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NASA 50th

Opening Session

Keynote 1  NASA at 50
Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator

Keynote 2 Inside NASA at 50
Howard E. McCurdy

Employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) developed a powerful methodology for carrying out Project Apollo and the other activities that marked the early phases of space exploration.  Building on the technical capability of predecessor organizations like the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, importing large scale systems management methods from the U.S. Air Force, and undergoing two major reorganizations, NASA officials created a government agency that was able to take humans to the Moon and robotic spacecraft to the planets – achievements that rank among the great accomplishments of humankind.  As the civil space agency matured, it became more conventional.  Especially in the human flight program, the practices supporting cost, schedule, and performance discipline began to disappear.  Two shuttle accidents and experimentation with a series of low cost projects reconfirmed the importance of those practices.  Now the agency has embarked upon an exploration program as ambitious as the one undertaken nearly 50 years ago.  Yet a recent survey of NASA employees reveals that many of the weaker approaches to space flight persist.  As NASA embarks upon the second 50 years of space exploration, will its employees be able to restructure themselves in appropriate ways?  This presentation examines the evolution of NASA’s underlying practices and culture, the debates over their effectiveness, and the enduring pressures to adopt methodologies capable of achieving the spacefaring dream.

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Session I            Cross-Cutting Themes

Fifty Years of NASA Administrators:
Continuity and Change
W. Henry Lambright

The central task of the 10 men who have served as NASA Administrator has been strategic leadership, by which is meant the choice of priority goals for the agency during the period in which they have held office.  An Administrator provides a trajectory or vision for NASA. How well he fulfills this strategic task depends on his tactical skills in navigating NASA through often turbulent political and historical times.  James Webb, NASA Administrator in the 1960s, described leadership as “fusing at many levels a large number of forces, some countervailing, into a cohesive but essentially unstable whole and keeping it in motion in a desired direction.”  He called this process the creation of a “dynamic equilibrium” for NASA. To do so, the Administrator uses rhetorical and coalitional skills to build support inside and outside his agency, while simultaneously neutralizing opposition.  When unanticipated, discontinuous events threaten his goals and the equilibrium he has created for them, the Administrator adapts. In some cases he must change his strategic vision, while in other instances he is able to hold to the course he has chosen. In all cases, he deals at once with competing forces inside and outside, blending managerial and political competences. What makes leading NASA especially daunting are the large-scale expensive technical programs that extend beyond the tenures of any single leader and are at the frontier of science and technology. They are where strategy and tactics intertwine in concrete ways.  It is how the Administrator deals with the key programs that compose NASA that establishes their place in history.  They play roles vis-à-vis these programs as initiator, implementer, terminator, modifier and disaster manager. They blend continuity and change. Administrators, being human, have strengths and weaknesses as leaders. On the whole, however, those who have led NASA have served the agency well, and the next fifty years hold great possibilities as a consequence.

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Space Access: NASA’s Role in Developing Core Launch-Vehicle Technologies
J.D. Hunley

Over the past 50 years, NASA has played a significant role in developing the nation’s core space launch-vehicle technologies, but it has not done so alone. In typical NASA fashion, the agency has partnered with the military services, private industries, and universities to gain access to space. Since many of the key launch technologies first appeared in missiles, the Army, Navy, and Air Force oversaw their development. NASA then borrowed and adapted them for use in launch vehicles. Also, because NASA did not exist until October 1, 1958, its predecessor the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) began some developments that NASA then continued, as also happened when NASA absorbed the Vanguard Project from the Navy, the von Braun group and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) from the Army. Finally, even after NASA’s own space launch-vehicle activities were well established, in the cold war environment down to 1991, NASA and the military services continued to cooperate in the further development of key launch-vehicle technologies.

NASA contributed to development of the Vanguard, Delta, Scout, Saturn, and Space Shuttle launch vehicles, among others. Its major contributions to the Centaur upper stage and its management helped to make Saturn and shuttle possible. The agency is presently developing two post-shuttle launch vehicles, the Ares I and Ares V. For these as for earlier launch vehicles, NASA has borrowed earlier technologies, including those developed by the military, and worked with partners to achieve greater access to space.

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NASA’s International Relations in Space
John Krige

The Space Act of 1958 required that NASA pursue international collaboration in space for peaceful purposes.  It very rapidly established an Office of International Programs, directed by Arnold Frutkin to implement this requirement.  By 1984 NASA had a vast and diverse range of activities completed or under way, including over 1750 sounding rocket programs with 22 countries or international organizations, 38 cooperative spacecraft projects with eight countries or international organizations, over 50 co-operative ground based projects, a tracking and data network, personnel exchanges, and so on.  The basic guidelines for these activities were laid down in the early years by Frutkin, and emphasized no exchange of funds and clean interfaces to restrict the circulation of sensitive technology and managerial competence abroad, two assets which ensured American space leadership. This paper will discuss the evolution of NASA’s collaborative policy away from science towards an increase in technological sharing, a shift which reached its zenith in the International Space Station, in which foreign partners were even allowed to build components critical to the success of the mission.  At a policy level, the paper will show how, in moving away from the initial principles advocated by Frutkin, the organization has had to work along with the State Department, and often against the Department of Defense and other arms of the executive to promote international technological collaboration in the space sector.  It will end by discussing briefly the impact of the extension of the ITAR regime, which has made even international collaboration in space science difficult today, and is causing considerable frustration to researchers both in the US and in its traditional allies.

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NASA and the Public

Linda Billings

The history of the relationship between NASA and the public is one of several cross-cutting themes identified for this conference. This history involves NASA’s approach to informing the public about its activities and efforts to foster public support for the space program, public opinion and public understanding about the space program, and the evolution of NASA and “the public” over time.  NASA’s fulfillment of its statutory mandate to inform the public about its activities, the role of political appointees in NASA’s public affairs operations, and public opinion about NASA’s purpose and value will be addressed. The history of NASA’s public relations will be examined in the context of an evolving cultural environment. Given that research in mass communication and public opinion has shown there is no such thing as a monolithic “public,” a key concept to be analyzed is “the public.” NASA’s attempts to understand what and who its “public” is over the past 50 years will be scrutinized. The history of public opinion polling about the space program, conducted by Gallup and Harris, aerospace industry associations, and other groups will be reviewed, as will media coverage of the space program. Some special cases in the history of NASA and the public – the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programs, the Challenger and Columbia disasters, the Hubble Space Telescope project, the International Space Station program, the Mars exploration program and the search for extraterrestrial life – will be explored as well.

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Session II  Aeronautics

The Critical Transition from NACA to NASA: A Prosopographical Analysis

James R. Hansen

Never again will a program of space exploration be as influenced by a group of individuals whose primary passion, technological stimuli, and formative professional development lay in the field of aeronautics as it was for the early human spaceflight programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The underlying fact of this critically significant transition from aeronautics to space, from the research work of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) to the development by NASA of such large-scale spaceflight projects as Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, and from the NACA’s long-term hands-on engineering experience in diverse flight-test programs to the design and administration of effective large-scale spaceflight systems by NASA was a function of time perhaps even more than of place. When it came to nurturing the bold and burgeoning infant that was human spaceflight in the late 1950s and early 1960s, where else could the formative skills and experience have come from except from the world of aeronautical research, when the technology of spaceflight itself was so very new and unproven?

This presentation will offer a prosopographical (i.e., collective biographical) analysis of the membership of NASA’s original Space Task Group and other groups of early NASA employees who played vital roles in achieving the successes of America’s earliest ventures into space. It will explore the concept of a “frontier generation”—in this case, a generation of aeronautical researchers who cut its teeth in flight testing and other research programs of the NACA and who out of necessities brought on by the “space race” translated the skill-set—and practical engineering mindset—it had cultivated over the course of many years in aeronautical research into a concentrated focus on achieving America’s first human spaceflight programs.

As the United States prepares to move forward in the 21st century for a return trip to the Moon and other human space ventures beyond Earth Orbit, it seems critically important to address the following questions: Will NASA in the coming decades benefit from the deep levels of technical experience that fifty years ago enabled the young NASA to achieve such outstanding successes in the arena of human spaceflight? In our present day, and in our near-future, where will NASA find a similarly talented and vibrant “frontier generation” to successfully design and execute its bold human spaceflight programs?

* Prosopography is a method of social scientific and historical analysis that isolates a series of individuals having certain characteristics in common and then analyzing that group of persons in terms of multiple criteria. The goal is to discern information that is specific to certain individuals while identifying the constants (as well as the variables) among the data for the whole group. It is a method of analysis that has been too seldom applied in the history of technology, and particularly in aerospace history.

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NASA Aeronautics: A Half-century of Accomplishments

Anthony M. Springer

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has a rich history of accomplishments over the last half-century in the field of aeronautics.  Since NASA’s formation with the passing of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, NASA has had a continuing role in advancing the limits of flight technology from civilian to military applications.  A main goal of NASA has been to actively promote the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its research. This goal has led to the commercial application of many of the technologies first derived from NASA research. 

NASA’s aeronautics research actually did not begin in 1958 with the agency's formation. Instead, it was a legacy of work transferred from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, which was founded in 1915.  NACA supplied its rich traditions, cutting-edge facilities, and experienced personnel to NASA's organizational and scientific core.

This paper is a survey of the accomplishments in aeronautics by NASA made over the last half-century and their effect on aviation as a whole.  It is by no means complete, but is intended to give the reader a foundational understanding of the broad range and significance of these key technological accomplishments and what these technologies contributed to the advancement of flight over the last half-century.

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Evolution of Aeronautics Research
Robert G. Ferguson

The last fifty years of aeronautics at NASA have seen the rise of new research methodologies.  Wind tunnel, structural and flight testing, still core activities, have been joined by simulation, remotely-piloted vehicles, and what we may call, for lack of a better phrase, clinical testing.  This paper examines the manner in which new methodologies came to be part of an organization that was, at one time, primarily focused on wind tunnel experimentation. 

In examining the establishment and nurturing of new scientific practices, there is a tendency to view such developments as a natural progression, a logical sequence following from external demands and the emergence of enabling technologies.  This paper argues that the growth of research methodologies is linked to laboratory structure and research culture.  Overlapping and competing laboratory interests encouraged researchers and center managers to strategically differentiate themselves, not only from each other but also from rivals outside the agency.  These organizational and cultural features extend back through the NASA era into the post-World War II NACA era. Thus, new methodologies emerged in the context of a decentralized laboratory structure where researchers competed for funding and prestige and where center managers sought long-term strategies for supporting research.  Absent these layers of competition, it is likely that NASA’s scientific and technological record would be very different.

Three methodologies that are now key components with NASA’s research infrastructure will help illustrate the paper’s argument:  remotely-piloted vehicles, computational fluid dynamics, and the Center-TRACON Automated System.   For remotely-piloted vehicles, Dryden researchers championed their use as a method of bootstrapping their own grass-roots experimental programs.  For computational fluid dynamics, Ames managers and researchers aggressively pursued this field not only to show that computers could model fluids, but also to establish an organizational claim to the field.  Finally, the Center-TRACON Automated System, which represents a new approach to testing and refining air traffic control automation, received center (and ultimately agency) support in spite of the fact that it was research that, strictly speaking, should have been conducted elsewhere.

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NACA, NASA, and the Supersonic-Hypersonic Frontier
Richard P. Hallion

The high-speed revolution of the mid-20th century, characterized by development of the gas turbine and the sweptwing, led to the era of mass air transportation, exemplified by such aircraft as the Boeing 707 and 747.  But, as well, it created a foundation for supersonic flight by high-performance military systems, and flight out into space, including flights by “transatmospheric” systems such as the X-15, and orbital space vehicles such as the Space Shuttle.  Many diverse technical streams and influences, both American and foreign, influenced the high-speed revolution, and the work of the NACA and its successor, the NASA, must be examined within this global institutional and technological context.  There was a natural (if not inevitable) progression from the NACA’s early aerodynamic research on rotating propellers to research on transonic, supersonic, and hypersonic vehicles and propulsion concepts.    Concerns over basic aerodynamics were soon joined by challenges involving high temperature materials and structures, as aerodynamic issues were overtaken by aerothermodynamic ones.  As well, the transition to ultra-high-speed (hypersonic) flight required addressing a range of issues from facilities design to program administration, mission safety, flight control, range development, and aerospace medicine.  The blending of issues, concerns, and technologies across multiple programs indicates that the standard taxonomy defining two distinct “NACA Aeronautics” and “NASA Space”  periods, comprised of  programs such as the X-1, D-558-2, X-2, and X-15 (NACA) and Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle (NASA), while convenient,  is misleading, and that the NACA-NASA commitment to high-speed flight was largely evolutionary, extrapolative, and consistent with the two organizations’ mandates and the visions and research competencies of their staffs.

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Session III           Human Spaceflight and Life Sciences

50 Years of Human Spaceflight:
Problems and Achievements

John M. Logsdon

Even before it opened for business on October 1, 1958, NASA had been assigned by the White House the lead role in human space flight. From the beginning of the NASA human space flight program until today there has been controversy with respect to the value of human presence in orbit and beyond compared to its costs and risks. This paper will discuss why this controversy continues even forty-seven years after Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight, after twelve Americans walked on the Moon, and after a series of U.S. astronauts have made long-duration flights on the Russian space station Mir and the International Space Station.

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From the Secret of Apollo to the Lessons of Failure: The Uses and Abuses of Systems Engineering at NASA

Stephen B. Johnson

Systems engineering was one of NASA’s major innovations of the 1960s. Drawing from experiences from projects and people from the US Army, US Navy, and US Air Force, NASA successfully melded systems engineering techniques into its own cultures and processes both in its robotic and human flight programs in the 1960s. Though not without its failings in the 1960s, such as the Apollo 204 fire, these lessons served it well in the 1970s as NASA developed the highly successful Viking and Voyager probes, and the development of the tremendously complex Space Shuttle. However, by the 1980s, NASA encountered problems that compromised its heretofore successful processes. Cutbacks in NASA’s skilled engineering workforce and compromises in its processes along with over-confidence in its systems engineering processes led to major disasters and embarrassments such as the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the Hubble Space Telescope’s flawed optics. Attempts to reform the system in the late 1980s and 1990s were contentious, problematic, and only marginally successful. While chalking up morale-boosting successes such as Mars Pathfinder, the Chandra and Compton observatories, and the Mars Exploration Rovers, NASA endured demoralizing Mars probe failures and the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003. This paper describes the trajectory of NASA’s systems engineering and project management development and reforms, and suggests that the reform of NASA’s systems engineering and project management “culture” has yet to fully address the social and cognitive nature of failure.

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The “Von Braun Paradigm” and NASA’s Long-Term
Planning for Human Spaceflight

Michael J. Neufeld

Coined by Dwayne Day in 1994, the “von Braun paradigm” has gained currency in space history and policy as a description of a preferred American trajectory in human spaceflight, roughly speaking: shuttle, station, Moon, Mars. Day was critiquing the failed Space Exploration Initiative of 1989, which died after NASA drafted a Mars program of several hundred billion dollars. Day saw that as typical of an agency fixated on building a massive human spaceflight infrastructure based on plans Wernher von Braun popularized in the 1950s mass media. This paper will first survey von Braun’s own writings, which indicate that he did not consistently advocate that so-called paradigm. His first Mars plans had no space base for assembling his fleet, although he assumed that a station in a different orbit, and lunar expeditions, would come first. After Sputnik, like so many others in NASA, he jumped at the chance to send humans to the Moon first, a personal obsession, skipping the supposedly essential stages of a reusable space shuttle and orbital station. In the end, however, he participated in NASA’s post-Apollo planning, which put them back on the agenda.  The paper will then examine and critique the use of the term in recent space histories, notably Launius and McCurdy’s important Robots in Space, and will also discuss what they call the “Rosen/Eisenhower/Van Allen alternative.” That construct turns out to be even less coherent than von Braun’s own proposals, if it can be said to have existed at all as a single argument. Nonetheless, it can be concluded that there is some empirical evidence that a loose “von Braun paradigm” influenced NASA’s long-range human spaceflight plans all the way through to the Vision for Space Exploration, although much more research needs to be done to actually prove that that is the case.

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Life Sciences and Human Spaceflight
Maura Mackowski

The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 prescribed no explicit role for life sciences in its Declaration of Policy and Purpose. Only in passing did it state that the “aeronautical and space vehicles” NASA was to “acquire,…improve,…[and] operate” might hold “living organisms” and even be “manned.” For the agency’s first half century, life sciences thus had to prove its implicit role and worth. In 1961, NASA put America’s first men into space. “Men” became “people,” as life science advances emboldened NASA to hire astronauts of diverse backgrounds. This, in turn, drove medical research that would benefit all of humankind. Pockets of scientific knowledge were created, enlarged, and shared; in physiology, radiation, psychology, agriculture, materials processing, and astrobiology. Educational outreach from kindergarten through graduate school was inspirational, productive, and stimulated racial, gender, and socioeconomic heterogeneity in science, medicine, and engineering. International collaboration provided more frequent access to space, fresh ideas, innovative tools, and rewarding competition. New sources of funding came from teaming with others, too.

There were failures and omissions, too, and it was often less painful to blame Congress, the president, or activists, but this ignored internal neglect and battles over turf, priority, and mission. For decades, one critique noted, “NASA’s preoccupation with short-term goals” meant that life sciences R&D was directed to “relatively modest advances in state-of-the-art support of near-term NASA missions.” Lack of (or erratic) integration and direction created what another called “too many bricks in the brickyard” -- a lot of paper generated, but “just tidbits … here and there; individual areas of concern to the investigators eventually ending up in the literature.” New knowledge was “fragmented … not additive; often … not generaliz[ed] beyond the specific piece of equipment or operational setting.” Whole programs and fruitful areas of inquiry were stillborn: biosatellites, international partnerships, and the orbital man-rated centrifuge, a promised cornerstone of the nation’s newest National Laboratory, ISS. It remains to be seen if what is left of NASA life sciences after the Vision for Space Exploration announcement will face the same level of, or perhaps more, fragmentation, attention-deficit management, infighting, and neglect.



Session IV        Space Science

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Keynote 3 Voyages to Mars
Laurence Bergreen

NASA has been making voyages to Mars since the Mariner missions of the 1960s, continuously updating and revolutionizing our knowledge of the Red Planet.  My book Voyage to Mars (2000) reviewed some of the inspiration for the ever-expanding Mars program, reaching from the Age of Discovery up to the present, drawing analogies to NASA’s search for precise scientific understanding of the geologic history of Mars and signs, if any, of ancient life on the Red Planet, often considered the holy grail of Mars discovery.  The Viking missions of the 1970s, Pathfinder (1997), and Mars Global Surveyor (1997), all flying laboratories with multiple objectives and research strategies, have sustained the promise of exploring of our planetary neighbor with ample rewards in a sequence of discovery paralleling the explorers of the Renaissance.  As a result, a vibrant new world, rich in water and in water history, as well as potential habitats for life, has continuously unfolded, as Mars slowly yields its secrets.   More recently, the rover Opportunity, enjoying an extended mission, has been exploring Victoria crater; underscoring analogies between the exploration of planets, as well as the Age of Discovery and our own era, features have been named after those discovered by Ferdinand Magellan during his first-ever circumnavigation (1518-1521).  The surface of Mars, now ocean-less, has been mapped in more detail than the surface of  Earth.  NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, one of the noteworthy scientific successes of our era, continues with the launch of Mars Science Laboratory, the size of a small automobile, a year from now to continue the robotic exploration of the Red Planet to determine its habitability for microbial life, and how its destiny has been linked to ours. 

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Space Science and Disciplinary Change

David DeVorkin

What had been a highly specialized activity in the 1950s, called only in retrospect "space science" by practitioners who defined their research interests in terms of a vehicle, the rocket, became mainstream in the NASA era. Although the National Academy of Sciences may have been the first organization to adopt the concept embodied in its eponymous "Space Science Board," the deliberative process that eventually created NASA out of a mélange of antecedents also extended and expanded the activity to a scale and a complexity commonly referred to today as "big science."  Thus, just as Robert Smith has observed that astronomers' involvement in mega projects like the Hubble Space Telescope changed what it meant to be an astronomer, Patrick McCray has more recently come to the same conclusion about those who promoted, built and are now operating the world's largest ground-based telescopes.  Both activities changed the nature of the astronomical profession by concentrating enormous resources into single projects.  What has now become normative in astronomy, however, grew out of a process that was anything but normative practice among astronomers.  Here I will explore how NASA's mission-oriented philosophy became one factor among many that not only added new capabilities and widened horizons for the astronomical profession, but added new constraints on how that work was to be initiated and carried out.  My talk will draw upon one or more case studies that illustrate aspects of NASA's profound influence on the conduct of astronomy as a space science. One concerns the creation of a mission-oriented observatory - Martin Schwarzschild's Project Stratoscope. And the other concerns mission-oriented institution building - Fred Whipple's Project Celescope.

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Planetary Science in the Inner Solar System
Joseph N. Tatarewicz

Exploring the inner solar system animated the visions of the pioneers of rocketry and space flight.  Very soon after Sputnik, as the Soviet Union launched probes to the moon, Venus, and Mars, NASA organized itself for a broad program of space exploration.  The state of propulsion, communications, and onboard computer technology made the small, rocky planets of the inner solar system an obvious, if challenging choice, with exploration of the gas giant outer planets deferred until considerably longer into the future.  The first fifty years of planetary exploration saw a spirited contest between the U.S. and Soviet Union, sending a wide variety of flyby probes, orbiters, and landers to the so-called terrestrial planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, as well as human explorers and an automated sample return mission to the moon.  Reconnaissance missions visited each of these bodies in the first two decades, before any missions were launched to the outer planets.

Scientific understanding of the state, history, and origins of these bodies was transformed by in situ observations, but not before an intensive NASA program of remedial planetary astronomy, institution building, and social engineering bolstered the fund of basic knowledge available from earth-based study and created a community of planetary scientists.  Synergistic interplay between planetary astronomy, laboratory studies, and probe-based study overturned expectations about Venus and Mars, provided the first real information on tiny Mercury, and settled major controversies about the state and history of the moon.  Comparative studies of impact cratering helped establish a basic chronology for the evolution of the planetary system, and prepared scientists to understand the data returned from probes to the outer planets.  Laboratory analysis of returned lunar samples and remote chemical analysis of martian samples even allowed identification of lunar and martian meteorites recovered from Antarctica.  Planetary science itself, as an integrative interdisciplinary approach, cut its teeth in the inner solar system and developed into an established and productive enterprise that transformed our understanding of the solar system.

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NASA’s Grand Tours of the Outer Solar System
Michael Meltzer 

The “Grand Tour” is a term used for at least 350 years that refers to a voyage furnishing intellectual, social, ethical, and political advantages to “the consummate Traveller.” Conducting such a journey was seriously expensive but very important, even necessary, for those being groomed for leadership. 

NASA has become the world’s consummate Traveller. Through its missions, it has achieved the status of world leader in space exploration, journeying further and learning more about our surrounding universe than any other group of scientists and engineers on our planet.  In particular, NASA spacecraft have achieved several Grand Tours of our outer solar system, where planets very unlike our own reside.  The study of these strange bodies, and their systems of moons, particles, and fields, has generated “advantages” in each of the four categories mentioned above.  This paper examines some of the advantages that emerged from two notable journeys beyond the asteroid belt -- Galileo and Cassini-Huygens.

The engineering and scientific achievements from these missions -- the “intellectual” advantages -- are many and varied. They include key developments in spacecraft design enabling robot vehicles to stay operational throughout their billion-mile journeys.  And the scientific discoveries that emerged from the missions are currently rewriting the textbooks describing the outer planets. Furthermore, many of the technologies developed for the missions have been spun off and are now of direct societal benefit. But these missions have also conferred less tangible advantages upon our society -- for instance, giving us a stronger voice in the international political arena. Our space exploration accomplishments through peaceful endeavors might give other nations pause when they imagine the results of our turning such capabilities to militaristic purposes.

Finally, missions such as Galileo and Cassini-Huygens necessitate confronting vital ethical questions, such as how we should conduct expeditions to heavenly bodies that might harbor life. Do we protect possible life forms at all cost, and if so, for how long? 

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Deep-Space Navigation, Astronomy, and Geodesy:  A Symbiotic Relationship
Andrew Butrica

Deep-space navigation is a set of techniques, reified in a computer program, that analyze tracking data to ensure that probes are on their predicted trajectories.  The well-known major contribution of this navigation effort is the positioning of the probe, so that its on-board instruments can collect useful data, which Earth-bound scientists in turn interpret within a paradigmatic framework indigenous to their discipline.  Far less known are the symbiotic relationships between navigation and astronomy and navigation and geodesy, relationships that are integral and indispensable to deep-space navigation.

This paper will discuss the nature of the navigation process, the relationships between astronomy and geodesy, the contributions to astronomy and geodesy made by navigation over the decades, and why the making of those contributions was an integral and necessary part of navigation.  Scientific advancements resulted from navigation during as well as after space missions.  Post-flight analysis that utilized the probe’s flight path as a priori data also advanced knowledge of tracking station locations, which in turn—particularly with the application of Very Long Baseline Interferometry—advanced geodetic measurements of the Earth and was a factor, for example, in the study of earthquakes and plate tectonics.

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Session V            Earth Science and Applications

The Development of NASA’s Earth Science Program, 1972-2006
Ed Goldstein

NASA’s use of satellites, ground, sea and air measurements to better understand Earth’s dynamic climate and support of Earth science research is one of the most consequential but least understood of the space agency’s activities.  In NASA’s most recent quarter century, Earth science programs have been viewed as NASA’s next great mission or a source of unwanted controversy.  To understand the current status and prospects of NASA’s Earth science program, it is useful to discuss how the program slowly developed in NASA’s early years, and then became the focus of greater attention, due to NASA’s own programmatic and political needs.  Key to the expansion of NASA’s Earth science mission in the late 1980’s, and the initiation of NASA’s “Mission to Planet Earth,” now known as the Earth Observing System (EOS), was the realization of the societal need to expand observations of Earth from space, and the eagerness of determined NASA scientists—in concert with allies in other Federal agencies—to plan and undertake this task.  Today, with the EOS now in operation, the space agency is planning how to implement the recommendations of the National Research Council’s Decadal Survey on Earth Science and Applications from Space.  As was the case in 1989 when the Mission to Planet Earth was first proposed, the circumstances may exist today for America’s political system to give greater attention to NASA’s Earth science program, given increasing concern about the need to better understand the climate change phenomenon.

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Earth Observations from Space: Achievements, Challenges, and Realities
James Fleming

For fifty years now, satellite missions have provided a unique vantage point for studying Earth and have allowed an integrated Earth system science perspective that was not possible before.  These Earth observations have made possible many fundamental scientific advances, greatly enhanced predictive and monitoring capabilities, and have been of immense social value.  Satellite observations have literally transformed the way we view the planet.  Global observations of a wide range of environmental and geophysical parameters have provided unprecedented insight into how the Earth system functions.  The capacity to monitor and model, and, in many cases forecast and provide advance warnings of weather events, climatic change, and environmental hazards has benefited extensively from satellite-based Earth observations.  Earth observations from space have provided the information needed to enhance our understanding of ozone chemistry in the stratosphere, how ocean currents and temperatures relate to El Niño-Southern Oscillation, how snow cover relates to water cycle dynamics, and how a variety of factors influence sea level change.  This paper presents historical perspectives on earth observations from space on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of NASA.  It examines the state of the art involving observing and monitoring our planet in light of specific past accomplishments, social and technical challenges, institutional realities, and ongoing programs.

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Planetary Science and Earth Science: A Symbiotic Relationship
Erik Conway

JPL currently has two robots on Mars, carrying out what can best be described as late 19th century field geology with 21st century instruments. NASA has a flotilla of spacecraft studying Earth “as a planet,” to borrow one nearly ubiquitous catchphrase.  It has Earth scientists of nearly every discipline at its centers—glaciologists at Goddard Space Flight Center, atmospheric scientists at Langley, oceanographers at JPL.  It dispenses tens of millions of dollars in grants and contracts to university-based scientists.   What impact on the practice of Earth science has all this had?  In his 1980 memoir, former agency Chief Scientist Homer Newell argued that space science had been an “integrative force.”  It had broken the geosciences “loose from a preoccupation with a single planet.”   But it has also provided a planetary perspective, enabling local and regional phenomena to be placed within a still larger context.  “Planetary methods,” initially dismissed by American Earth scientists, gradually became a routine part of their endeavor.

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Keynote 4    Exploration, Discovery and Culture:  NASA’s Role in History
Steven J. Dick

The theme of “exploration and discovery” provides an important framework for understanding the meaning of the Space Age and NASA as we ponder the significance of the last 50 years.    When NASA was tasked with a new “Vision for Space Exploration” in 2004, when the President’s commission on the implementation of that policy produced a report entitled “A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover,” and when  NASA’s new strategic objectives were released in a report on “The New Age of Exploration,” they were drawing on a long tradition emphasizing the importance of exploration and discovery in the American experience.  More than that, they were also reflecting a long tradition of exploration by our species.   Thirty years ago when J. H. Parry published his classic volume The Age of Reconnaissance: Discovery, Exploration and Settlement, 1450-1650, he tackled his theme by discussing the conditions for discovery, then the story of the discoveries themselves, and finally the “fruits of discovery.” A parallel tripartite structure allows us to examine the importance of  NASA and the Space Age:  If indeed spaceflight is all about exploration and discovery, how does the Space Age compare to the classical Age of Discovery in the Renaissance?  What are the similarities and differences?  What were the conditions for the space age, the story of the journeys, and their impact?  This paper examines the meaning of NASA and the Space Age in the context of those three questions.

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