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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,
that will enable us to understand what is going on environmentally on the globe. The implications of this kind of knowledge must be an ability to manage our total global environment in a better way, not only for our national benefit, which is uppermost in our minds, but also for a global benefit. That is a direction that I think is key and important.
Another aspect is the continuing global revolution in communications, which was created by the beginning abilities to put objects into space and which is continuing with new technological means that we do not yet know how to use completely. Although we do know some of the things we can do with that revolution to tie the whole globe together in a communications network, not only for direct human communications, but for the movement of data, of information, and of the things we need for the kind of global management that I have in mind. In the scientific area, we are continuing and will continue the exploration of the solar system and of the universe. This is a long-term scientific endeavor, which, as I have already suggested, is the continuation of an historical trend and imperative-one which is important to all of us culturally and intellectually.
Expansion of scientific knowledge is also important as a very practical enterprise. We can cite the whole history of human science and technology to demonstrate that the examination of the universe has turned into understanding of science, and that has turned into technological capability to manage our own business.
The significance of planetary exploration, as well as the exploration of the space and environment in the solar system and the space and environment in which the Earth sits, is both a scientific enterprise and a practical enterprise. It is beginning to give us hints to understand why the Earth is as it is and the ways in which it could be changed, either inadvertently or purposely, in the sense of climate, pollution, and the way we cultivate and manage our land.
These possibilities always sound farfetched at first, but as the knowledge accumulates, it becomes clearer and clearer how it can be used.
For instance, when we started to look at the ionosphere in the early days of the space program, there was very little conception of the way in which that phenomenon was tied together with communications and with weather and climate. Now we are beginning to have hints of understanding of the way those scientifically understood facts explain to us how changes in the Sun can affect changes in the Earth's climate.
We are also beginning to have an understanding of the meaning of the ways in which other planets differ from the Earth in terms of what it means for the structure of the Earth.
As we look out deeper into the universe-and we will continue to do this, we are seeing some interesting objects that we cannot explain in terms of the science we now understand. In the past those discoveries have always been a clue to new understanding. In turn, that new understanding has been a clue to advances that one could develop into technology and finally into use.
I want to make that point very strongly. Scientific enterprise has a character and an importance for itself in intellectual terms, but it also has a character and importance in itself as delayed applications. It may take a long time, but in the end we reap the fruits of our knowl
1 edge. Our attempts to understand the universe are part of that sowing,
which will eventually be a very practical harvest.
It is already the case that this enterprise of science and space has begun several revolutions, not only in our understanding of the universe but also in our understanding of the Earth and our human place in it.
Our immediate next technological enterprises will be to lay what I think of as a new foundation for going into space and doing increasingly useful things there. The significance of the Space Shuttle and the technologies surrounding the Space Transportation System is far beyond the economic computations as to whether it is cheaper to conduct activities with the Shuttle than it is to do them with expendable launch vehicles. We believe it is cheaper to use the Shuttle/ Space Transportation System, but the real significance is that it will be possible to perform activities with that new kind of access to space that we really do not believe can be done with an indefinite continuation of expendable launch vehicles and their restrictions.
We think that the Space Transportation System, with the Shuttle as its key element, will give us a new type of access to space around which we can build, in an evolutionary way, a capability to construct structures and to power them on a scale and in a way never before possible.
We will approach the question of energy in space and from space by that kind of technological evolution. I believe that is the fastest and soundest approach because we will know what we are doing along the way.
I would like to go beyond immediate goals, some of which I think are rather long-range in nature, and talk about some very long-range and perhaps visionary concepts that we ought to begin thinking about because they have profound technological, ethical, and social implications.
I myself do not believe that the most likely way in which the human race will expand into space, if it does so, will be by the construction of space submarines, whether they are at L-5 or in low-Earth orbit. I think it far more likely that there will be an evolutionary expansion. If we ever go in that direction, it is likely to be on a planetary and not on a construction basis.
I believe we need to think about this, because thinking about it also sets us thinking about some of the things that we are doing or could do to our own planet.
I also believe it is possible to think about planetary engineering, by which I mean profound changes in the whole planet. I feel we have to think about that, because we have already caused many changes to the Earth, and we are in the process of doing it further-frequently inadvertently. There are real questions as to the effect that our energy enterprises are having and may have on the Earth's climate.
By the same token, we have learned some things that we could eventually use, if we desired, as a principle, to change other planets as well as our own. The question is, given that we have such a technological capability, when, if ever, would we desire or feel comfortable in using it?
By the same capability and understanding of chemistry that tells us that we can make deleterious changes to the ionosphere and the ozone
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layer in the stratosphere, we also know that we could make purposeful changes. I do not think we are anywhere near having the knowledge, the good sense or the need to try to do these things purposely. I believe we should think about what these changes would mean: What would be the chemical means to change the ozone layer purposely in a direction we wanted it to go? And we must think about that long before we believe we know how to do it so that we can fully understand the consequences of what we're doing when we get there.
By the same token, we should consider these implications with regard to other planets if we ever want to cause changes.
I raise that kind of question because I think those considerations are equally important to think about as the technologies by which we will expand around the Shuttle into further and deeper uses of
I have tried to outline some of the shorter term directions and have hinted at some long-term possibilities that I think it is important to consider.
I think the key point is to keep going in some of these directions. But we should do so by building on the use what we now know so that we can improve the way we live here on Earth and, at the same time, begin a foundation in technology and science that will enable us to do things beyond the Earth when we are ready and see a real need and a real opportunity.
My key task, as I see it, is to keep this fledging space enterprise going and expanding in a sensible way and proving that it is portant in terms of what it delivers on Earth and what it delivers in terms of understanding and knowledge.
Mr. Chairman, I am prepared to answer questions.
Mr. TEAGUE. I have a number of questions. But because we are so short of time, I will submit them to you in writing, and without objection I will place them in the record.
Mr. FUQUA. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I realize, too, we have the constraints on time, and I will hopefully have another opportunity to discuss this more in detail with you.
Dr. FROSCH. I do believe that I will have an opportunity to appear before the subcommittee in the future.
Mr. FUQUA. Yes, sir. We are looking forward to it.
One of the things that leaves me somewhat troubled is the lack of long-range planning, and what seems to be lack of more specificity in what may be the plans for the future. I am speaking of probably the next 10 years. What are the things we ought to be specically taking a look at? We have supported NASA over the years by including more funds for advanced planning, because to me that's the seed of the whole organization and we have tried to fertilize that seed. But it seems that we are not getting a list of options that are being looked at and carefully analyzed for the long range.
Since you have been in NASA, have you taken any initiatives for establishing long-range goals, or are there any plans to do that?
Dr. FROSCH. We have, in the course of the past couple of months, had several meetings of the senior NASA staff to discuss the whole nature of our planning. We are setting out on a somewhat new way of doing this. I have put the general instruction for how we do this
in terms of assembling a large and broad list of ideas that I hope will go well beyond those ideas that we feel ready to put into budgets and programs in the immediate future.
I would like the list of things that we consider as long-range programs to be a very long list with a large variety of time scales for the things we are discussing. We will put them together, not in terms of choosing from that list individual things because they look attractive, but with the idea of a coherent program for the future. We recognize that any such program and plan will probably be obsolete by the time it is printed, in the sense that if we are making real scientific and engineering progress by the time we have concluded that we should do something in a few years, we will have found out new things and new ideas that, in some sense, change the plan.
So it is a continuing process. I believe that it is the process of planning, and the production of ideas, and the filtering of them, which are the keys to it rather than the plan at any instance itself, although that is a general guide for where we go.
As a general comment on the nature of planning as it has developed over the past decade or so in the Government, I feel there has been far too much attention paid to the problem of deciding how to choose among options. That is a very important thing to do and we know a good deal about it. However, there has been far too little attention paid to the generation of options that are worth choosing among.
My initial attempt will be focused on getting an imaginative list of candidates from which we must choose and then on finding some ways to choose among them, year by year, with some long-range perspective. What I have offered you, Mr. Fuqua, is, in some sense a rather grandiose approach to planning. I am sure that what we will end up doing will be smaller than what I would like to do. But that is the approach out of which I think we can get a future plan and program. Mr. FUQUA. Just one observation, Mr. Chairman:
It has been proposed by some of the previous witnesses that we should look at multiyear authorizations, and I am not altogether opposed to that, but I think in the same context we have to broaden and expand what we are talking about in years down the road. What will the budget be 5 years from now; and what are we looking at that we might want to have come on the line as a new start in 5 or 10 years? So I think that within that total concept we have to have better longrange planning and what level of budget you would need in order to achieve what may have merit and I do think it may have merit to consider multiyear authorizations.
Dr. FROSCH. I would like to make two comments on that subject. Let me first talk about the overall planning aspect. In the beginning of any planning exercise, one of the first questions that the people who will have to do the work ask about is, "What budget level should we be planning for" I have avoided the constraints of giving a dollar number to the people who are trying to produce the ideas. Instead I have told them that I want a list of ideas that we will discuss and from which we will try to choose that is clearly longer than a reasonable budget would accommodate. It doesn't mean I am looking for unreasonable budgets, but it does mean that I am looking to be able to choose what kind of budget level I want to argue for in terms of the quality of the ideas and proposals that are in the program that that budget will