovery would raise the question of whether non-terrestrial life is based on the same molecules that make life possible on Earth: carbon, oxygen, high-energy phosphate bonds as an energy currency, and DNA as the genetic material. If life were to be found in just one new place, it would greatly increase the likelihood that life is widespread in the universe, and that terrestrial life is thus not unique. Finding evidence of present or past life elsewhere in this solar system would be especially exciting if samples could be returned to Earth for detailed stud- ies. The opportunity for careful investigation of samples returned to Earth from Mars, Europa, Enceladus, and other sites that seem to offer a hope of having life is a major rationale for supporting an active space exploration program. If life is not found on such bodies, that too would provide a valuable perspective on the uniqueness of biological systems on Earth. Searching for planets around stars other than our own Sun involves both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Hubble Space Telescope made the first image of a planet orbiting another star (see Figure 2.3), and the recently launched Kepler mission should find many planets as small as (or smaller than) Earth orbit- ing other stars; these planets are below the sensitivity of ground-based telescopes. The Spitzer Space Telescope has also made contributions to understanding other solar systems, via observations in the far-infrared portion of the spectrum inac- cessible from Earth. Future space telescopes can use the unique vantage point of space to investigate planets beyond our solar system for signatures of life. Enriching Our Culture The history of the universe leading to our existence on planet Earth is writ- ten on the bodies in this solar system, the other stars and solar systems that can be detected within our galaxy, and the distant universe itself with its 100 billion visible galaxies. And clues to our cosmic destiny, from the fate of our planet and â National Research Council, The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 27 FIGURE 2.3â Formalhaut b is a Jupiter-sized planet (indicated by the white box) orbit- ing Formalhaut (center of image), a distant star. Its motion over a two-year interval is revealed by a Hubble Space Telescope image (inset). The planet orbits Formalhaut within its debris belt, closer to the star than the inner edge of its debris disk. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA. solar system to that of the universe itself, are available from observations from space and from probes that can be sent throughout the solar system. In supporting the pursuit of this knowledge and the quest to find life else- where, the nation enriches its national character and inspires new generations of scientifically and technologically informed citizensâengines of growth for the national economy and for cultural enrichment. EXPAND THE FRONTIERS OF HUMAN activitIES IN SPACE For 50 years human spaceflight has been a national testing ground where scientific, technological, industrial, and military strength are measured and the ability to lead partners in a large effort is proven. Nations that seek to be among the leaders in human space exploration do so in order to increase their competence in technical fields and to gain the respect of others. In short, human spaceflight creates a perception of national leadership. China has thus joined the United States and Russia in demonstrating human spaceflight capability; India has announced
28 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE aspirations to conduct human spaceflight; and many nations are participating in established human spaceflight programs through the provision of hardware and astronauts. If the United States seeks to maintain its international leadership in this global environmentï£§where the technologically capable nations of the world are participating in or aspiring to human spaceflightï£§then the United States must be in the forefront of human spaceflight activities and, as a result, in the governance and economic exploitation of outer space. A goal of the U.S. civil space program is to expand the frontiers of human activities in space. The United States associates human spaceflight with the cultural theme of the frontier, as reflected in the Presidentâs Scientific Advisory Councilâs 1958 rationale for space exploration, Introduction to Outer Space, which stated, âSince man is such an adventurous creature, there will undoubtedly come a time when he can no longer resist going out and seeing for himself.â Russia, China, and other nations also connect the appeal of human spaceflight to cultural themes expressed in literature and mythology that link human spaceflight with a vision of the future. Today, telerobotic spacecraft are the only explorers of other solar system objects. These robotic explorers continue to discover new knowledge and excite scientists, students, and the public. However, the committee believes that an entirely robotic exploration program lacks a fundamental component of the rationale for space exploration (see Box 2.2). Humans have proven effective in carrying out a variety of important roles as engineers and scientists in space (Figure 2.4). It is reasonable to expect that, in this century, humans will again surpass previous limits and will visit asteroids, travel to the moons of Mars, and establish a martian base similar in scale to those in Antarctica. In the committeeâs view, the leadership and inspiration achieved by expanding the frontiers of human spaceflight are worth the dangers faced in such exploration; lesser objectives may not be worth the same risk. It is not sufficient for the United States simply to have a human spaceflight program, or to judge its success based on comparisons with the capabilities or aspirations of other nations. Rather, the priorities for U.S. human spaceflight should be determined by using this criterion: which efforts have the greatest potential for, and likelihood of, producing transformative cultural, scientific, â The value of human space exploration has been addressed in the NRC report Scientific Op- portunities in the Human Exploration of Space (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1994). Specific examples of past benefits from astronautsâ flexibility and capacity to evaluate complex situations and adapt to unexpected situations are documented in Where No Man Has Gone Before, A History of the Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions (William David Compton, The NASA History Series, NASA SP-4214, NASA, Washington, D.C., 1989) and in Assessment of Options for Extend- ing the Lifetime of the Hubble Space Telescope (National Research Council, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2004).
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 29 commercial, or technical outcomes. Such results could include achievement of a fundamentally new understanding or perspectives, or development of an essential new enabling capability that leads to an opportunity to visit and observe some new location. Meeting a high standard for performance can ensure that the human spaceflight program in the United States is able to be a leader among the nations with human spaceflight capability and that human spaceflight can serve the broad needs of the nation for technology development, economic growth, and inspirationï£§fundamental components of the nationâs strategic leadership. By achieving the goal, to expand the frontiers of human activity in space, the U.S. civil space program will â¢ Put humans at the frontier in space, continually expanding the capability to move and work away from Earth, with each step enabling the next. Human spaceflight to explore the interesting and useful places in the solar sys- tem will necessarily be an extended activity. It will take a century or longer. And the presence of humans beyond Earthï£§reestablishing a sense of frontierï£§may be just as important as exploiting resources elsewhere in the solar system. It will take centuries more to protect against human extinction from cataclysmic events on Earth by having a permanent large human presence beyond Earth. Steps taken over many lifetimes will be required to enable people to travel where we choose. Each step, which should be achievable within a small fraction of a human lifespan, should advance the ability to take the next step in the sustained expansion of the range of human action. International Space Station The International Space Station (ISS) provides an important capability in pre- paring for an expansion of the frontiers of human activity in space. It has already enabled several important accomplishments, including learning how to construct large space structures and developing a framework for large-scale international collaboration (Figure 2.5). Future steps into space will build on the lessons learned through ISS design and construction. NASA should thus focus use of the now-completed ISS on such important technical challenges as demonstration that operationally significant quantities of water can be reused; development of the largely autonomous crew operations required for exploration of deep space; and rigorous investigation of space medical issues that could, for example, support a decision on whether a spacecraft that provides a partial-gravity environment is required for very-long-duration missions.
30 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE BOX 2.2 Balancing Robotic and Human Space Exploration The NRC report Science in NASAâs Vision for Space Exploration1 addressed the question of how to make choices between robotic and hu- man spaceflight, and the Committee on the Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program concurs with the conclusions of that report. The report noted that âexpansion of the frontiers of human spaceflight and the robotic study of the broader universe can be complementary approaches to a larger goalâ (p. 5). Robotic space missions clearly have led, and will continue to lead, to paradigm-altering discoveries about Earth, our solar system, and the universe beyond, and about fundamental physical laws. The report added that human space explorationâfor example, an even- tual mission to Marsâcan also be transformative in changing humanityâs sense of its place in the universe. Robotic space exploration and human spaceflight can be synergistic endeavors that can jointly serve to enhance U.S. leadership in science and technology. The 2005 report provided advice on setting priorities as follows: The issue then is not what to pursue ultimately, but rather what to pursue first, and then how to prioritize what follows. The standard for deciding what science to select can be set by recalling the motivation for pursuing space exploration. We do so to ensure that we will continue to advance our intellectual understanding of the cosmos, including our place in it, and will continue our development as a civilization for which human spaceflight becomes routine and inevitable. The array of choices can include plans for missions and enabling science that will not be achieved for decades or longer, but it also needs to include programs from which major achieve- ments can be expected in the nearer term (p.6). provide technological, economic, and societal benefits The U.S. (and global) economy currently enjoys significant direct and indi- rect economic benefits from space activities. Space-based infrastructure supports the smooth functioning of daily life in many parts of the world and is vital to the operations of many industries. Without todayâs capabilities, accurate weather prediction and the resulting economic benefits would not be possible; businesses would lack reliable communications and connectivity with geographically remote parts of the world; and the growing value of ubiquitous spatial positioning and imagery would be difficult to realize. A goal of the U.S. civil space program is to
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 31 The report went on to recommend that decisions about what alterna- tive opportunities to pursue should reflect consideration of two factors: a. The critical scientific or technical breakthroughs that are possible, and in some cases necessary, and b. How a vibrant space program can be achieved by selecting from an array of approaches to realizing potential breakthroughs across the full spectrum of NASAâs goals. The 2005 report elaborated on how these tests should be applied, saying For both human and robotic programs, the basic standard of achievement and impact is whether a program will lead to a fundamentally different understanding or perspective. For future missions or programs it is impera- tive to prioritize based on which will provide the greatest return. If a new mission or program is to proceed it must demonstrate the potential for, and likelihood of, a transformative outcome, through a more comprehen- sive approach, increased measurement resolution and sensitivity, or the opportunity to visit or observe some unique new location. The argument needs to be realistic and compelling because available resources always will limit the number of programs that can be supported (p.10). The present committee fully agrees. 1 National Research Council, Science in NASAâs Vision for Space Exploration, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005. provide technological, economic, and societal benefits that contribute solutions to the nationâs most pressing problems. Economic returns from U.S. space-based activities can be classified at several different levels (Figure 2.6). The âdirectâ space economy of about $40 billion per year is represented by the elements of the aerospace sector devoted to the design and manufacture of space hardware utilized in global civil, military, and com- mercial activities; admittedly, it represents a small fraction of GDP.10 However, this relatively small industrial base punches far above its weight economically, 10â For additional economic data see Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, The Space Economy at a Glance 2007, OECD Publishing, Paris, France, 2007.
32 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE FIGURE 2.4â An astronaut tests the Simplified Aid for Extra-Vehicular Activity Rescue system during an extravehicular activity. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA. as a larger pyramid of economic activity depends on the space industrial baseâs products. At the next tier, and at about $80 billion per year, the satellite-based services portion of the space economy is twice the size of the space-related manufacturing sector. Satellite-based services include space-based broadcasting of television pro- gramming, satellite radio, fixed and mobile satellite telephony and data services, and space-based imagery services. Of the satellite-based services, direct broadcast television is currently the dominant segment, representing 80 percent of space services. A space-based infrastructure provides the unique capability to distribute video programming
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 33 FIGURE 2.5â The International Space Station is a remarkable example of the impres- sive feats of engineering that are possible through international cooperation. SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA. (entertainment, education, and so on) over wide areas at extremely low per-user costs.Â Â In hard-to-reach remote locations within the United States, as well as internationally, such connectivity cannot yet (and may never) be delivered over land. Communications satellites provide a level of ubiquity that can be used to respond rapidly to changing demand patterns, thus providing an âinitial serviceâ and a market where terrestrial alternatives may (or may not) develop at a later time and slower pace. The newly developing area where the value-added of satellite- based infrastructure is being demonstrated is in the delivery of broadband Internet access. Connectivity to the Internet or other large data networks in geographically remote locations is being made possible by space infrastructure. Another element of the space services economy has been the civil and com- mercial delivery of satellite imagery and other observational data. Satellite imag- ery is used to monitor agricultural crops, determine which land is most suitable for growing a given crop, monitor fisheries and aquatic and land ecosystems, and support land-use management. Satellite information is also used to save lives and help those in need. Human rights organizations use commercial imagery to moni- tor and document events in places such as the Darfur region. Satellite imagery also is employed to warn communities of impending natural disasters; it thus saves lives, reduces property-related damage, and enables social action and prepared-
34 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE Sensor Other Telecommunication and Navigation Government Services Imaging Services Missions Services Launch Services Payloads, Launch Satellites, and Vehicles Sensors Components FIGURE 2.6â The pyramidal nature of the structure of the current space economy (as measured in terms of annual revenues), with a relatively narrow base of components and space hardware infrastructure supporting a much larger amount of downstream space-based services. This pyramidal structure of a larger volume of space-based services balanced on a narrower base of 2.6 Space_Economic_Pyramid.eps continuing feature infrastructure and support services is likely to be a of the space economy. ness. After extreme-weather events, imagery is used to assess damage and enable disaster relief efforts in the affected regions, especially in more remote areas that are best monitored via satellite. This imagery allows coordinated disaster relief that keeps aid workers safer and allows them to help more people. As mentioned in the earlier section on the stewardship of Earth, NOAAâs Space Environment Center provides warnings regarding solar and geomagnetic activity. These warnings prevent economic losses from power-grid outages and satellite failures. An area of increasing concern, monitoring severe space weather events will become vital as society relies increasingly on technologies that are vulnerable to these events. In the third and largest tier of economic activity are industries that rely on or utilize the space infrastructure that is in place. The most significant example to date is the growing use of the DOD Global Positioning System (GPS) precision navigation signals, which are being provided as a free good by the U.S. govern-
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 35 ment. The precision navigation personal device market has rapidly grown into a $10 billion annual market which did not exist prior to the launch of the GPS satellites. The industry has grown from promising satellite navigation equipment in aircraft and ships, to portable devices used in vehicles and by recreational hik- ers, to navigation capabilities now being embedded within every next-generation cellular telephone. The applications and use of satellite-based precision navigation signals continue to proliferate and are now delivering great increases in productiv- ity to the industries they touch. Examples include fleet tracking in the transpor- tation industry, supply chain monitoring in the logistics industry, precision and automated agricultural practices, precise geolocation for safety and advertising purposes, and GPS surveying in the construction and mining industries. The GPS space infrastructure plays another extremely important, but often unappreciated, role in the general modern economyâthe Coordinated Universal Time distributed by GPS. Without this space-based, precise, global time stamping service the ability to coordinate and manage our telecommunications networks, Internet infrastructure, cell phone emergency 911 systems, paging networks, elec- trical grid and financial system (all of which rely on very good time synchroniza- tion) would be severely compromised. From that perspective, the entire economy relies on the space infrastructure. Looking forward, there are a number of nascent markets that could develop over the coming years. For instance, segments of the public are anxious to partici- pate in human spaceflight. Commercial human spaceflight activities began in 1990 with the flight of a Japanese journalist via Soyuz to Mir. The first of seven paid flights on Russian vehicles to the ISS occurred in 2001, and private spaceflight continued with suborbital test flights above the defined edge of space, 100 km, in 2004. Several private firms are now planning suborbital or orbital flights for pay- ing customers in the foreseeable future. In addition, a private entity has launched its own pressurized volumesï£§based on purchased NASA researchï£§that could conceivably lead to the development of privately held orbiting hotels or labo- ratories. While the committee acknowledges that there is inherent high risk in these ventures and that their ultimate success is not assured, of more significance and importance is the fact that there is entrepreneurial activity in the space sec- tor and private capital being made available to invest in new space systems and capabilities.Â Â Another key role that the space economy plays within the general economy is that of being a leading-edge consumer and driver of technology. Given the harsh and unforgiving environment of space and the difficulty of getting out of Earthâs gravity well, the space industry often requires cutting-edge technology. The efforts involved in space exploration over the past half century have benefited society by pushing the limits of current technology and expanding the scientific and technological frontiers. Beginning in the 1960s, innovations such as chemical milling and high-energy metal forming, along with myriad other innovative manu- facturing techniques, benefited from work on Project Mercury and subsequent
36 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE programs. Recent economic trends favor workers with higher skills, and space science and aerospace research can be applied to a wide array of areas outside the space arena. Ultimately, if humans are to travel far from Earth they will have to solve many key problems: how to generate water over extended periods of time, pro- vide and store energy in a compact space, and grow food in a harsh environment. It is noteworthy that generating fresh water, creating efficient energy sources, and developing food sources are also among the top priorities of an ever more resource-constrained Earth. The civil space program will need to develop a deeper understanding of and countermeasures for bone loss, space radiation, and other health effects. Innovative equipment and procedures for providing medical care to astronauts could contribute to improved approaches to high-quality medical care in the United States and around the world. While the human space exploration program should not be justified based on the prospect of advances in these areas, a vigorous U.S. civil space program whose priorities are determined by assessing where it can lead to transformative scientific or technical outcomes will become a leading-edge driver and consumer of these technologies. As stated previously, a goal of the U.S. civil space program is to provide technological, economic, and societal benefits. By achieving this goal, the U.S. civil space program will â¢ Support and expand the capability of the private sector to help meet national needs and facilitate the development of economic opportunities that may be created in space or through the use of space systems. â¢ Create and maintain a continuous space technology pipeline and use the challenges presented by space exploration to create new technologies, contribut- ing to the technological, scientific, and overall advancement of the nation. Supporting the Private Sector and the Technology Pipeline Todayâs civil space program is heavily weighted toward the conduct and sup- port of government missions, and less toward commercial enterprise. As a general principle, however, U.S. policy discourages direct government competition with private businesses. While the government must take the actions necessary to ensure its ability to successfully conduct inherently governmental missions, it should also identify and encourage opportunities to support private sector capabilities. For instance, the commercial imagery market discussed earlier has received significant support from the military and intelligence communities. This relationship helped to ensure the success of commercial imagery businesses, which in turnï£§paired with GPS servicesï£§has provided numerous applications benefiting the average citizen. As private sector capabilities continue to develop, the government needs to look for similar opportunities to incubate nascent markets. A burgeoning commercial space sector requires a technology pipeline that
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 37 can continually enable spacecraft to become more capable and more efficient. The government, and particularly NASA, has a role to play in developing and disseminating new technologies. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 directs NASA to preserve the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology. By supporting new technologies from their infancy through to their first use on a spacecraft (the technology pipeline), NASA will enhance both government spacecraft and commercial spacecraft.11 As discussed in the preceding section, the government civil space program and its partners in the commercial sector have a track record of demonstrating that sound investments produce tangible products and capabilities downstream. One of the characteristics of space system developments is that many of the technolo- gies that result from space endeavors are cross-disciplinary and multiuse. For instance, a high-efficiency solar panel developed for a NASA space telescope could be used on a NOAA climate-monitoring satellite or a commercial imagery satellite. By transferring the technology into industry, government agencies are able to leverage the capabilities of the commercial sector to share innovations and, at times, cost savings. There are many hurdles to overcome for the commercial space sector to move beyond its infancy. They include technical challenges, such as the need to reduce the cost to launch a payload to orbit, and they also involve policy actions, such as the need for the government to know when to step back and transition roles from government-led to private sectorâprovided services. The committee is confident that over the long term the investments and actions necessary to develop the space economy can be significant factors in U.S. global economic competitiveness. INSPIRE CURRENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS Space activities provide an opportunity to excite interest in science and engi- neering among young people and to promote scientific and technical literacy in the general public. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents in a recent survey were at least somewhat interested in space, and 82 percent of respondents believed that âthe space program inspires young people to study science and math.â12 Responses to a questionnaire posted by the committee were similarly positive (Box 2.3). Such results indicate that the public recognizes and supports the space programâs role in stimulating and exciting interest in science, technology, engi- neering, and mathematics (STEM). Other evidence also supports conclusions that the public remains very inter- ested in the civil space program. For example, the 24-hour period during which Spirit landed on Mars yielded 225 million hits to NASAâs home page, and 2.6 11â The committee discusses the current status of the governmentâs technology development efforts in the Chapter 3 section titled âTechnology and Innovation.â 12â See http://www.everettgroup.com/survey2-09/pilotsummary.pdf.
38 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE BOX 2.3 Public Responses to the Committeeâs Questionnaire The committeeâs own Internet questionnaire drew more than 1,100 responses (for more information on the questionnaire, see Appendix D). These 1,100 responses addressed a variety of concerns, although the common theme was a belief in NASAâs responsibility and potential to inspire the country. One respondent wrote: I view the civil space program as a vehicle for involving . . . all of America. . . . I am particularly interested in the impact of the space program on our children today. The importance of the civil space program transcends the generation gap . . . offers hope for the continued exploration of space . . . and also fosters the excitement that has always accompanied the space program. . . . We need the space program in this country and it will always bring the possibility of reaching the unknown. Another responder added: NASA has been energizing the American dream for a long time . . . climax- ing in 1969 when the first astronauts landed on the moon and . . . [with] the successful discoveries by the rovers Spirit and Opportunity. million unique users visited NASAâs website when Opportunity landed.13 The Hubble Space Telescopeâs image archive receives at least 115 million hits a year.14 Over the course of 10 months, 80,000 people used software on the Mars Global Surveyor website to find and mark nearly 2 million craters. The efforts of these amateur space enthusiasts produced work that was reported to be on average as good as expert crater analysis and that accomplished the equivalent of several months of dedicated work on the data.15 Additionally, in a 2009 survey of undergraduates, NASA was among the top 10 most admired private and public sector employers.16 The large and enthusiastic public response to specific NASA endeavors demonstrates a curiosity about space exploration. This curiosity is an important 13â See http://news.zdnet.co.uk/internet/0,1000000097,39147138,00.htm. 14â See http://www.stecf.org/~rfosbury/functional/ECF-AR_06/Christensen.ppt#303,14,Slide 14. 15â See http://www.scienceofcollaboratories.org/resources/collab.php?317. 16âWetfeet, Universumâs IDEALâ¢ Employer Rankings 2009ï£§Undergraduate Edition, available at http://www.wetfeet.com/universumrankings/Undergrad-2009.aspx.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 39 first step in the learning process; as the public becomes curious about a new accomplishment, they naturally want to learn more. In this way, space activities can serve as a motivator for education and a way to capture the publicâs imagina- tion. âClimate change and Earth monitoringâ was the leading dominant theme of the responses to the committeeâs online questionnaire (for more information, see Box 2.3 and Appendix D). Both NASA and NOAA support activities dedicated to K-12 education initiatives, but the space communityâs efforts in space activities in and of themselves captivate the general public as well and promote further interest in learning about the science behind the missions. A goal of the U.S. civil space program is to inspire current and future generations. In pursuing this goal, the U.S. civil space program will â¢ Instill a sense of interest, excitement, and optimism about opportunities for scientific and technological advancements to enhance the well-being of the nation; â¢ Attract and encourage members of the next generation of the nationâs technical workforce; and â¢ Create a new generation who can draw on the advantages offered by space to help solve problems on Earth, and ensure U.S. leadership, building on the solid achievements of the past 50 years of U.S. investments in space. Future Generations A 2007 National Academiesâ study, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Ener- gizing and Employing Americans for a Brighter Economic Future, presented a comprehensive plan for the nation as it faces the problems of deficiencies in U.S. STEM education and increased global economic competition. The report recom- mended that the United States should âincrease Americaâs talent pool by vastly improving K-12 science and mathematics education . . . , sustain and strengthen the nationâs traditional commitment to long-term basic research . . . , make the United States the most attractive setting in which to study and perform research . . . , and ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world to inno- vate. . . .â (pp. 5-11). There are precious few national initiatives as broad in scope and technological reach as U.S. civil space activities. The broad array of enabling technologies required for successful space activities today and for future space missions encompasses robotics, advanced materials, advanced communications, advanced propulsion and power systems, biomedical sciences, and many more (Figure 2.7). Such areas of technology needed for success in space endeavors have a linkage to the technologies needed to address some of the nationâs biggest challengesâincluding environmental management, climate change, economic development, and generation of clean energy. Civil space activities offer a unique
40 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE FIGURE 2.7â Programs like NASAâs Scientific Balloon program help train the next gen- eration of space scientists and engineers. Students can participate in balloon flight inves- tigations to study a variety of topics in fields such as atmospheric science, solar-terrestrial physics, astronomy and astrophysics, and micrometeoritic science. At any given time, there are approximately 25 graduate students and 50 undergraduate students involved in the ballooning program. See NRC, Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Work- force Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007, p. 39.Â SOURCE: Courtesy of NASA/University of Maryland and Jojo Boyle, University of Chicago. opportunity to inspire and to educate current and future generations, yielding benefits beyond just space exploration.17 The NASA Authorization Act of 2008 states that âNASA, through its pur- suit of challenging and relevant activities, can provide an important stimulus to the next generation to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematicsâ (Figure 2.8). While specific to NASA, this statement applies to all aspects of the U.S. civil space program. Furthermore, a reputation for competence 17â See National Research Council, NASAâs Elementary and Secondary Education Program: Review and Critique, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008, for specific recommendations about NASA education programs.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 41 FIGURE 2.8â Schoolchildren enjoy Space Day 2005 at the National Air and Space Museumâs Udvar-Hazy Center. Over a million people visit the Udvar-Hazy Center each year, and the National Air and Space Museum typically receives more than 5 million visi- tors each year (in 2007, it had more than 6 million visitors). SOURCE: Courtesy of Dane Penland, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. in executing space missions that advance the frontier is likely to help attract tal- ented foreign nationals to study and work in the United States, as well as to inspire our own students to enter technical fields. Spirit of Optimism Civil space activities also can exert an influence in building citizensâ confidence in a brighter future. We live in a world with many immediate concernsï£§notably
42 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE including a weakened world economy, regional conflicts and global terrorism, and threats of the consequences of climate change and limitations in energy sources. It is a time when people can be fearful that our tomorrows will be less promising than our past; that our children will have fewer opportunities than we enjoyed. Surely, a vigorous civil space program will be a strong signal that our future as a nation is promising, that life can be better, that our prospects are boundless. Civil space assets, with their global perspective on the changing Earth, can provide knowledge to enable wise stewardship of our planetâs bounty. We can become a true space-faring society with new opportunities for our economy. Civil space activities will add to knowledge of our place in the cosmos and thereby expand the cultural richness of our nation. The United States, leading by example and in cooperation with others in the exploration and utilization of space, can be a strategic leader in the world, not to be feared or despised, but rather to be valued for its concerted attention to basic challenges facing people worldwide. enhance U.S. STRATEGIC Leadership Strategic leadership for the United States means thinking about the future in a way that sees beyond immediate and particularly American needs and policiesâsuch as ensuring access to resources or a temporary military advan- tageâand positioning the nation to help set an agenda for worldwide action. In considering both its own national interests and benefits to humankind, the United States should aim for more than immediate solutions to transitory problems and should find approaches that seek to shape the future. Space is viewed by many countries of the world as a global commons, a resource not owned by any one nation but crucial to the future of all humankind. Indeed, human beings around the world view space not just as a place, but rather as symbolic of the future itself. For U.S. exertion of strategic leadership there is thus no venue more special than space. Through its efforts and achievements, the nation has earned its position of leadership in space. True strategic leadership will be achieved not by dominance, which in many cases is no longer possible, but by example and in cooperation with other nations. In addition to protecting those activities in space that are judged to be essential to U.S. national interest, and for which the United States must continue as an undisputed leader, there should also always be concern for the larger world and for how the United States is viewed as a benevolent nation with foresight and determination to make a better world for all humankind. A goal of the U.S. civil space program is to enhance U.S. global strategic leadership through leadership in civil space activities.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 43 By achieving this goal, the U.S. civil space program will â¢ Establish, exercise, and sustain global space leadership as an essential tool for U.S. global strategic leadership; â¢ Actively pursue and expand international partnerships; and â¢ Create a robust and safe space-operating regime and ensure that space becomes a more productive global commons for science, commerce, and other activities. Strategic Leadership The goals just enumeratedï£§Earth stewardship, scientific discovery, expanding human frontiers, technological, economic, and societal benefits, and inspirationï£§provide the foundation for a preeminent U.S. civil space program. If America chooses to achieve these goals, in support of national interests and in the interests of the world at large, we can also achieve a goal of particular importanceï£§to enhance U.S. strategic leadership. The strategic leadership that the United States needs to exert must be appro- priate for the new era of globalization. The United States must strengthen ties to traditional allies and build increasingly effective working relationships with emerging powers. Civil space activities always have been, and will continue to be, excellent vehicles for promoting positive international relations and supporting the nationâs foreign policy objectives. International collaboration in space provides a means to carry out nonthreatening activities that can coexist with sources of tension that may arise from other events. These collaborations and activities can play an important role in enhancing a positive U.S. image abroad. International Collaboration Exerting a global leadership role in space activities is the best means to ensure that space activities can serve the broader security and economic interests of the nation. The successful construction of the ISS has shown that a coalition of nations working together can accomplish large engineering feats in space. Some particularly pressing or ambitious space activities currently under discus- sion (e.g., measuring and monitoring global climate change or continuing with human exploration of the solar system) may only be possible through international collaboration. Such collaboration, however, requires an awareness that different nations may participate in different ways, and for different reasons. International cooperation in space, itself, is of at least two kindsï£§working on ambitious proj- ects with other space-faring nations with significant capability and involving other nations wishing to get started in space to develop capability. Space activities have potential for the nations of the developing world (maybe more so than for the developed nations that are the usual players). To these nations,
44 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE space is a luxury item out of their reach. With few exceptions, they generally do not partake in space endeavors with the space-faring nations. Here the United States has an opportunity to bring development-relevant knowledge to the nations that most need it. Global Commons The United States has broad commercial and security interests in space, which must be protected. Important components of our civil and military infra- structure reside in space, and America can provide true security for those space assets by committing itself to use of the global commons18 by all and by creating a mutual dependence in space that is in the best interests of all nations to protect. The United States need not rely solely on technological supremacyï£§which is always tenuousï£§but can instead build partnerships that will serve to maintain its strategic position as a global leader. Specifically, a system of customs and rules that organize the activities of many nations in space is necessary in order to prevent unintentional interference between space systems and help make space safer for all lawful activities (see Box 2.4). An example of the consequences of the current lack of such coordination is the collision that destroyed an Iridium Corporation communications satellite in February 2009. The Iridium satellite and the dead Cosmos satellite were tracked, but the U.S. Air Force was not funded or responsible for calculating every possible conjunction. The data were available, but no one organization had the resources or accountability to perform the orbital projection. A global commons environ- ment could have helped prevent the collision by having rules to de-orbit satellites past their functional lifetime, or by the sharing of orbital data among the satel- lite operators so that they could calculate possible conjunctions, or by having an international space surveillance governance mechanism by which to calculate all possible conjunctions (see Box 2.5). It is incumbent upon the major space-faring nations to take the lead in estab- lishing such customs and rules, as was done by the seafaring powers in centuries past and in global commercial aviation today, and in developing means to mitigate the threats to spacecraft safety that now exist. The United States has an opportu- nity to work cooperatively with other nations to protect its interests in space, but a strong and active civil space programÂ is necessary to accomplish this goal. 18â Global commons are assets that are not owned by anyone but are central to life and used for the good of all. The term is drawn from old English law where, for example, the village grazing commons for livestock was critical to sustaining village life and was commonly held property.
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 45 BOX 2.4 Stewardship of Space as a Global Commons The UN Outer Space Treaty, to which the United States is a signa- tory, establishes all of the usable space outside Earthâs atmosphere as a global commons open to all legal use by any state, entity, or individual. Although space seems extraordinarily vast, the most useful Earth orbits and spectral links are increasingly crowded and subject to natural and man-made debris and interference. Keeping space lanes safe and usable for lawful purposes, especially science and commerce, is a practical, civil- government function just as is managing the sea-lanes and international airspace. Humankindâs use of the space domain is relatively new. The number of state and private participants is growing, and there are many opportuni- ties to set precedents. As more states get closer to landing on the Moon, the number of questions about interpretation of legal concepts such as property rights and peaceful uses is increasing. Will legal interpreta- tions encourage free enterprise, for instance, for a commercial firm that wants to conduct mining on the Moon? Will untended or nonfunctional exploratory or scientific sites, like the Apollo landing sites or the Mars rovers, be legally protected from damage or disruption caused by later exploratory activities? There are already formal proposed ârules of the roadâ for space be- ing discussed at UN forums with State Department participation. (The EU presented a draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, December 19, 2008, for consideration by the UN Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The EU is now in the process of revising the document to make it acceptable to more countries.) It is in the U.S. national interest to actively conduct leading-edge human and robotic civil space activities that set positive legal and convention precedents; to exert technical and diplomatic leadership in the evolution of space stewardship systems, rules, and organizations; and to ensure that space continues to be a productive global commons for science, commerce, and other lawful activities. The protection of solar system bodies from biological contamination carried by spacecraft from Earth and the protection of Earth from possible life forms returned from other solar system bodies also is an important responsibility for all space-faring nations. Planetary protection standards are developed by the Committee on Space Research of the International Council on Science in consultation with the UN. The United States has played a leadership role in planetary protection via technical standards developed by the National Research Council and implementation proto- cols developed by NASA.
46 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE BOX 2.5 Orbital Debris Although the volume of space available for utilization is large, the most useful Earth orbital zones are increasingly crowded and subject to natural and man-made debris. In low Earth orbit, the International Space Station has maneuvered nine times over the past 10 years in order to avoid a potential collision. Communications satellites also face threats at geostationary Earth orbit altitudes (see Figure 2.5.1). Space debris has many sources. Some objects are naturalâsmall bits of extraterrestrial material drawn into orbit by Earthâs gravity. Other objects are remnants of the space age. While most lower stages of large rockets fall back to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere, almost all final stages go into orbit. Furthermore, objects as small as paint chips can come off a rocket and pose a hazard to spacecraft. The U.S. Strategic Command tracks nearly 18,000 objects in Earth orbit, down to sizes of 10 cm across. In recent years, many observers predicted that it was only a matter of time before an operating spacecraft was disabled by a collision. This prediction came true on February 11, 2009, when a satellite belonging to Iridium Satellite LLC collided with Cosmos 2251âa defunct Russian communications satellite. The collision resulted in a cloud of over 600 smaller pieces of debris. Discussions of space debris mitigation are under way in the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and in other forums. These discussions provide an opportunity for the United States to lead the global community in preserving spaceâparticularly the most useful Earth orbitsâas a global commons. For more information, see National Research Council, Orbital Debris: A Technical Assessment, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.,1995. BALANCING SUPPORT FOR MULTIPLE GOALS The civil space program is an integral part of the nationâs R&D enterprise. To the extent that the United States chooses to increase its investments in R&D, components of the civil space program should be included. However, regardless of whether budgets are growing or constrained, there is always the need to balance among those components. The committeeâs first four proposed goals for U.S. civil space effortsâEarth stewardship, advancing scientific knowledge, expansion of the frontiers of human spaceflight, and provision of technology, economic, and societal benefitsâare
GOALS FOR U.S. CIVIL SPACE ACTIVITIES 47 FIGURE 2.5.1 Artistâs impression of the debris surrounding Earth. The number of objects in Earth orbit has increased steadily (by 200 per year on average) as more nations develop space programs. NOTE: Size of debris is greatly exaggerated as compared to the size of Earth. SOURCE: Courtesy of the European Space Agency. programmatic goals. The committee identified three criteria for assessing balance in efforts to address the first four goals. 1. Capacity to make steady progress. Each major program area needs to be maintained at a level such that the highest-priority intermediate goals can be achieved at a reasonable pace and the next generation of technologies and techni- cal expertise can be developed to sustain long-term progress. 2. Stability. Rapid downsizing or abrupt redirection of a space activity are disruptive. Reconstituting a lost science or engineering capability or recovering from a major change in program direction can take a long time. A major gap in
48 AMERICAâS FUTURE IN SPACE program activities can also add significant risk as new operations personnel learn without the benefit of experienced hands. 3. Robustness. Sufficient human resources and research infrastructureâ including public and private institutions and world-class research facilitiesâneed to be maintained to enable the nation to ramp up selected space activities within 1 or 2 years as national needs change or as major unexpected scientific or technical breakthroughs occur. The committeeâs proposed fifth goalï£§inspiring current and future generationsï£§links the program goals with people who support the civil space pro- gram. A program that advances the four program goals but does not stimulate educa- tional opportunities or inspirational moments would fail to achieve the full potential of a strong U.S. civil space program. The committee firmly believes that the U.S. civil space program can be a tool for addressing many of the challenges facing the nation. A space program that properly addresses the first four goals in a manner that also achieves the fifth will be a significant strategic asset for the nation. And by achieving these goals in support of national interests and in the interests of the world at large, we can also achieve a goal of particular importanceï£§to enhance U.S. strategic leadership.