Administrator's Strategic Outlook

NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin

All members of the NASA Team—our employees, contractors, academic researchers, industry, Government, and international partners—should feel a tremendous sense of pride in our many accomplishments over the past 5 years. We have looked back to the beginning of time and discovered new galaxies and planets in other solar systems. We captured the world's imagination with the remarkable achievements of the Mars Pathfinder and Hubble Space Telescope missions. We have increased our understanding of the effect of natural and human-induced activities on our home planet. Investments initiated in the past have increased the competitive posture of the aviation, space launch, and communications industries of the present. On Space Shuttle missions, we have performed experiments and technological feats that are paving the way to an era of permanent human presence in space. These achievements, and many more, are responsible for the resurgence and solidification of interest and support for NASA's activities among the Administration, Congress, and the public.

We intend to build on these accomplishments with a renewed focus on scientific research and the development and application of new cutting-edge technologies. Our unique capabilities will enable us to answer fundamental questions that have challenged humankind for centuries. Our exploration of the unknown will lead to discoveries of new worlds and generate new knowledge that stirs the soul, nourishes the mind, and enriches our lives. We will develop the tools and knowledge to help preserve our freedoms and provide hope and opportunity for future generations.

In the coming years, NASA will implement programs to achieve a three-part mission encompassing Scientific Research, Space Exploration, and Technology Development and Transfer. This mission describes what we are required to do in response to policy and legislative mandates. In implementing our mission, we will pursue answers to fundamental questions of science and research that provide a philosophical underpinning for why NASA exists and a foundation for our goals. The questions include:

  • How did the universe, galaxies, stars, and planets form and evolve? How can our exploration of the universe and our solar system revolutionize our understanding of physics, chemistry, and biology?

  • Does life in any form, however simple or complex, carbon-based or other, exist elsewhere than on planet Earth? Are there Earth-like planets beyond our solar system?

  • How can we utilize the knowledge of the Sun, Earth, and other planetary bodies to develop predictive environmental, climate, natural disaster, and natural resource models to help ensure sustainable development and improve the quality of life on Earth?

  • What is the fundamental role of gravity and cosmic radiation in vital biological, physical, and chemical systems in space, on other planetary bodies, and on Earth, and how do we apply this fundamental knowledge to the establishment of permanent human presence in space to improve life on Earth?

  • How can we enable revolutionary technological advances to provide air and space travel for anyone, anytime, anywhere more safely, more affordably, and with less impact on the environment and improve business opportunities and global security?

  • What cutting-edge technologies, processes, and techniques and engineering capabilities must we develop to enable our research agenda in the most productive, economical, and timely manner? How can we most effectively transfer the knowledge we gain from our research and discoveries to commercial ventures in the air, in space, and on Earth?

We will seek answers to these questions with our partners in the science and educational communities, industry, and other governmental agencies in the United States and around the world. As we implement our mission and discover answers to these questions, we will contribute to the achievement of the Nation's science and technology goals and priorities for economic growth and security, sustainable development of the environment, education excellence, and peaceful exploration and discovery.

This Strategic Plan describes the way in which we will implement our mission, answer the questions, and achieve our future goals. The Plan also identifies our customers and articulates where we are going and why. Most importantly, it provides a common basis for the Administration, Congress, and NASA's management to make decisions regarding the implementation of our programs and the deployment of the resources needed to turn the Plan into reality.

This document builds on three previous editions and will be submitted with the Fiscal Year 1999 budget request as prescribed by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). In conjunction with comments received from our customers, stakeholders, employees, and NASA management councils, a number of improvements have been made to this edition of the Plan.

It has been recognized that technology development is not an independent business unit, but is fundamental to the successful performance of each Strategic Enterprise. Therefore, the Space Technology Enterprise has been eliminated, and technology development becomes the responsibility of the remaining four Enterprises. A new position of Chief Technologist was created to provide oversight and guidance for our technology investments. With this new structure, each Enterprise will use technology development as a means to accomplish current programs more efficiently and stimulate new programs necessary to meet our long-term goals. The goal to reduce the cost of access to space that had been associated with the Space Technology Enterprise has been added to the Aeronautics Enterprise. This expanded Enterprise was renamed Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology.

We have improved the level of alignment of the goals of the Agency and our Enterprise goals with the directives prescribed in two Administration policy documents. These are the National Space Policy and the Goals for a National Partnership in Aeronautics Research and Technology. We have also increased our emphasis on the need for synergy between the programs of the Enterprises and the capabilities of our partners in Government, industry, academia, and other nations. Finally, we have defined the scope, goals, and objectives for four Crosscutting Processes that are critical to the success of Agency programs and activities.

With the successful development of this Strategic Plan, the NASA Team must now focus on implementation. We have reached a consensus with our stakeholders, customers, and partners on our vision, mission, and roadmap to the future. We intend to implement our programs, projects, and Crosscutting Processes in a manner that enables us to deliver valuable and relevant results more effectively and efficiently.

Each one of us—individuals who work directly on programs, as well as those who provide critical support capabilities—have an opportunity and responsibility to contribute to the development of a new NASA, the achievement of our plans, and the satisfaction of our customers. I urge all NASA employees, our stakeholders, and our customers to read this Plan and look for ways to support the accomplishment of our ambitious goals for the future.

The NASA Strategic Plan is the backbone of our new Strategic Management System. We welcome comments on the Plan and suggestions for improvement. Let me hear from you with your ideas on ways in which we can improve our ability to meet the needs of the Nation through our aeronautics and space programs.

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