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Committee on Human Spaceflight 


Pathways to Exploration—Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration  is a report from the National Research Council that describes the rationales for, and value of, human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit. Written by a diverse committee of experts, the report develops recommendations that could guide the U.S. human spaceflight program in a sustainable manner.

Click here to view the Public Briefing Slides.

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View Introduction to Human Spaceflight Committee Meeting 

Project Information

Statement of Task

In accordance with Section 204 of the NASA Authorization Act 2010, the National Research Council (NRC) will appoint an ad hoc committee to undertake a study to review the long-term goals, core capabilities, and direction of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations to enable a sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program.

The committee will: 

1. Consider the goals for the human spaceflight program as set forth in (a) the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, (b) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Acts of 2005, 2008, and 2010, and (c) the National Space Policy of the United States (2010), and any existing statement of space policy issued by the president of the United States.

2. Solicit broadly-based, but directed, public and stakeholder input to understand better the motivations, goals, and possible evolution of human spaceflight--that is, the foundations of a rationale for a compelling and sustainable U.S. human spaceflight program--and to characterize its value to the public and other stakeholders.

3. Describe the expected value and value proposition of NASA’s human spaceflight activities in the context of national goals--including the needs of government, industry, the economy, and the public good--and in the context of the priorities and programs of current and potential international partners in the spaceflight program.

4. Identify a set of high-priority enduring questions that describe the rationale for and value of human exploration in a national and international context. The questions should motivate a sustainable direction for the long-term exploration of space by humans. The enduring questions may include scientific, engineering, economic, cultural, and social science questions to be addressed by human space exploration and questions on improving the overall human condition.

5. Consider prior studies examining human space exploration, and NASA’s work with international partners, to understand possible exploration pathways (including key technical pursuits and destinations) and the appropriate balance between the "technology push" and "requirements pull". Consideration should include the analysis completed by NASA’s Human Exploration Framework Team, NASA’s Human Spaceflight Architecture Team, the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans (Augustine Commission), previous NRC reports, and relevant reports identified by the committee.

6. Examine the relationship of national goals to foundational capabilities, robotic activities, technologies, and missions authorized by the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 by assessing them with respect to the set of enduring questions.

 7. Provide findings, rationale, prioritized recommendations, and decision rules that could enable and guide future planning for U.S. human space exploration. The recommendations will describe a high-level strategic approach to ensuring the sustainable pursuit of national goals enabled by human space exploration, answering enduring questions, and delivering value to the nation over the fiscal year (FY) period of FY2014 through FY2023, while considering the program’s likely evolution in 2015-2030.

This project is being funded by NASA.

View More information about this project on our Current Projects System

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Committee Meetings

December 19, 2012
Washington, DC
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January 8, 2013
Stanford, CA

April 22- 24, 2013
Washington, DC
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July 24-26, 2013
Woods Hole, MA

October 21-23, 2013
Washington, DC
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January 13-15, 2014
Irvine, CA

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Call for Input (Closed)

The Committee on Human Spaceflight invited interested individuals and groups to submit short input papers that addressed the role of human spaceflight and its suggested future. That call for papers is now closed. 

Public Discussion Via Twitter (Event Complete)

Prior to its closing deliberations, the NRC’s Committee on Human Spaceflight opened the study to a final stage of broad public input on Oct. 29th. The Committee collected input via Twitter (#HumansInSpace) on the question of:

What are your best ideas for creating a NASA human spaceflight program that is sustainable over the next several decades?

To enable a rapid exchange of ideas among participants, the conversation was conducted only via Twitter and comments were collected from12:01 a.m. EDT Tuesday,October 29, to 3 a.m. EDT Wednesday, October. 30. In order to view information on this event please go here. In order to view the tweets sent using the event hashtag (#HumansInSpace) please go here.

The committee is appreciative of the numerous comments made by the many participants in this Twitter event. The committee will be integrating the input from this approach with the many other sources of public and stakeholder input utilized in this study—such as submitted white papers, public polling data, an ongoing stakeholder survey, speakers invited to its meetings, conference participation, and direct exchanges with members of the community. 

Public Discussion Via Twitter on Oct. 29, 2013 (Event Complete).

Thank you for your participation in this event. View further information below.

Panel Information

The Technical Panel will assist the study committee in executing the statement of task, particularly with regard to facilitating a robust understanding of the technical and engineering aspects of items 5 and 6. 

The Public and Stakeholder Opinions Panel will assist the study committee in executing the statement of task, particularly with regard to providing public and stakeholder input to understand better the motivations, goals, and possible evolution of human spaceflight.

Panel Meetings

Technical Panel Meeting Dates

February 4-5, 2013
Washington, DC
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March 27-28, 2013
Washington, DC
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June 19-21, 2013
Irvine, CA

October 15-16, 2013
Washington, DC

Public and Stakeholder Opinions Panel Meeting Dates

April 5, 2013
Washington, DC

June 19, 2013
Washington, DC

October 4, 2013
Washington, DC

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Committee Membership

Committee on Human Spaceflight Members

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Mr. Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., Co-Chair
Purdue University

Dr. Jonathan Lunine, Co-Chair
Cornell University

Dr. Bernard F. Burke
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mr. Bryan D. O'Connor
Independent Consultant 
Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar
Dittmar Associates, Inc.
Dr. Stanley Presser
University of Maryland, College Park
Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund
The George Washington University
Dr. Helen R. Quinn
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Dr. James S. Jackson
University of Michigan
Dr. Asif A. Siddiqi
Fordham University

Dr. John C. Sommerer
Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory          

Dr. Franklin D. Martin
Martin Consulting, Inc.               
Dr. Roger Tourangeau
Westat, Inc.
Dr. David C. Mowery
University of California, Berkeley     

Ms. Ariel Waldman

*Dr. William J. Perry stepped down from
the committee for personal reasons. (2/15/2013)

Dr. Cliff Zukin
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

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Technical Panel Members 

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Dr. John C. Sommerer, Chair                              
Johns Hopkins University
Mr. Douglas S. Stetson
Space Science and Exploration Consulting Group
Mr. Arnold D. Aldrich
Aerospace Consultant
Dr. Ravi B. Deo
Mr. Douglas M. Allen
Independent Consultant
Mr. Robert S. Dickman
U.S. Air Force (retired)
Dr. Raymond E. Arvidson
Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Dava J. Newman
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dr. Richard C. Atkinson
University of California, San Diego (retired)
Dr. John “Row” Rogacki
Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (Ocala)
Dr. Robert D. Braun
Georgia Institute of Technology
Mr. Guillermo Trotti
Trotti and Associates, Inc.

Dr. Elizabeth R. Cantwell
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Ms Linda A. Williams
Wyle Aerospace Group
Dr. David E. “Ed” Crow
University of Connecticut (retired)

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Public and Stakeholder Opinions Panel

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Dr. Roger Tourangeau, Chair            
Westat, Inc.
Dr. Roger D. Launius
Smithsonian Institution
Dr. Molly Andolina 
DePaul University
Dr. Jon D. Miller
University of Michigan
Dr. Jennifer L. Hochschild
Harvard University
Dr. Stanley Presser
University of Maryland, College Park
Dr. James S. Jackson
University of Michigan 
Dr. Cliff Zukin
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

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Dr. Sandra Graham         
Study Director

Ms. Dionna Williams
Program Associate

Dr. Krisztina Marton
Staff Officer DBASSE

Ms. Jacqui Sovde
Program Associate

Mr. Alan Angleman
Senior Program Officer

Dr. Michael Moloney
ASEB & SSB Board Director


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We have posted only presentations which have been made available to us by the presenter. 

December 19, 2012
John Grunsfeld
Greg Williams
Roger Launius
February 4-5, 2013 (Technical Panel)
Gregory Williams
Daniel Dumbacher
Philip McAlister
George Sowers
Christopher Ferguson

March 27-28, 2013
Jason Crusan
Steve Davison
John Connolly
Robyn Carrasquillo
Les Johnson
Michelle Monk
Mike Hembree
Paul Dimotakis

April 22, 2013
William Gerstenmaier
Steve Squyres
Julie Robinson
Michael Suffredini
Scott Pace
George Nield
Thomas Reiter
Jeff Hoffman

October 21, 2013
Michael Duke
David Grinspoon

Please note: If the presenter has given us permission to post their presentation slides then you may view them here. Any other presentations which were provided during open sessions are available through the Academies Public Access Records Office.

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