NASA Advisory Council Meeting Minutes 10-11 Sep 2002 - Part 1

Status Report From: NASA Advisory Council
Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

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Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA September 10-11, 2002

Opening Remarks/Introductions

Dr. Charles Kennel, Chair of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC), called the meeting to order and welcomed members and attendees. The primary focus of the meeting was Research Maximization and Prioritization (ReMaP). Other items on the agenda were the Mars Program and new initiatives in Commercial Research and Education, as well as an overview of the Strategic Planning and Performance exercise. Dr. Kennel introduced Dr. Fred Gregory, Deputy Administrator of NASA, as the new senior NASA ex-officio member on the Council. He also welcomed the newest member on the NAC, Dr. Howard Mortazavian from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Charles Elachi, Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), welcomed everyone to the meeting site. He noted that he would be giving the Council a brief overview of the work at JPL in the afternoon and that the NAC would get a tour of the Mars 03 Rover Assembly. Dr. Gene Tattini explained how JPL would observe September 11. Dr. Kennel invited questions or comments on the agenda. Dr. Minogue queried how the NAC could provide input to the goal-setting process for the Agency’s Performance Plan. Dr. Kennel suggested a presentation on the NASA planning activity. Dr. Kennel reviewed the principal conclusions reached on the ReMaP Task Force. The NAC asked NASA to continue the work initiated by the ReMaP and present its view on three issues at the September meeting: (1) the Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR) needs to further prioritize the research programs within Category 1; (2) OBPR should identify the key scientific questions around which it can organize its research portfolio; and (3) NASA should develop a multi-year plan for core complete with the International Partners (IPs), with efforts to resolve the issues identified as well as issues outside OBPR. Without a conceptual plan for research, statements about the scientific potential beyond core complete are missing and are without vigor.

Research Maximization and Prioritization (ReMaP)

Opening Remarks

Mr. Sean O’Keefe, NASA Administrator, addressed the NAC via videoconference. He noted that the agenda continued where the NAC left off in previous meetings, primarily the ReMaP efforts and the NASA response to the recommendations of the ReMaP Task Force. The ReMaP report is important because it gives a clear prioritization context within which to pursue scientific objectives and informs a range of other scientific pursuits, using the Space Station and other capabilities. It informs in a deliberate way what the infrastructure capability for the Space Station should be, and what options and alternatives could be pursued beyond Core Complete. It gives a means to consider carefully what the crew requirements are. Ms. Mary Kicza and Dr. Shannon Lucid have been working with NASA’s Space Flight organization on what kind of astronaut time is required to maximize the hands-on capability required for scientific pursuit, and how crew can be deployed to accommodate the surge demands for research activity, e.g., extended duration orbiter. He noted that NASA is looking for research that would have the greatest potential for breakthrough opportunity.

Mr. O'Keefe invited NAC input on the priority set. He noted that the results of the review will be incorporated in the budget planning for 2004 and beyond. It is critical that NASA and the NAC come to closure on the appropriate priority set. Mr. O'Keefe indicated that the NAC would also receive a complete presentation on the Mars Program. Next May and June [2002] are very important launch dates for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. Arrival at the planet will open a whole new range of opportunities. He noted that NASA is on the verge of looking at an organization dynamic that will recruit the next generation of explorers, and that the NAC would receive a presentation on NASA's education initiative. The next step in the Presidential education initiative is to highlight the significance of math and science education, and NASA will be participating in a White House activity next month [October 2002].

Dr. Kennel asked that Mr. O'Keefe expand on the issue of "closure." Mr. O'Keefe indicated that the NASA implementers need guidance, and this guidance needs to be as specific as possible with respect to the prioritization and utilization. Pointed and specific recommendations from the NAC would help the Agency to an immeasurable degree.

Dr. Minogue commented that a great contribution to science would be autonomous experiment management and data collection. Sen. Glenn noted that the NAC had indicated that five major areas needed reform, and that each of these areas had defined milestones that would come to closure by the end of 2002. If the decision on Core Complete is not until February 2004, it will be too late for the 2005 or even the 2006 budget. He asked which of the five areas is lagging so that a decision cannot be made by the end of 2002.

Mr. O'Keefe noted that the objective is to achieve the Core Complete configuration (i.e., have it in place) in February 2004. NASA will have a response to every one of the five areas, and that will inform the 2004 budget. At the next meeting, there will be a complete discussion of the International Space Station (ISS). The budget plan will include completion of Core Complete and incorporation of the IPs. The decision process regarding the "full-up" Space Station will begin this December, including configuration alternatives and options beyond Core Complete and the IP configuration. With respect to crew return, Mr. O'Keefe indicated that the Agency is looking at capabilities in the interim period of time, informed by the scientific and research agenda. Another area that NASA is examining is the operational configurations that can be pursued, and over what time periods. NASA is also pursuing the longer-term objective (manifest in the 2004 budget) for a specific crew transfer vehicle capability that would meet the demands of deploying crew members, with the orbiter utilized primarily as a "cargo" vehicle.

Dr. Logsdon commented on the level of dissent within the ReMaP report, and questioned how NAC could best proceed. Mr. O'Keefe noted that it is in the nature of all academics to express a difference of view. The Task Force took its task very seriously and the debate was spirited. It was a reflection on the degree of judgment about what is absolutely essential to be performed on this platform of microgravity. Asking the community to make a judgment about what requires a microgravity condition on a persistent and consistent basis that cannot be replicated on Earth gives a priority set. There is going to be a difference of view on what research pursuits offer the greatest breakthrough opportunities. The mere fact that there was dissent is a testimonial to the serious efforts of the Task Force. The ReMaP made some difficult judgments that could not be unanimous. The issue was related to whether the group was qualified to make judgments about each other's disciplines. It is clear that NASA is not. Dr. Zoloft noted that six of the seven dissenters were concerned about the process itself. Had there been one more serious, face-to-face meeting, perhaps more consensus could have been reached. Mr. McDaniel commented that the future of the Agency lies in the Education Initiative, and he commended the Agency for emphasizing this area.

ISS Research Status

Dr. Neal Pellis, ISS Scientist, gave the presentation on the status of research on ISS. Research has been ongoing—about 65 investigations have been done so far. To date, there has been a predominance of microgravity and human life science research.

Dr. Pellis provided a quick tour through some of the research: effects of altered gravity on spinal cord excitability; the physics of colloids in space; microgravity antibody synthesis in tonsular B cells; renal stone risk during spaceflight; sub-regional assessment of bone loss in the axial skeleton in long-term spaceflight; protein crystal growth in enhanced gaseous nitrogen; biomass production system technology validation; advanced "astroculture;" a space acceleration measurement system to characterize the vibration environment; an embedded Web technology program called "Tempest;" and liver cell research. The crews have been dedicating a lot of personal time to the research activities.

Experience gained in the planning and execution of research during the first five ISS expeditions is reshaping the processes and operations to conduct experiments on ISS. In response to a question, Dr. Pellis indicated that all of the details on the investigations, e.g., crew time, are available. There is a necessity for crew intervention in some of the biological and physical experiments. The range of time devoted to research has been around 12-14 hours a week. In general, the higher the order of animal (in the life sciences) and the greater the number of parameters (in the physical sciences), the greater the need for crew intervention. The physical sciences and the fundamental biology sciences have done very well in the international arena. The research plan will include greater international collaboration.

Response to the ReMaP – Next Steps, OBPR

After a brief review of her background and experience (as part of her introduction to the NAC), Ms. Mary Kicza, Associate Administrator for OBPR, addressed NASA's response to the ReMaP. She discussed the ReMaP process and the respective roles of herself and Dr. Lucid. The ReMaP activity started in the early March timeframe. At that same time, Mr. O'Keefe unveiled the new NASA vision and mission. OBPR is currently responding to the ReMaP recommendations within a strategic context to achieve a 5-year direction that enables a longer-term future for the Agency, aligned with NASA's mission statement.

Over the course of the past year and a half, the NASA Exploration Team (NEXT) has looked at a progressive expansion of exploration, where science drives the destination and technology enables it. The exploration strategy has been briefed to the Space Science Advisory Committee (SScAC), the Space Flight Advisory Committee (SFAC), and the Biological and Physical Research Advisory Committee (BPRAC). The logical next steps will be in Earth's neighborhood, e.g., the moon or libration points.

Within the five-year strategy are two compelling questions that can be addressed from the unique laboratories in space: What can we discover about the nature of life? What can we discover about nature itself? There should be three major thrusts, in relative priority order: (1) a strategic research thrust—the basic and applied research that the Agency relies uniquely upon the OBPR to conduct to enable NASA's mission to explore the universe and search for life; (2) fundamental research to address the role of gravity and the unique aspects of the space environment in biological and physical processes; and (3) commercial research—applied research of commercial significance. Each area will be requirements driven, and the budget will be based upon that. Ms. Kicza reviewed the ReMaP Task Force priority ranking, which includes the entire OBPR research portfolio, both space-based and ground-based; however, the remainder of the presentation focused on the use of the ISS system (including the Shuttle) as a research platform to meet the high-priority requirements.

There are a large number of "priority 1" research areas. OBPR is prepared to further stratify among this high priority research. The stratification criteria are: research that can only be performed on ISS (requiring both crew intervention and long-duration microgravity exposure); research required to achieve the Agency's strategic vision; and research that can be done most effectively on the ISS, either from a cost perspective or a time perspective. Given the time-phased availability of both ISS research facilities and ISS resource capacity, the requirements will be time-phased to maximize the scientific return from the ISS.

Ms. Kicza discussed the implications of ISS configuration options. The US Core Complete configuration can support a strong program in ReMaP priority 1 fundamental research in physical sciences and commercial research. Beyond what is there today, this configuration provides facilities for support of fluids, combustion, and material research and provides the Human Research Facility-2 for biomedical research. Ms. Kicza cited some examples of research areas that can and will be addressed at US Core Complete. The IP Core Complete configuration can enable OBPR research in fundamental biology and fundamental physics. This configuration provides access to the Japanese Exposed Facility (JEF), the centrifuge with associated specimen habitats for cell, animal, plants, etc., additional rack volume, and access to the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) and Columbus Orbiting Facility (COF) research facilities for collaborative research.

Ms. Kicza cited examples of research areas that can and will be addressed at IP Core Complete. The "enhanced configuration" can allow OBPR to pursue an emphasis in strategic research as well as the ISS partnership to realize the full potential of the ISS as a research platform. This configuration provides expanded crew size to act as human research subjects, to provide additional time for conducting research, and to provide additional scientific expertise. There are many ways and approaches to enhance the crew capacity. In the near term, there is the opportunity of extended duration orbiter.

Ms. Kicza discussed the ISS research requirements and the phasing of those requirements. She explained how the requirements are developed for each research area within the ReMaP high priority areas. The research requirements were derived by OBPR enterprise scientists with the assistance of their NASA program Centers. Resource requirements for flight experiments were based on historical Shuttle and current ISS experience. Ms. Kicza showed the summarized research requirements for pressurized upmass and crew time in terms of the three research thrusts discussed earlier. Overall, about one-third of this upmass can only be done on ISS. The OBPR research requirements continue to be refined and will reflect decisions in the FY04 budget process. Experiments in the near-term are well known (with Principal Investigators selected) and the manifest requirements for facility hardware are established through 2007. The OBPR resource allocation of 30-30-30 for pressurized payloads is being revisited in favor of following the thrust priorities and alignment with ReMaP priorities.

Ms. Kicza addressed the proposed OBPR budget response to ReMaP. All research programs have adequate levels of reserves. The budget emphasizes the high priority research areas with a shift toward a more strategic focus. It maintains funding for radiation protection and reinstates funding for minimal plant and animal habitats for research on the centrifuge. Ms. Kicza showed those areas of the ReMaP prioritization that have been strengthened, those areas that are being maintained, and those areas that are being significantly decreased or phased out. The ReMaP acknowledged that there is public law with respect to commercial space programs, and the commercial programs have been stabilized at the FY02 funding levels. In response to a question, Ms Kicza noted that crew constraints are preventing OBPR from strengthening the priority 1 programs in clinical/operational medicine and physiology. Any of the areas in priority 1 offer opportunities for breakthrough.

Ms. Kicza provided the proposed OBPR response to the ReMaP recommendations. She noted that the Task Force generated 16 recommendations, some directly intended for OBPR, others intended for the Office of Space Flight (OSF) and the Agency in general. OBPR is developing an action plan for the ReMaP recommendations. NASA's initial response was included as an appendix to the briefing package. OBPR is working collectively with the community to formulate the interdisciplinary set of key questions. Also, the BPRAC has been asked to help establish the roadmaps and the key areas that need to be pursued. Dr. Ross noted that by the time of the ISS Management and Cost Evaluation (IMCE) meeting in November [2002], there will be a draft of the key, compelling questions. Ms. Kicza added that as part of the ReMaP exercise, each Division was asked to develop the six most key, compelling questions and those are available. She indicated that the NAC could look at the first draft of the interdisciplinary set of questions that Dr. Ross is working on.

In response to a question, Ms. Kicza indicated that about 80% of the current OBPR research and technology complement is aligned with the high-priority research areas identified by ReMaP. Sen. Glenn indicated that there needs to be a decision to move forward before the appropriators will commit to further funding. Also, the decisions of the IPs regarding their commitments on research funding are key. Ms. Kicza indicated that the entire research community has advocated going beyond US Core Complete and ReMaP emphasized that. There is hesitancy on the part of investigators to engage in international collaboration because of the lack of stability in the schedules and the flight rate. This lack of stability has disenfranchised some elements of the community. NASA has a responsibility to develop and deliver the US Core Complete configuration, and the Agency is in a position to do that. Also, the FY04 budget allows the capability to proceed beyond Core Complete. This has been transmitted to the IPs.

Dr. Kennel suggested an action item for the December [2002] NAC meeting: a report on the five-point effort to reform and revitalize the ISS program that NASA must demonstrate in order to proceed beyond Core Complete.

Sen. Glenn emphasized that without a clear call on these items by December, there will be a reluctance for the Hill to move forward. In response to a comment, Ms. Kicza noted that as part of the requirements development process and the budget process, an extremely detailed set of data supporting the OBPR evaluation against ReMaP priorities is available and could be provided to the NAC.

NASA's Integrated ISS Utilization

Dr. Shannon Lucid, NASA Chief Scientist, addressed the cross-Enterprise research requirements and the international requirements. The NASA requirements were worked through the Space Station Utilization Board (SSUB). The SSUB Working Group worked on the requirements and priorities outside of OBPR. In addition to the pressurized capabilities, the ISS external unpressurized capabilities provide for Earth and space observation, long-term space exposure, and access for rapid reconfigurations for reducing technology development cycles. All of the NASA program offices, DOD, and DOE have a great desire to take advantage of the attached payload accommodations for research. The Alpha-Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) will be ready to launch as early as 2005. Other attached payloads under development are dependent on the delivery of the Express pallet hardware.

The SSUB emphasized that access to ISS and confidence in launch opportunities continue to be the most critical constraints for Earth and space science. There are several platforms available for a payload to be exposed to the unique environment of space (free-flying satellites, ISS, and Shuttle flights). SSUB developed three criteria to justify why a NASA-sponsored payload should be manifested on ISS: (1) that the payload could only be done technically on ISS; (2) that the payload makes effective use of the unique capabilities of the ISS as an existing national resource; and (3) that the payload fulfills obligations to national partners and IPs. Dr. Lucid showed the timeline for cross-Enterprise ISS research through 2008. She discussed the primary conduits for IP participation on ISS. As of today, Columbus launch is targeted for 2004 and the JEM launch is targeted for 2006.

At the Heads of Agency meeting in June [2002], the IPs agreed to gather an integrated set of research requirements. NASA and the IPs are working to finalize the requirements, and this should be completed within the next couple of weeks. This new set of requirements has been gathered without regard to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) allocations. Dr. Lucid showed all of the requirements for ISS in terms of middeck lockers per year, crew time per week, pressurized upmass per year, and unpressurized upmass per year. In response to a question, she noted that the presentation did not include the Russian requirements.

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