« AnteriorContinuar »
It will take time before the larger impact of the new capability becomes evident, before we recognize that we can now afford in space an approach to experiments similar to that we use on the ground, because of the easy presence of the human experimenter, supervisor, technician, or repairman. It will be some time before we recognize that the machines we need in space can in some cases best be built there rather than on the ground where they must be artificially compressed into reduced volumes for space delivery and deployment. We will have to stop thinking in terms of discrete space missions, each with its 'own spacecraft, its own control center, its own ground network, its own clientele; space machinery is becoming recyclable and refurbishable and reusable. We are just beginning, for example, to look at earth orbital scientific exploration in the Shuttle era as a continuum rather than as a jerky and uncertain sequence of "new starts"; we are moving to the time when the engineering component of scientific research will cease to dominate the kind and quality of research we can do. We will find we can reintroduce the concept of taking some risks with the success of individual experiments because we can act to avoid the consequences of failures without enormous waste. The technological revolution in space transportation, that the Shuttle by itself represents, will become ever more important as this same class of capability grows to include greater flexibility in space operations at synchronous altitudes and for extended duration. It will take time, effort, and vision to learn how to use what we have built; we can be certain, however, that it is the generation today in school and just beginning to consider the opportunities of space that will exercise these capabilities to their fullest and bring them to fruition.
In parallel with the changes in how we will be operating in space are the implications for what we can do there. Perhaps the best current example in science is that of the space telescope, now beginning its development phase. It is important to realize that astronomers have been planning for the telescope since the early sixties -- and that only the advent of Shuttle revisit for orbital maintenance has made it practical. The space telescope is our first true facility in space, now not much more remote from human attention than are the more limited instruments we have built on mountain tops around the world. If we succeed in forcing ourselves to design and build and operate the telescope with that in mind, we will have made an investment of permanent value; there is no natural lifetime for a permanent observatory of this power and with such capacity for evolutionary improvement. Some have already stated that it will be the centerpiece of
twentieth century science and that its scientific
We are at the beginning of another revolution today as well: one in communications. It would be appropriate to term this the "second communications revolution, since the satellite developments of the past fifteen years have already completely changed domestic and international pointto-point telecommunications traffic. The Intelsat consortium already boasts of 92 member nations from Afghanistan to Zambia; in many places it is far easier and more assured to make a transcontinental phone call than to try to reach the next town. Just around the corner, however, and already adumbrated by some of our experiments and those of the Japanese, the Canadians, and the Europeans, is a next quantum jump in this field. Higher power, higher data rates, better frequency manipulation and now the new possibility of centralizing efficiently in space those facilities like switchboards and mainframes that are replicated everywhere on earth -- are pointing toward an era of service capabilities that can change society. Already we have committed, in the space program, to the concept of commercial tracking and data relay satellite services to eliminate the bottlenecks of being tied down to multiple local ground stations for contact with our space systems; this alone has created a new dimension of freedom for space operations. The geometry of the world and the space around it, coupled with the technological capability to build large antennas and supporting facilities in space while vastly simplifying and reducing ground terminal size and complexity, make the possibility of hemispheric interconnections at the "CB" level a reality. Concepts of public service telecommunications like electronic mail, medical informtion service delivery, continuing interactive education, and broadly based information access now await implementation decisions rather than technological feasibility demonstration.
Perhaps the most profound change we face as a result of the space program today lies in our growing ability to deal with our own planet. At this juncture, the ideological distinctions between science and applications, between experimental and operational, even between one agency's data responsibilities and those of another, are artificial
and even trivial. What is clear is that we have at hand an incredibly sophisticated set of tools for understanding the earth and its environment. We can map in three dimensions daily and seasonal changes, natural and manmade, on the earth's surface whether wet or dry. We can see the clouds form and move and dissipate, and can deduce the weather activity below them. We can sound the atmosphere, measure its constituents, trace the circulation of particulates. We can take the temperature of the earth and ocean at any place or time. We can follow ocean currents and identify water quality. We can define the energy budget of the planet, and separate its various components by source and type. We can observe the chemistry at the many interfaces of solar energy with the atmosphere, the ocean's surface, and the land. We can compare the history and behaviour of our planet with that of the moon, the near and far planets, and the other bodies in the solar system. We can monitor the sun.
Taken together, these capabilities fall under the general heading of remote sensing the acquisition of data by instruments from a distance. The dimensions that space has added are those of global coverage, continuity of coverage, and near-real time data return to earth. It is not too much to say that in remote sensing lies one of the great keys to wise management of the planet as the home of humanity. Remote sensing can be one of the major utilities of space in practical terms but only if turned to practical ends. The increasingly sharp challenge we face is that of integrating this extraordinarily rich flow of data into discrete and useful sets of information that can be acted upon or responded to at every level of the world society. Understanding of weather, climate, crops, natural resources, and the effect of human activity on the world ecology are the basic informational goals we should set for ourselves, given the tools already in being and being made available through the advances of technology. We need a change of perceptive scale to integrate all that we can learn about the pieces into all that we need to know about the whole.
There is a tentative conclusion at this time: the major issues are not what we can do as a nation or as a civilization but what we should do. And perhaps more complex still is the question of what should we be doing now to create at least the options for an optimistic technological world view in the future. Programmatic questions become inevitably linked to policy issues of great import: for example, how -- and under what conditions should the advanced remote sensing systems graduate from their present R&D form to a different status? What are the political risks and benefits of, say, deciding to stop further Federal investment, of chartering private enterprise
in this field, of organizing an international consortium for continuity of service, or of establishing a new Federal operational system? These questions, among many others, have been under debate for years even before the first Landsat launch in 1972 and while the technology has improved radically over this period, and the uses to which such data can be usefully put have expanded exponentially, we need to work as hard in addressing the question of how best to capitalize on the large past investment and turn promise into routine reality.
There are similar policy considerations in the fields of advanced communications services, power generation, nuclear waste disposal, information storage and retrieval. These do not, to a first order, require decisions that are constrained by the budgetary context; appropriate development programs can be phased within reasonable and affordable resource levels. These are issues whose resolution would give clear focus to R&D effort and management planning, in space and on the ground. scientific and technological strength of this country does not and cannot grow in a vacuum, nor does it flourish when dedicated solely to the most immediate or near-term objectives. It is the art of government to organize its efforts to serve both immediate and far-reaching goals with the same resources. Space and all that entails in science, in exploration, in discovery, in technology, and in services is one of those resources for both the present and the future. A unique characteristic of space activity is that it radically changes the scale within which we can measure and judge our national directions. We as a nation must decide wisely and well -- and soon how best to employ it for the good of the nation, the civilization, and the generations to come. We do not wish to let pass by valuable opportunities unexploited or important challenges unmet.
STATEMENT OF DR. ROBERT A. FROSCH, ADMINISTRATOR, NASA
Dr. FROSCH. Thank you.
I have read with interest some of the previous testimony in the past couple of days. I would like to make one or two comments regarding the previous testimony and then comment on what I think our shortand long-range goals are and what they should be.
I have been cast in some of the testimony as a conservative bureaucrat. I would like to submit that this is one of the roles I should be playing. The necessity for both setting goals and achieving them is part of my task.
In a certain sense, I could say that I am not supposed to be Columbus. I am supposed to be Queen Isabella's agent for getting that project done. And that is a somewhat different role.
I think it is important to say at the beginning that I do not view the space enterprise as an incident in the history of mankind, but rather as a modern continuation and extension into the future of more than 5,000 years of history, and prehistory, of human aspirations to understand the universe, the place of the Earth within it and the place of man on the Earth and what man can do on the Earth and in the universe.
We are within a few days of the 20th anniversary of the 1st U.S. insertion of an object in space-Explorer I. We are still in the stage where I would call our program preadolescent. We have yet to come of age and find our real abilities in space.
I think it is important that we move into the future with some sense of where we are going, and with a very real sense of the means and suitable pace to get there.
I think the immediate future-and it is very important for the longrange future of this country, of the human race and of the space enterprise should be cast around the application of what we are beginning to learn of human life on Earth and perhaps off Earth to the scientific enterprise that continues our search for knowledge, which is partly for its own sake as a continuation of a human enterprise and partly knowledge for human use, on Earth and in the universe, and the search for the technological means that will enable us to expand those enterprises, whether they are expansions of what we want to do.
I think we are, in the next few years in the applications area, going to be building in the direction of the collecting of information about our planet and our activities on the planet from space. We have begun this with the Landsat series, with the soon-to-be launched Seasat, and with a number of satellites and experiments that observe the relationship between the Earth and the Sun.
My vision of where we are going in those enterprises suggests that what we will be providing is a sound basis for the understanding of the overall mechanisms: the way in which the Earth operates; how life forms on Earth grow in response to the sunlight and the weather; how the weather and the climate are formed and influenced by the Earth's place in the solar system; how we humans affect these changes; and how we are in fact, in Renée Dubois' terms, reconstructing our environment and making a human environment, as well as a nonhuman natural environmental that preexisted before we were here.
My feeling is that we are on the verge of developing an information capability, using space techniques as well as ground techniques,