Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science

[242] Following the close-out of the facility grants program and the phasing down of the training grants, the sustaining university program became a low-key operation. It was used to stimulate advanced research in areas important to space applications and to provide seed grants to a large number of minority institutions. There was some experimenting for example-with the development of new engineering curricula in the universities to meet modern needs-but the earlier flair was gone. Always the largest dollar component of the university program, the project grants of the technical program offices became the main thrust of NASA's university program. But the cutback on the sustaining university program had its impact on the project grants. In space science, for example, more money than before had to be devoted to support of the more advanced research to lay the groundwork for spaceflight experiments, much of which had come out of the graduate research projects of NASA space science trainees. The effect was not easy to measure, but there were tangible signs. Program managers found it more difficult to provide step funding than before, and earlier step funding was often allowed to lapse to gain a year's funding and thereby ease the current squeeze on the budget. Thus, although the total university program remained in the vicinity of $100 million per year, the more liberal flavor that had ensured a considerable continuity of support and had afforded the universities the ability to plan future staffing and research projects in a rational manner, was gone.