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1 Space physics (plasmas) R&A was included in physics and astronomy in fiscal year 1981. 2 The space physics (plasmas) part of the sounding rocket section of the suborbital physics and astronomy line in fiscal year 1981 was transferred to environmental observations R&A for fiscal year 1982, 1983, 1984 budgets. This part was $2.8 million in fiscal year 1983, $2.5 in fiscal year 1982, and estimated at approximately $2.5 million in fiscal year 1981.

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1 Applications ariborne included in physics and astronomy starting fiscal year 1982. $12 million is estimated as the number for this item in fiscal year 1981.




The opening sections of the OTA Technical Memorandum 1 on space science give a brief survey of the many different aspects of space science. Then the memo goes on to say that planetary science is in real trouble because there are no new missions so that the scientists active in that field are without funds and without a future. They will soon be forced to turn to other things. And that is a fairly accurate picture of planetary science. But the memo stops at that point, leaving the impression that the other branches of space science surveyed in the opening sections are alright.

As a matter of fact, most branches of space science in the U.S. face a bleak future. To illustrate a typical situation, solar physics can look forward to perhaps 12-15 months of new data at solar minimum following the repair of the Solar Maximum Mission (SMM). The Interplanetary Solar Polar Mission was to have been launched in 1984 for a look at the Sun-and conditions emanating from the Sun-at high latitudes, where no spacecraft has ventured before. But the U.S. spacecraft carrying the coronagraph was cancelled and the U.S. launch of the European spacecraft was postponed to 1986-so that the mission is far less effective than originally planned and so far in the future that the U.S. research groups-even if they are participating on the European spacecraft-are disbanding for lack of support. The Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) is going ahead at a slow pace now, with a launch tentatively planned somewhere around 1988, assuming that there are no further delays in funding. The much touted opportunities for observations from Shuttle have not materialized-leaving the field of solar physics with little more than 12 months of SMM data for the rest of the decade. The fact that there are many crucial observations to be performed, as elaborated by intensive study and planning reports over the past

1 Space Science Research in the United States: A Technical Memorandum by the Cogressional Office of Technology Assessment" (September, 1982).

six or eight years, seems to carry no weight. The space missions fade away as their time approaches.

Turning to magnetospheric physics, we can look forward to the Chemical Release Experiments of the AMPTE Mission, expected to be launched in 1984 in which a German spacecraft outside the magnetosphere is to releazse chemicals to be detected by the instrumentation on a U.S. spacecraft located inside the magnetosphere, giving direct measurements of the rate of entry of solar wind gases into Earth. But there is no real U.S. commitment beyond that. The OPEN Missions to study plasma waves, etc., in the magnetosphere and surrounding solar wind are moving along with a launch tentatively planned for 1991 or 1992, perhaps. The Shuttle and associated Spacelab experiments have not materialized. it may be ten years before there is a new mission. It is just not possible to keep good physicists interested in space experiments when the future is so far away and so uncommitted.

The field of X-ray astronomy looks forward to flying a less expensive version of the HEAD-II X-ray telescope on the German X-ray spacecraft to be lauched in 1986. The X-ray Timing Explorer (XTE) at about the same time is the only new U.S. mission firmly in the pipeline. The large, high resolution X-ray telescope, Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) is only a dream that could not materialize before 1990, at the earliest. The initiatives are passing to the Japanese and the Germans, who have committed themselves to four X-ray space missions in the coming years. It is ironic that the United States, having brought the science of X-ray astronomy to a peak with HEAO-II, should now sit back, unwilling to commit capital, while other nations press on from the summit that we established by an investment a decade ago in our own space science. As in the other fields already cited, the Xray community is frustrated year after year by a refusal of the United States to commit itself to new missions. Shuttle opportunities, once presented in glowing terms to the scientific community, have failed to materialize. Postponement into the next decade is the word of the day, which leaves a strong doubt that the field will go ahead in the United States at any time in the foreseeable future.

In the field of gamma-ray astronomy, France and the U.S.S.R. have cooperative plans for an orbiting gamma-ray observatory, to be launched some time in 1983-84. It will be a simple affair, but capable of doing some interesting science. The U.S. Gamma-Ray Observatory (GRO) will take a more precise and detailed look at the gamma-ray sources in the sky, but it has now been pushed back to a tentative launch in 1987-89, at the end of the decade. It is not clear how one can sustain interest and scientific capability in the interim, particularly when the scientific community is aware that a further delay in the launch of the U.S. GRO may come with any new annual budget cycle, as have the endless delays in the past.

Taken together, these plans do not add up to much for space science in the United States in the next 10 years. Three or four missions among as many different fields of inquiry in a 10-year period are not effective for getting at the crucial issues. All of the major fields of space science are focused on important discoveries and critical issues in the active universe around us. Progress in each subject is paced by observations from spacecraft. Each subject is propelled by the vigor and enthusiasm and past successes of a small group of U.S. scientists. If the United States does not have some new starts and rapid progress in space missions in the very near future, U.S. space science will wither away. Space science will pass into the hands of other countries with more vigorous and determined approaches (Germany, Japan, France, U.S.S.R.). Not a word of this, beyond planetary science, is to be found in the OTA


Another point is that the memo presents the annual budget for NASA space science, (Figs. A-2, A-3, A-4) showing the general downward trend over the years and small upturn at the end for 1983. The figures make the point, but it should be emphasized that the small upturn for 1983 reflects the delay of launch dates, particularly SOT, Galileo and the Space Telescope. The actual money going directly into scientific research outside NASA is not larger in 1983 than in previous low years. U.S. scientific teams are in the process of disbanding today because the launch dates for the spacecraft with which they are concerned have been pushed so far in the future that: (a) the dates are not always believable; and (b) the support for the teams has been turned off by NASA to save money in the interim.

A willingness to make major capital investments in the future is as essential for effective space science as it is for most other serious activities. Short term policies, based on monetary political winds, make effective science impossible. It was the NASA investment in the sixties and early seventies that placed our country in the prestigious position of number one in space and in space science. Unfortunately, the causes of our success were not perceived in all quarters, so that the late seventies and the first 2 years of the eighties saw: (a) little or no new investment; (b) an un

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willingness to support the continued operation and analysis of the scientific space missions built with earlier investments; and (c) a tendency to reverse policies every 12 months.

The result is that the United States has dropped out of most fields of space science for the rest of the eighties. Worse, the stochastic policies of the past few years have created a credibility gap. The scientific community has learned that no matter how well conceived, no matter how far along, and no matter how internationally based, a space mission can be cancelled at any point at the blink of an eye. One has to remember that the motivation for scientists to contribute their time and effort to a space mission is not monetary profit, but scientific success. And scientific success requires a firm commitment to go ahead with space missions.

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