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book coverNASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus  
Released 2013-01-02

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is widely admired for astonishing accomplishments since its formation in 1958. Looking ahead over a comparable period of time, what can the nation and the world expect of NASA? What will be the agency's goals and objectives, and what will be the strategy for achieving them? More fundamentally, how will the goals, objectives, and strategy be established and by whom? How will they be modified to reflect changes in science, technology, national priorities, and available resources? In late 2011, the United States Congress directed the NASA Office of Inspector General to commission a "comprehensive independent assessment of NASA's strategic direction and agency management." Subsequently, NASA requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct this independent assessment. In the spring of 2012, the NRC Committee on NASA's Strategic Direction was formed and began work on its task. The committee determined that, only with a national consensus on the agency's future strategic direction—along the lines described in the full NRC report—can NASA continue to deliver the wonder, the knowledge, the national security and economic benefits, and the technology that have been typified by its earlier history. NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus summarizes the findings and recommendations of the committee.

 Report in Brief (PDF) and Watch video of House hearing on NASA's Strategic Direction
book coverThe Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate: A Workshop Report   (SSB)
Released 2012-11-12

On September 8-9, 2011, experts in solar physics, climate models, paleoclimatology, and atmospheric science assembled at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado for a workshop to consider the Sun's variability over time and potential Sun-climate connections.While it does not provide findings, recommendations, or consensus on the current state of the science, The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate: A Workshop Report briefly introduces the primary topics discussed by presenters at the event. As context for these topics, the summary includes background information on the potential Sun-climate connection, the measurement record from space, and potential perturbations of climate due to long-term solar variability. This workshop report also summarizes some of the science questions explored by the participants as potential future research endeavors.

book coverSolar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society   (ASEB ,SSB)
Released 2013-08-26

From the interior of the Sun, to the upper atmosphere and near-space environment of Earth, and outward to a region far beyond Pluto where the Sun's influence wanes, advances during the past decade in space physics and solar physics--the disciplines NASA refers to as heliophysics--have yielded spectacular insights into the phenomena that affect our home in space. Solar and Space Physics, from the National Research Council's (NRC's) Committee for a Decadal Strategy in Solar and Space Physics, is the second NRC decadal survey in heliophysics. Building on the research accomplishments realized during the past decade, the report presents a program of basic and applied research for the period 2013-2022 that will improve scientific understanding of the mechanisms that drive the Sun's activity and the fundamental physical processes underlying near-Earth plasma dynamics, determine the physical interactions of Earth's atmospheric layers in the context of the connected Sun-Earth system, and enhance greatly the capability to provide realistic and specific forecasts of Earth's space environment that will better serve the needs of society. Although the recommended program is directed primarily at NASA and the National Science Foundation for action, the report also recommends actions by other federal agencies, especially the parts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration charged with the day-to-day (operational) forecast of space weather. In addition to the recommendations included in this summary, related recommendations are presented in this report.

Report in Brief
book coverResearch for a Future in Space: The Role of Life and Physical Sciences   (SSB)
Released 2012-07-19

During its more than 50-year history, NASA's success in human space exploration has depended on the agency's ability to effectively address a wide range of biomedical, engineering, physical sciences, and related obstacles. This achievement is made possible by NASA's strong and productive commitments to life and physical sciences research for human space exploration, and by its use of human space exploration infrastructures for scientific discovery. Research for a Future in Space: The Role of Life and Physical Sciences explains how unique characteristics of the space environment can be used to address complex problems in the life and physical sciences. This booklet also helps deliver both new knowledge and practical benefits for humankind as it embarks on a new era of space exploration. Research for a Future in Space: The Role of Life and Physical Sciences is based on the in depth report, Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era. To learn more about the future of space exploration, visit our catalog page and download this report for free.

book coverEarth Science and Applications from Space: A Midterm Assessment of NASA's Implementation of the Decadal Survey   (SSB)
Released 2012-08-03

Understanding the effects of natural and human-induced changes on the global environment and their implications requires a foundation of integrated observations of land, sea, air and space, on which to build credible information products, forecast models, and other tools for making informed decisions. The 2007 National Research Council report on decadal survey called for a renewal of the national commitment to a program of Earth observations in which attention to securing practical benefits for humankind plays an equal role with the quest to acquire new knowledge about the Earth system. NASA responded favorably and aggressively to this survey, embracing its overall recommendations for Earth observations, missions, technology investments, and priorities for the underlying science. As a result, the science and applications communities have made significant progress over the past 5 years. However, the Committee on Assessment of NASA's Earth Science Program found that the survey vision is being realized at a far slower pace than was recommended, principally because the required budget was not achieved. Exacerbating the budget shortfalls, NASA Earth science programs experienced launch failures and delays and the cost of implementing missions increased substantially as a result of changes in mission scope, increases in launch vehicle costs and/or the lack of availability of a medium-class launch vehicle, under-estimation of costs by the decadal survey, and unfunded programmatic changes that were required by Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has made significant reductions in scope to its future Earth environmental observing satellites as it contends with budget shortfalls. Earth Science and Applications from Space: A Midterm Assessment of NASA's Implementation of the Decadal Survey recommends a number of steps to better manage existing programs and to implement future programs that will be recommended by the next decadal survey. The report also highlights the urgent need for the Executive Branch to develop and implement an overarching multiagency national strategy for Earth observations from space, a key recommendation of the 2007 decadal survey that remains unfulfilled.

book coverAssessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Spacecraft Missions to Icy Solar System Bodies   (SSB)
Released 2012-07-10

NASA's exploration of planets and satellites during the past 50 years has led to the discovery of traces of water ice throughout the solar system and prospects for large liquid water reservoirs beneath the frozen ICE shells of multiple satellites of the giant planets of the outer solar system. During the coming decades, NASA and other space agencies will send flybys, orbiters, subsurface probes, and, possibly, landers to these distant worlds in order to explore their geologic and chemical context. Because of their potential to harbor alien life, NASA will select missions that target the most habitable outer solar system objects. This strategy poses formidable challenges for mission planners who must balance the opportunity for exploration with the risk of contamination by Earth's microbes, which could confuse the interpretation of data obtained from these objects. The 2000 NRC report Preventing the Forward Contamination of Europa provided a criterion that was adopted with prior recommendations from the Committee on Space Research of the International Council for Science. This current NRC report revisits and extends the findings and recommendations of the 2000 Europa report in light of recent advances in planetary and life sciences and, among other tasks, assesses the risk of contamination of icy bodies in the solar system.

book coverSpace Studies Board Annual Report 2011   (SSB)
Released 0000-00-00

The original charter of the Space Science Board was established in June 1958, 3 months before the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) opened its doors. The Space Science Board and its successor, the Space Studies Board (SSB), have provided expert external and independent scientific and programmatic advice to NASA on a continuous basis from NASA's inception until the present. The SSB has also provided such advice to other executive branch agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Department of Defense, as well as to Congress. Space Studies Board Annual Report 2011 covers a message from the chair of the SSB, Charles F. Kennel, where he expresses that 2011 was a challenging and uncertain year for NASA and the space science research communities. This report also explains the origins of the Space Science Board, how the Space Studies Board functions today, the SSB's collaboration with other National Research Council units, assures the quality of the SSB reports, acknowledges the audience and sponsors, and expresses the necessity to enhance the outreach and improve dissemination of SSB reports. This report will be relevant to a full range of government audiences in civilian space research - including NASA, NSF, NOAA, USGS, and the Department of Energy, as well members of the SSB, policy makers, and researchers.

book coverAssessment of a Plan for U.S. Participation in Euclid   (BPA ,SSB)
Released 2012-02-17

NASA proposed to make a hardware contribution to the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Euclid mission in exchange for U.S. membership on the Euclid Science Team and science data access. The Euclid mission will employ a space telescope that will make potentially important contributions to probing dark energy and to the measurement of cosmological parameters. Euclid will image a large fraction of the extragalactic sky at unprecedented resolution and measure spectra for millions of galaxies. Assessment of a Plan for U.S. Participation in Euclid evaluates whether a small investment in Euclid (around $20 million in hardware) is a viable part of an overall strategy to pursue the science goals set forth in New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, a decadal plan for ground- and space- based astronomy and astrophysics. The top-ranked large-scale, space-based priority of the New Worlds, New Horizons is the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). WFIRST has a broad, wide-field, near-infrared capability that will serve a wide variety of science programs of U.S. astronomers, including exoplanet research, near-infrared sky surveys, a guest observer program, and dark energy research. In carrying out this study the authoring committee's intent has been to be clear that this report does not alter New Worlds, New Horizon's plans for the implementation of the survey's priorities. Assessment of a Plan for U.S. Participation in Euclid concludes that the NASA proposal would represent a valuable first step toward meeting one of the science goals (furthering dark energy research) of WFIRST. While WFIRST dark energy measurements are expected to be superior to Euclid's, U.S. participation in Euclid will have clear scientific, technical, and programmatic benefits to the U.S. community as WFIRST and Euclid go forward. According to this report, the current NASA proposal, to invest modestly in Euclid, is consistent with an expeditious development of WFIRST and the achievement of the broader, and more ambitious, goals outlined in New Worlds, New Horizons. Knowledge gained from the Euclid project could help optimize the science return of the WFIRST mission as well. Such an investment will further the goals of New Worlds, New Horizons, be helpful to the preparations for WFIRST, and enhance WFIRST's chances of success.

book coverTechnical Evaluation of the NASA Model for Cancer Risk to Astronauts Due to Space Radiation   (SSB)
Released 2012-03-19

NASA's current missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and potential future exploration missions involving extended stays by astronauts on the lunar surface, as well as the possibility of near- Earth object (NEO) or Mars missions, present challenges in protecting astronauts from radiation risks. These risks arise from a number of sources, including solar particle events (SPEs), galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), secondary radiation from surface impacts, and even the nuclear isotope power sources transported with the astronauts. The serious early and late radiation health effects potentially posed by these exposures are equally varied, ranging from early signs of radiation sickness to cancer induction. Other possible effects include central nervous system damage, cataracts, cardiovascular damage, heritable effects, impaired wound healing, and infertility. Recent research, much of which has been sponsored by NASA, has focused on understanding and quantifying the radiation health risks posed by space radiation environments. Although many aspects of the space radiation environments are now relatively well characterized, important uncertainties still exist regarding biological effects and thus regarding the level and types of risks faced by astronauts. This report presents an evaluation of NASA's proposed space radiation cancer risk assessment model, which is described in the 2011 NASA report, Space Radiation Cancer Risk Projections and Uncertainties--2010. The evaluation in Technical Evaluation of the NASA Model for Cancer Risk to Astronauts Due to Space Radiation considers the model components, input data (for the radiation types, estimated doses, and epidemiology), and the associated uncertainties. This report also identifies gaps in NASA's current research strategy for reducing the uncertainties in cancer induction risks.