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water resource management, forest and range land management and other aspects of natural resource management or monitoring. Some Federal agencies notably the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture are using Landsat data or experimenting with its use. Use of such data by state agencies is growing, albeit slowly, with the states of
California, Georgia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington among the
However, some serious institutional problems limit the utility of earth resources satellites; there is, as yet, no
adequate infrastructure. The users are not suitably aggregated, and it is not obvious who should become responsible for an
It is not sufficient to show that the
works; the user must have
an opportunity to find whether the information provided by the
satellite usefully complements, or in some cases, perhaps even
replaces, his traditional means for collecting information,
It has been difficult, under the circumstances, to make the transition from the experimental to the operational phase of
earth resources satellites.
Among the various areas in which
this problem exists, we might note farm management, environmental quality, ocean/atmospheric interactions, ocean resources, renew
able and nonrenewable resources, and nayigational service for
The Congress and the Executive Branch have recognized these institutional problems and are seeking solutions. Solutions, however, cannot be expected to come quickly. It is important that, while the institutional problems are being worked out, the nation have access to such benefits as earth observation satellites can provide, and that the technology
be advanced to make possible new services.
Patently, the effectiveness of the process which brings
the products of this space technology into the hands of the end user needs to be improved. To do so may require some adjustment in NASA's view of its role in applications. As an R&D agency, NASA has focussed its efforts largely on the space segment satellites and the sensing instruments they
NASA has funded experiments in the transformation of
remotely sensed data into information in the form needed by
the users as well as experiments in the use of the new infor
mation to complement information from traditional sources. It is important to recognize, however, that to bring this new technology into day-to-day use requires much more than optimizing the space segment and experimenting with what can be done
with its data products.
NASA must give more attention to the
total system, and recognize that it has some responsibility for assuring that progress on all elements essential to the
system are in balance,
The elements could include the space
segment, ground facilities for receiving and processing the
data, means for getting the data to the eventual users, and for assuring such disparate non-space activities as training for users, and developing mathematical or theoretical models to help understand or use the space-derived information. This is not to say that NASA should necessarily operate all elements of the system. But there is need for a lead agency in every case and
NASA may have to assume that role, even if only temporarily.
Let me cite an example of a situation where such leadership is needed. NASA is well along in the development of the nextgeneration instrument for remote sensing of the earth's resources
the Thematic Mapper. The budget just submitted by the President includes funds for Landsat D, the spacecraft which will carry the new instrument, and for NASA computers to make preliminary processing of the data. The space segment of a system which will permit significant advances in terrestrial uses, then, seems to be well provided for. However, Landsat D will transmit data at a much greater rate than the first generation of landsats; current ground facilities for processing Land sat data -- owned and operated by the Department of the Interior are inadequate to handle Landsat D data and disseminate it to the users without unreasonable delay. The Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and Technology has made some recommendations on this point, but ground facilities for processing satellite data have not, at least up to this time, ranked high on the priority list of
the Department of the Interior. There is need here, then, for leadership so that the nation may reap the full benefits of the
Related to these considerations is "demonstration," the transitional phase between research and development and the operational phase of a practical space system. In this phase, the technological capabilities of the system have been proven, but the user comununity has not yet had sufficient opportunity to evaluate the system for its own purposes, If the course of this transitional phase is not provided for, systems that could
provide important benefits may not come into use.
that it is uncertain whether the Space Act of 1958 authorizes NASA to accept responsibility for the transitional phase.
Under the circumstances, NASA has largely refrained from carry
ing demonstrations beyond indication of technical feasibility, But this leaves a serious hiatus. Showing that a new technology works is a technical experiment, and can be done relatively quickly. To learn how, indeed whether to use the new technology is more appropriately regarded as a "social experiment," and its necessary duration must be measured in
It is the view of our Space Applications Board, then, that NASA should give more attention to the total system, and bring potential users into their planning at a very early stage, by providing more assistance to users, and by extending
NASA's role in demonstrations long enough to permit users to decide whether they want the new service and, if they do, to establish appropriate institutional arrangements for the
Advanced new technology does not simply find its way into use. Even where there is self-evident value in the use of the new technology, NASA will have to be persistent if the U.S. is to continue to lead in the application of space technology for man's peaceful activities. We can most assuredly look forward to competition as the European space arrangements mature.
Since the early days of the space program there have been suggestions that, one day, facilities in space would afford special opportunity for materials processing, not because of the temperature, vacuum, lack of moisture, or the radiation flux but by virtue of the very low gravitational field. a report from a committee of our Space Applications Board, which will appear shortly, does not encourage the view that materials processing is likely to become an enterprise on a significant scale.> There are opportunities to study the properties of various materials near the critical points of their phase transitions, gathering information that could contribute importantly to materials processing on earth. And there are opportunities to study certain physical systems in the absence of the buoyancy-driven convection that occurs in the presence of gravity. But this is applied research, not application itself.