NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin addressed the American Geophysical
Union, a Member Society of the American Institute of Physics, at its
annual fall meeting earlier this month. "I'm here today to talk
about what science at NASA means to U.S. leadership in space exploration,
and in the world at large. I will also address specific components of
our Science Mission Directorate plans, and discuss the opportunities
in science that we expect to result from both our new exploration plan
and our ongoing decadal research plans," Griffin told the audience.
The following is a lengthy excerpt from Griffin's speech regarding NASA's
science programs. The entire address may be viewed at: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/139215main_griffin_agu.pdf
"I am aware that many in the science community have questioned
NASA's commitment to science, and believe their own work to be gravely
threatened by the Vision for Space Exploration. Let me speak directly
to this point. I have frequently stated my belief that exploration will
be a boon for science in the long-term. I have also said on many occasions
that it is not our desire to sacrifice present-day scientific efforts
for the sake of future benefits to be derived from exploration. We who
run NASA today are doing our very best to preserve these efforts in
the face of, frankly, some daunting fiscal realities. But we also must
avoid setting unrealistic expectations. NASA's $5.4 billion investment
in its Earth and space science portfolio is almost the size of the entire
National Science Foundation, and this robust portfolio has grown at
a rate significantly greater than has NASA's top line budget over the
past decade. Such growth cannot logically be supported within an overall
portfolio that is at best fixed in constant dollars.
"But we must also acknowledge the plain fact that we cannot do
everything that was on our plate when I assumed office. All of you know
many reasons why this is so. NASA can only move forward on our fundamental
missions of exploration, science and aeronautics at the pace that available
resources will allow, so it is important to be as efficient as possible
in allocating these resources. To this end, we have made several changes
in recent months, and I would like to discuss some of these changes
with you tonight.
"First, we are reconstituting the organization [of] the Science
Mission Directorate into separate offices for Earth science, heliophysics,
planetary science and physics and astronomy.
"Second, Mary [Cleave] is defining an executable science program
across each of these portfolios in Earth and space science. She is conducting
a rigorous review of each flight project now in formulation and development,
and establishing gates through which each program must pass in order
to proceed from formulation to development. This process requires balancing
technical performance against cost, evaluating the management team that
is in place, and rigorously identifying risks and defining plans to
mitigate them. We very much need better cost discipline in the large
assignment missions, as cost growth inhibits the future of the smaller,
but incredibly prolific, competed lines.
"Third, we are returning to NASA's classical approach to science
management, including relying on outside bodies for strategic advice
on the ranking of missions by priority. In each of the four major elements
of our research portfolio, we will establish priorities through dialog
with the science community, based on the budget realities we face. The
decadal surveys of the National Research Council have proven essential
to this process in the past, and we will continue to rely on them as
authoritative sources of science community priorities. We also will
engage in more frequent venues for dialog with the science community,
such as professional society conferences like these. For tactical level
advice we will engage the science community in workshops that help us
to implement successful programs by balancing detailed technical requirements,
cost and schedule. A principle source of advice at this level is the
NASA Advisory Council, which has just been reconstituted. The NAC has
five committees, including a five-member science committee with many
subcommittees. I believe the latter group's advice will be very helpful
to the agency.
"Many of you are interested in our plans for Earth science. While
it is true this activity does not get the media attention that human
spaceflight and planetary exploration receive, I can assure you it is
an important activity that we are determined to continue well beyond
the completion of the Earth Observation System.
"I believe most of you know that I have significantly re-emphasized
Earth science since rejoining NASA earlier this year. Our Earth science
programs are essential to the accomplishment of three initiatives begun
by President Bush: The Climate Change Research program, the Global Earth
Observation System and the Oceans Action Plan. We recognize that through
our contributions to these initiatives, NASA is providing researchers
around the world with unprecedented access to diverse data about the
Earth system. This is being done at a time when there are huge societally
relevant questions about global changes that require the view from space.
"One need look no further than NASA's contributions to this season's
hurricane predictions to recognize that we are getting tremendous value
out of our Earth observation satellites. Indeed, as a result of NASA's
development and deployment in the past decade of the Tropical Rainfall
Measuring Mission (TRMM), the Aqua satellite and the Quickscat sea winds
measurement instrument, our colleagues at the National Weather Service
are now able to predict the formation of tropical storms nine days instead
of seven days out, and predict landfall within 400 miles of coastline
instead of 800. Such advances allow significant improvement in the marshalling
of resources to deal with the inevitable property destruction of, and
better warning to people likely to be affected by, major hurricanes.
"At NASA's request, the National Research Council has undertaken
its first decadal survey for Earth science and applications from space.
Our colleagues at NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey are co-sponsors
of this effort, whose results should be available by the end of next
year. We will use these results to create a profile with an optimal
mix of systematic and exploratory missions, technology development,
and research programs to implement the survey's priorities and the presidential
initiatives I mentioned.
"Turning to the sun, NASA's heliophysics program is helping us
to gain a better understanding of the sun, and the sun's interaction
with Earth, other planetary environments, and interplanetary space itself.
We have used a strategy of deploying frequent, smaller missions within
this vast system to form a distributed Great Observatory that is truly
greater than the sum of its parts. Next year, we are poised to reap
the rewards of several years of hard work.
"In 2006, we will launch STEREO, a mission to track the evolution
of solar disturbances from the sun's surface to Earth's orbit; the five-satellite
THEMIS mission to determine the causes of space weather reconfigurations
of Earth's near space environment; and the AIM small explorer satellite
that will examine the formation of the highest altitude clouds in Earth's
atmosphere in response to external and internal forcing functions.
"Also next year, we look forward to deployment of the NASA CINDI
and TWINS instruments on two DoD missions, and to providing instrumentation
for Japan's Solar-B mission that will resolve magnetic fields on the
sun's surface and how they interact with the sun's outer atmosphere.
"Similarly, our planetary program is guided by the decadal surveys
we have in hand, and we will proceed with our planetary mission priorities
as quickly as our budget will allow.
"One area pinpointed for further attention is the Moon. As we
plan to return to the Moon to open up the next great era of space exploration,
I'd like to mention a few of the new vistas a more extensive focus on
lunar exploration will provide. Paul Spudis, my former colleague at
Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, has written extensively
on the subject, including a Scientific American article from December
2003 that I commend to your attention. In the article, Paul notes that
scientists still have many unanswered questions about the Moon's history,
composition and internal structure, whose understanding may also illuminate
the history of all the rocky planets in the inner solar system. Paul
also wrote of the importance of determining whether significant amounts
water ice do in fact exist in lunar polar areas. If confirmed, such
a discovery would offer the hope that a lunar base would have a source
of water for life support as well as for rocket fuel.
"We're looking at a number of promising lunar science targets
in our Robotic Lunar Exploration Program, an activity that links our
Exploration and Science Mission Directorates. Their collaboration began
with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter now in development for launch
in 2008. The Science Mission Directorate managed the selection process
for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter instruments, and will play a Program
and Project Scientist role in spacecraft development managed by the
Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.
"Of course, we're also interested in outer planet exploration
which represents some of the most challenging scientific missions NASA
carries out. I already mentioned the New Horizons mission set to launch
next month. We're in the preliminary design phase for the Juno mission
that will investigate whether an icy rock core exists at the center
of Jupiter, and NASA hopes to conduct future missions to investigate
the potential of life at Europa, Titan, and other compelling targets
for outer planet exploration. Again, these missions represent some of
the most technically challenging science missions for NASA over the
next decade. And I'm also very intrigued by Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart's
ideas about nudging large near-Earth asteroids before they can pose
a threat to humanity. We will most certainly continue our work to discover
large asteroids close to the Earth.
"It is important to note that we cannot accomplish all our goals
for science and exploration on our own. We're very fortunate to have
strong partnerships with a number of spacefaring countries. Today, 29
of NASA's 53 ongoing planetary, astronomy and Earth-observing satellites
and spacecraft missions include international participation, with NASA
involved in 13 operating science missions led by our international partners.
As I've said on numerous occasions, I am looking forward to the opportunity
to enlarge and extend these partnerships.
"In closing, please allow me to offer a few thoughts on what we
might achieve in science if we move ahead with purpose and dispatch
with our space exploration program.
"By 2020 we will be surveying our portion of the galaxy to create
a census of extra-solar planets, and using the next generation of space
telescopes to study the origin and destiny of the universe. We will
be probing the Martian surface and subsurface for resources that will
enable human exploration, and to answer questions about the past and
present habitability of Mars. Together with our partners we will have
created a global Earth observing system that includes sentinel satellites
in higher orbits communicating with active remote sensing systems in
lower orbits. These systems will provide both real time information
for hazard warning and management and the long term data records required
to understand and predict global change.
"All of these advances will come about because of the hard work
and commitment of our diverse community, which I believe has its greatest
successes when we allow the pursuit of exploration and scientific progress
to complement each other."
"I thank you for your hospitality today, and again extend my heartfelt
thanks to all of you for your commitment to regaining the initiative
that has driven our past successes."