NASA Logo

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA History Division

Report of the Advisory Committee
On the Future of the U.S. Space Program

December 1990


ADVISORY COMMITTEE

ON THE FUTURE OF THE U.S. SPACE PROGRAM

Washington, D. C.

December 17, 1990

TO: The Administrator of NASA

Enclosed, in accordance with the schedule established 120 days ago, is the final report of the Committee on the Future of the U. S. Space Program. The Committee members look forward to reporting our findings with you to the Vice President.

The Committee's twelve members represent a broad diversity of backgrounds, comprising in the aggregate several hundred years experience in space activities but also including one member with no specific prior experience in space matters. The Committee includes individuals with backgrounds in industry, academia, the military, and a former NASA administrator, its perspectives include that of scientists, former astronauts, managers, engineers, private citizens, and former members of Congress. The Committee is unanimous in its findings.

The members are grateful to the more than 300 individuals who appeared before the Committee or its working groups as well as to the several hundred persons who wrote provocative, thoughtful letters -- often filling many pages. The Committee also had the opportunity to read or be briefed on over a dozen earlier studies of specific aspects of the civil space program.

The Committee's hearings were held in public session and were carried over satellite television for those interested. The Committee chose to perform its own inquiry and hence had no research staff but was ably supported by a small but excellent administrative staff. The cooperation and openness of the NASA employees with whom we met was superb, including those involved with our visits to all the NASA centers and headquarters.

We conclude that the civil space program is neither as troubled as some would suggest nor nearly as strong as will be needed, given the magnitude of the challenges the program must undertake in the future.

signatures of the committee

 


Table of Contents

 
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
 
THE UNITED STATES IN SPACE

Historical Perspective

The Ideal Space Program

Excellence and Risk Taking

 
GENERAL CONCERNS
 

Lack of Consensus

Overcommitment

Management Turbulence

Institutional Aging

Personnel

Technology Base

Big Projects vs. Little Projects

Attention to Detail

Resilience of Space Transportation System

 
THE FINDINGS
 

Goals and Affordability

Program Content:

  • Space Science
  • Mission to Planet Earth
  • Mission from Planet Earth
  • Space Technology
  • Space Infrastructure
  • Management:

  • External Oversight
  • Internal Management
  • Commercial Programs
  • International Programs
  • Personnel Resources

     
    PRINCIPAL RECOMMENDATIONS
     
     
    APPENDICES

    I

    Biographies of Members

    II

    Terms of Reference

    III

    Legal Compliance

    IV

    List of Witnesses

    V

    Bibliography


    List of Figures

         

    Figure 1.

    NASA Budget Trend (Dollars)

    Figure 2.

    NASA Budget Trend (Percent of GNP)

    Figure 3.

    NASA Budget Trend (Percent of Federal Spending)

    Figure 4.

    NASA Budget Trend (Percent of Total Discretionary Federal Spending )

    Figure 5.

    Civil Space Program: Major Projects

    Figure 6.

    Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS): Launch Readiness Date-vs-Calendar year

    Figure 7.

    NASA Space Science Spending

    Figure 8.

    NASA Space Technology Spending

    Figure 9.

    Shuttle Launch Operations Planning and Realization

    Figure 10.

    NASA Space Transportation Spending

    Figure 11.

    U.S. Civil Space Program Budget Allocation

    Figure 12.

    Nominal Current Headquarters Functional Organization

    Figure 13.

    Possible Nominal Headquarters Functional Organization

    Figure 14.

    NASA Work Force Trend (Employees in Relation to Budget)

    Figure 15.

    NASA Work Force Trend (Number of Employees)

    Figure 16.

    NASA's Changing Work Force

    Figure 17.

    Age Profile of Permanent Employees

     

    illustration depicting the goal s of the balanced space program


    NASA History Homepage

    Search NASA History

    Updated April 17, 2008
    Marcus Lindroos, HTML author
    Steven J. Dick, NASA Chief Historian
    Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
    For further information E-mail histinfo@hq.nasa.gov