Space Science Enterprise
We as humans have a profound and distinguishing imperative to understand our
origin, our existence, and our fate. For millennia, we have gazed at the sky,
observed the motions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, and wondered about
the universe and how we are connected to it. The Space Science Enterprise
serves this human quest for knowledge. As it does so, it seeks to inspire our
Nation and the world, to open young minds to broader perspectives on the
future, and to bring home to every person on Earth the experience of exploring
The mission of the Space Science Enterprise is threefold-science, technology,
and education and public outreach:
- In science, we seek answers to fundamental questions about the galaxy
and the universe; the connections among the Sun, Earth, and heliosphere; the
origin and evolution of planetary systems; and the origin and distribution of
life in the universe.
- In technology, we develop, use, and transfer technologies that provide
scientific and globally competitive economic returns to the Nation.
- In education and public outreach, we use our knowledge and discoveries
to enhance science, mathematics, and technology education and the scientific
and technological literacy of all Americans.
To accomplish this mission, the Enterprise addresses fundamental questions,
including the following:
- What is the universe, how did it come into being, how does it work, and
what is its ultimate fate?
- How did life on the Earth arise, and did life arise elsewhere in the
- What was the origin of the Sun, the Earth, and the planets, and how did
- Are there worlds around other stars?
- What are the ultimate fates of planetary systems?
- What threat is posed by the potential for collisions with Earth
- What causes solar variability?
- How does the Sun and its variability affect the Earth and other planets?
- How does the Sun interact with the interstellar medium?
The Space Science Enterprise addresses these questions by establishing a
continuum of exploration and science. It creates a virtual presence in the
solar system, exploring new territories and investigating the solar system in
all its complexity. It simultaneously probes the universe to the beginning of
time, looking ever deeper with increasingly capable telescopes, scanning the
entire electromagnetic spectrum from gamma-rays to radio wavelengths. It
sends probes into interstellar space, beginning a virtual presence even beyond
our solar system.
The following are goals of the Space Science Enterprise for the coming decade:
- Complete the initial capability to observe across the electromagnetic
- Survey cosmic rays and interstellar gas as samples of extra-solar
- Carry out basic new tests of gravitational theory.
- Develop the means to understand solar variability and its effects on
- Complete initial exploration of the inner and outer frontiers of the
- Complete solar system reconnaissance from the Sun to Pluto.
- Survey and begin surface exploration of the most fascinating and
accessible planetary bodies.
- Begin a comprehensive search for planets and planetary formation around
- Complete the inventory of near-Earth objects down to a 1-kilometer
- Determine the abundance and distribution of biogenic compounds conducive
to the origin of life.
- Identify locations in the solar system where conditions conducive to
life have existed.
Throughout, the Space Science Enterprise employs a strategy that lowers
mission costs while preserving, to the greatest extent possible, mission
performance. To do so, it will accept prudent risk, shorten developmental
times, explore new conceptual approaches, streamline management, and make
other changes to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. The Enterprise also
develops enabling technology critical to its future success in partnership
NASA Centers play vital roles in carrying out the Space Science Enterprise.
These roles are summarized in the illustration above and the NASA Centers of
Excellence chart in the "Framework" section of this Strategic Plan.
The public is both an investor in space science research and the ultimate
customer and beneficiary. The Enterprise strives to serve the public by
clearly communicating its research results and the excitement of space
exploration. It supports educational organizations nationwide and seeks to
apply the special talents of the space science community to educational
improvement. It also strives to transfer technologies to the private sector
and to develop strong and lasting partnerships among industry, academia, and
Government so that the Nation reaps maximum scientific and economic benefits
from its Space Science program.
Artist's concept of the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft.
NEAR will launch in February 1996 as the first of the Discovery series.