Space Science and Technology
|Report of the Panel on Implementing Recommendations from the New Worlds, New Horizons Decadal Survey
The 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey report, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (NWNH), outlines a scientifically exciting and programmatically integrated plan for both ground- and space-based astronomy and astrophysics in the 2012-2021 decade. However, late in the survey process, the budgetary outlook shifted downward considerably from the guidance that NASA had provided to the decadal survey. And since August 2010--when NWNH was released--the projections of funds available for new NASA Astrophysics initiatives has decreased even further because of the recently reported delay in the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2015 and the associated additional costs of at least $1.4 billion. These developments jeopardize the implementation of the carefully designed program of activities proposed in NWNH. In response to these circumstances, NASA has proposed that the United States consider a commitment to the European Space Agency (ESA) Euclid mission at a level of approximately 20 percent. This participation would be undertaken in addition to initiating the planning for the survey's highest-ranked, space-based, large-scale mission, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).
The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested that the National Research Council (NRC) convene a panel to consider whether NASA's Euclid proposal is consistent with achieving the priorities, goals, and recommendations, and with pursuing the science strategy, articulated in NWNH. The panel also investigated what impact such participation might have on the prospects for the timely realization of the WFIRST mission and other activities recommended by NWNH in view of the projected budgetary situation. The panel convened a workshop on November 7, 2010. The workshop presentations identified several tradeoffs among options: funding goals less likely versus more likely to be achieved in a time of restricted budgets; narrower versus broader scientific goals; and U.S.-only versus U.S.-ESA collaboration. The panel captured these tradeoffs in considering four primary options: Option A: Launch of WFIRST in the Decade 2012-2021; Option B: A Joint WFIRST/Euclid Mission; Option C: Commitment by NASA of 20 percent Investment in Euclid prior to the M-class decision; or Option D: No U.S. Financing of an Infrared Survey Mission This Decade.
|Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions
Through an examination of case studies, agency briefings, and existing reports, and drawing on personal knowledge and direct experience, the Committee on Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Cooperation on Space and Earth Science Missions found that candidate projects for multiagency collaboration in the development and implementation of Earth-observing or space science missions are often intrinsically complex and, therefore costly, and that a multiagency approach to developing these missions typically results in additional complexity and cost. Advocates of collaboration have sometimes underestimated the difficulties and associated costs and risks of dividing responsibility and accountability between two or more partners; they also discount the possibility that collaboration will increase the risk in meeting performance objectives.
This committee's principal recommendation is that agencies should conduct Earth and space science projects independently unless:
It is judged that cooperation will result in significant added scientific value to the project over what could be achieved by a single agency alone; or
Unique capabilities reside within one agency that are necessary for the mission success of a project managed by another agency; or
The project is intended to transfer from research to operations necessitating a change in responsibility from one agency to another during the project; or
There are other compelling reasons to pursue collaboration, for example, a desire to build capacity at one of the cooperating agencies.
Even when the total project cost may increase, parties may still find collaboration attractive if their share of a mission is more affordable than funding it alone. In these cases, alternatives to interdependent reliance on another government agency should be considered. For example, agencies may find that buying services from another agency or pursuing interagency coordination of spaceflight data collection is preferable to fully interdependent cooperation.
|New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Driven by discoveries, and enabled by leaps in technology and imagination, our understanding of the universe has changed dramatically during the course of the last few decades. The fields of astronomy and astrophysics are making new connections to physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science. Based on a broad and comprehensive survey of scientific opportunities, infrastructure, and organization in a national and international context, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics outlines a plan for ground- and space- based astronomy and astrophysics for the decade of the 2010's.
Realizing these scientific opportunities is contingent upon maintaining and strengthening the foundations of the research enterprise including technological development, theory, computation and data handling, laboratory experiments, and human resources. New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics proposes enhancing innovative but moderate-cost programs in space and on the ground that will enable the community to respond rapidly and flexibly to new scientific discoveries. The book recommends beginning construction on survey telescopes in space and on the ground to investigate the nature of dark energy, as well as the next generation of large ground-based giant optical telescopes and a new class of space-based gravitational observatory to observe the merging of distant black holes and precisely test theories of gravity.
New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics recommends a balanced and executable program that will support research surrounding the most profound questions about the cosmos. The discoveries ahead will facilitate the search for habitable planets, shed light on dark energy and dark matter, and aid our understanding of the history of the universe and how the earliest stars and galaxies formed. The book is a useful resource for agencies supporting the field of astronomy and astrophysics, the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over those agencies, the scientific community, and the public.
|Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era of Space ExplorationAn Interim Report
In response to requests from Congress, NASA asked the National Research Council to undertake a decadal survey of life and physical sciences in microgravity. Developed in consultation with members of the life and physical sciences communities, the guiding principle for the study is to set an agenda for research for the next decade that will allow the use of the space environment to solve complex problems in life and physical sciences so as to deliver both new knowledge and practical benefits for humankind as we become a spacefaring people.
The project's statement of task calls for delivery of two books--an interim report and a final survey report. Although the development of specific recommendations is deferred until the final book, this interim report does attempt to identify programmatic needs and issues to guide near-term decisions that are critical to strengthening the organization and management of life and physical sciences research at NASA.
|Controlling Cost Growth of NASA Earth and Space Science Missions
Cost and schedule growth is a problem experienced by many types of projects in many fields of endeavor. Based on prior studies of cost growth in NASA and Department of Defense projects, this report identifies specific causes of cost growth associated with NASA Earth and space science missions and provides guidance on how NASA can overcome this significant problem.
The recommendations in this report focus on changes in NASA policies that would directly reduce or eliminate the cost growth of Earth and space science missions. Large cost increases can create liquidity problems for NASA's Science Mission Directorate that in turn cause cost profile changes and development delays, amplifying the overall cost growth for other concurrent and/or pending missions. The allocation of artificially high reserves in response to projected growth unnecessarily diminishes the portfolio of planned flights. A more efficient use of resources is to establish realistic budgets and reserves and effective management processes that maximize the likelihood that mission costs will not exceed reserves. NASA is already taking action to reduce cost growth; the additional steps recommended in this report will help improve NASA's mission planning process and achieve the goal of ensuring frequent mission opportunities for NASA in Earth and space science.
|Revitalizing NASA's Suborbital ProgramAdvancing Science, Driving Innovation, and Developing Workforce
Suborbital flight activities, including the use of sounding rockets, aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital reusable launch vehicles, offer valuable opportunities to advance science, train the next generation of scientists and engineers, and provide opportunities for participants in the programs to acquire skills in systems engineering and systems integration that are critical to maintaining the nation's leadership in space programs. Furthermore, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 finds it in the national interest to expand the size of NASA's suborbital research program and to consider increased funding.
Revitalizing NASA's Suborbital Program is an assessment of the current state and potential of NASA's suborbital research programs and a review of NASA's capabilities in this area. The scope of this review includes: existing programs that make use of suborbital flights; the status, capability, and availability of suborbital platforms; the existing or planned launch facilities for suborbital missions (including the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy); and opportunities for scientific research, training, and educational collaboration in the conduct of suborbital missions by NASA.
The findings illustrate that suborbital program elements-airborne, balloon, and sounding rockets-play vital and necessary strategic roles in NASA's research, innovation, education, employee development, and spaceflight mission success, thus providing the foundation for achievement of agency goals.