Aeronautics and Space Report of the President FY 1995 Activities


Executive Summary

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

In the area of space science, NASA researchers made a number of exciting discoveries during FY 1995. By precisely determining distances to some nearby stars, astronomers used the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to determine that the universe is smaller and younger than previously thought, about 10 billion years old. In our solar system, HST scientists confirmed the existence of the Kuiper Belt, a swarm of comets in the outer reaches of the solar system, and discovered the large Comet Hale-Bopp, which will pass near Earth in 1997. Astrophysicists used the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) to study mysterious gamma ray bursts that have been occurring throughout the sky to try to identify their origins. The Ulysses spacecraft successfully completed its passage over the northern pole of the Sun, completing the first exploration of the solar wind above its polar regions. Spartan 204, a small satellite deployed and retrieved by the Space Shuttle in February 1995, found evidence of hot coronal gas that may explain why the wind speed is so high in the solar polar regions. The Voyager and Pioneer sets of spacecraft continued their exploration of the outer edges of our solar system. The Global Geospace Science (GGS) Wind spacecraft was launched successfully in November 1994 into a path upstream of the Earth's magnetosphere, where it has been providing valuable information on the solar wind. In solar system exploration, scientists reported the discovery of a large planet orbiting the star 51 Pegasi. Astronomers also gained new insights into the evolution of stars by studying silicon carbide and aluminum oxide grains in primitive meteorites.

In the area of Earth science, NASA's Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) program continued to make a number of significant discoveries. Scientists, who analyzed several years of data derived from satellites and aircraft, conclusively determined that human-produced chemicals are the source of at least 80 percent of the chlorine in the stratosphere, which causes Antarctic ozone depletion. In oceanographic studies, the joint U.S./French satellite TOPEX/Poseidon demonstrated a new way of precisely monitoring global mean-sea-level variations, while another satellite helped chart the role of lightning in severe storms. Data from the Landsat 5 satellite continued to prove valuable in numerous practical applications, such as forest management, earthquake and flood damage assessments, and geological explorations, in addition to various forms of environmental and global change research. MTPE scientists worked closely with their colleagues at other agencies to improve Earth science education and to approach global change from an interdisciplinary perspective. During FY 1995, NASA managers focused on a series of important reshaping exercises for MTPE and its centerpiece, the Earth Observing System (EOS) series of spacecraft, to chart the long-term implementation planning for the program. Computer specialists continued to develop the EOS Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Version 0 and identified user categories at the first EOSDIS Potential User Conference. NASA also worked closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) program and with NOAA and DoD on the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) program's triagency Integrated Program Office.

During FY 1995, engineers accomplished many of the 1993 redesign goals on the revamped International Space Station program. NASA personnel solidified their "core team" management philosophy by finalizing the $5.63 billion design and development contract with the prime contractor, Boeing, which has been collocated in the ISS program office. The program successfully completed the first in a series of incremental design reviews, and NASA held a major design review for the Russian-supplied Functional Cargo Block (FGB). Through the end of FY 1995, contractors had delivered more than 70,000 pounds of Station flight hardware and completed the fabrication of the first U.S. element (Node 1), the Structural Test Article (Node 2), and the U.S. laboratory module. While development programs also moved forward in Canada, Japan, Russia, and the nine participating European nations, the Shuttle-Mir program (Phase 1) proceeded to provide operational experience, risk mitigation, technology demonstrations, and early science opportunities. In March 1995, a Russian Soyuz vehicle carried the Mir 18 crew to the Russian space station; this crew included U.S. astronaut Dr. Norman Thagard. In June 1995, the Space Shuttle Atlantis made the historic first docking with Mir; during 5 days of docked operations, astronauts conducted various experiments similar to those planned for the International Space Station. Dr. Thagard, who returned to Earth on Atlantis with some of the Mir 18 crew, stayed aboard Mir for 115 days, providing researchers from NASA's Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications (OLMSA) with valuable long-duration biomedical data.

In addition to Dr. Thagard's record-breaking mission, OLMSA made other significant strides in its transition toward the ISS era of orbital research. Protein crystal researchers took advantage of Mir to begin the longest period of protein crystal growth in space, with the placement of samples on Mir in June 1995 and their return to Earth in November 1995. Experiments on Mir identified a new technique that may allow as many as 10,000 protein crystal samples to be grown in a single Space Shuttle experiment. Protein crystals grown in orbit are already supporting drug development efforts by major pharmaceutical companies, and this recent discovery may accelerate that process. OLMSA outfitted the Russian Spektr and Priroda laboratory modules for Mir with more than 2,000 kilograms of research equipment; the Russian Space Agency launched Spektr on May 20, 1995. OLMSA, in consultation with prospective users in the scientific community, continued to design and prepare a series of major laboratory facilities and a glovebox facility for the International Space Station. OLMSA researchers made final preparations for the launch of the second United States Microgravity Laboratory (USML-2), a dedicated microgravity science mission that flew aboard the Space Shuttle in October 1995. OLMSA also collaborated with various researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop new digital imaging techniques for breast cancer detection and to exploit NASA's bioreactor technology to study the infectivity of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

During FY 1995, NASA successfully completed seven Space Shuttle missions. Shuttle crews deployed payloads such as the Space Radar Laboratory-2 (SRL-2), the third Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS-3), the first Cryogenic Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes for the Atmosphere-Shuttle Pallet Satellite (CRISTA-SPAS-1), the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) instruments, the NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-G), the Wake Shield Facility, and the Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy (SPARTAN). Before STS-71 (Space Transpor-tation System— 71st planned mission) could achieve its historic docking with Mir in June 1995, STS-63 performed a close rendezvous with Mir in February 1995 to validate the flight operations techniques necessary for docking. In terms of Shuttle technology and operations, managers made several important changes during FY 1995. Program managers initiated a major restructuring to focus spaceflight operations under a single prime contractor. Shuttle managers pursued the development and implementation of safety and reliability improvements for the Shuttle Main Engine, while engineers continued to redesign the External Tank to improve performance.

In aeronautics, NASA's High-Speed Research program continued to focus on resolving critical environmental issues and laying the technological foundation for an economical, next-generation High-Speed Civil Transport (HSCT). NASA officials completed key agreements with Russia to use the Tu-144 supersonic transport as a testbed for HSCT development. NASA's Advanced Subsonic Technology program continued to facilitate a safe, productive global air transportation system, which includes a new generation of environmentally compatible, economical aircraft that will compete in international markets. In the advanced subsonic area, managers focused on reducing engine noise levels and on creating technologies that will improve general aviation aircraft and air traffic management. In the supersonic area, NASA's SR-71 Aircraft Testbed program conducted baseline flights for aeronautical research to assist industry in making key decisions about developing HSCT. In its High Alpha Technology program, NASA sought to achieve a basic understanding of high angle-of-attack aerodynamics, including the effects of vectorable thrust nozzles as an advanced flight control concept. NASA also undertook important aeronautics research, using its F-18 Systems Research Aircraft, its Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing (V/STOL) System Research Aircraft, and its F-15 testbed aircraft. Additionally, NASA continued to ensure U.S. preeminence in high-performance computing. It engaged in several projects to make the remote-sensing data of various Federal agencies available over the Internet in new, stimulating ways and to accelerate the growth of a global information infrastructure, especially for educational purposes in primary and secondary schools.

In the area of space technology, NASA explored new launch vehicle options in addition to smaller, less costly instruments and new methods for Government-industry cooperation. NASA initiated the RLV technology development and demonstration program in FY 1995, issuing Cooperative Agreement Notices for two experimental test vehicles, the X-33 and the X-34. NASA managers plan to have industry take the lead on the RLV program once it matures. NASA accelerated its aggressive effort to reduce mission costs and increase performance by developing new technologies. Of particular note, NASA tested a solar dynamic power system for future spacecraft power needs and a planetary rover, which traversed 10 kilometers under its own control. NASA released a comprehensive policy document, "Agenda for Change," which established a new way of doing business for NASA's transfer of technology to the private sector. NASA also established an Advanced Concepts office to identify and develop new, far-reaching technology concepts.

NASA personnel also continued activities in important support areas, such as space communications, safety and mission assurance, and international coordination. In space communications, engineers continued to improve the space and ground networks to provide reliable communications; NASA also consolidated some mission control and data systems facilities, which resulted in significant cost savings. NASA continued to emphasize a strong Safety, Reliability, and Quality Assurance (SR&QA) presence on current and future flight projects; specific safety activities included completing more than 30 formal independent assessments of the International Space Station, updating NASA's emergency program plan, promoting ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 9000 as NASA's standard for quality management systems, and implementing the NASA Engineering and Quality Audit program. In addition to continuing negotiations on the International Space Station, NASA international affairs personnel supported meetings of the U.S.-Russia Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation (the "Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission"), worked with the Russian Space Agency's Scientific and Technical Advisory Council, negotiated an agreement with the Russian Ministry of Science and Technology Policy on space biomedical research, negotiated agreements on space cooperation with Ukraine, and represented NASA at United Nations discussions on orbital debris.

During FY 1995, NASA updated its Strategic Plan by adding goals for its five Strategic Enterprises (Mission to Planet Earth, Aeronautics, Human Exploration and Development of Space, Space Science, and Space Technology). This was done to provide further insight into NASA's future direction and to enable its stakeholders, customers, partners, and employees to assist NASA in achieving its mission. NASA's Strategic Plan enables it to meet new challenges and to deliver a vibrant aeronautics and space program that inspires the Nation.


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Curator: Lillian Gipson
Last Updated: September 5, 1996
For more information contact Steve Garber, NASA History Office,
sgarber@hq.nasa.gov