Status Report

Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space Policy

By SpaceRef Editor
January 15, 2004
Filed under ,

On behalf of Rad Byerly and the space policy workshop staff, I am pleased to
provide you with a copy of the report, “Issues and Opportunities Regarding
the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space
Policy,” which captures the essence of the November 12-13, 2003 workshop

The workshop was intended to explore aspects of the broad question “What
should be the principal purposes, goals, and priorities of the U.S. civil
space program?” As you will recall, the goal of the workshop was not to
develop definitive answers but to air a range of views and perspectives that
can serve to inform later, broader, public discussion of such questions.

While workshop participants were not asked to reach a consensus and the
report is not meant to be taken as a consensus report of the SSB, ASEB, or
National Research Council, we were impressed by the extent to which
participants did voice broad agreement about many issues about which they
held shared views. The enclosed report highlights several key themes that
emerged from the workshop discussions, including the

1. U.S. space and Earth science programs are currently
productive, progressing steadily, and of continuing importance. There are a
number of factors that contribute to this success that should be applicable
also to the human spaceflight program.

2. The nation’s human spaceflight program currently lacks a
clear long-term goal, but such a goal is needed for many reasons.

3. The primary goal of human spaceflight should be to
explore, which requires that we extend human presence beyond low Earth orbit
with Mars as a likely long-term destination. Exploration is a part of our
culture; it responds to basic human drives; and it can contribute to the
acquisition of new knowledge.

4. A long-term goal of exploration is best pursued via a
series of small steps. A sequence of relatively small steps will enable us to
learn without committing prematurely to an uncertain path. They can be
evaluated for how they progress toward the goal; they afford a series of
successes that create momentum and sustain political support; and in the end
the accumulated successes make achieving the goal inevitable.

5. While there has been a history of separation and
competition between human and robotic efforts now is the time to put the
dichotomy behind us and to find and exploit synergies between the two.

6. The chosen long-term goal should drive all implementation decisions. Thus the essential elements along the path to a
goal for human exploration would very likely include the following:
(a) the continued robotic exploration of our solar system followed by the
development of capable human-machine interfaces and teleoperators,
(b) research on the International Space Station focused on addressing the
questions posed by human exploration away from low-Earth orbit, and
(c) development of a space transportation system to replace the shuttle, all
directed towards facilitating the eventual human exploration of some
destination beyond low-Earth orbit.

7. Successful pursuit of a long-term exploration goal will
require potentially fundamental changes in NASA as an institution with
respect to how it involves external human spaceflight stakeholders, defines
its own role, communicates and justifies its objectives, and develops
management and technical competence. There are also crucial roles for the
scientific community in helping replace the old robotic-versus-human
dichotomy with a new science-exploration synergy.

We were particularly pleased that the workshop was characterized by open,
frank, and articulate discussions that went far toward achieving the goals
that we had set for the event. We will be distributing the report widely to
key government officials and to other interested parties over the next few
days. On behalf of Len Fisk and Bill Hoover, I want to thank you sincerely
for the time, energy, and thought that you invested. It made a genuine

Joseph K. Alexander Director, Space Studies Board National Research Council

500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

Ph: 202-334-3477

Fax: 202-334-3701

Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space Policy, National Research Council Space Studies Board Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences (Pre publication copy)

Download 2.4 MB PDF

SpaceRef staff editor.