Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NASA Areas

The previous sections have discussed the proposed new funding in terms of the application areas that could be addressed by the new funding. Application areas were viewed in terms of the types of Earth problems that could be solved. This section will discuss the same efforts from a different perspective – that of the NASA directorates or branches that would be involved. This different perspective may clarify some questions resulting from the unfamiliar application point of view on how the programs would be managed, organized, and run. The “buckets” that the application area funding might fall in, if NASA isn’t actually restructured to have an “application” focus, could be as shown below. It may be useful to think of the increases in funding for these 8 NASA areas to be roughly of the same order of magnitude as the funding for the 8 application areas – perhaps $500M to $900M per year for each area. Note that much of the funding would be directed “through” the NASA areas for purchase of commercial services, funding university research or space missions, and offering prizes for innovation.

1. Environment – Much of the Environment application area would fall here, typically as small missions to complement current NASA environmental satellite missions. However, many of the Environment application area projects would in fact not fall here; they would fall under planetary science, Commercial suborbital use, and other NASA areas.

2. Planetary science and demonstrations – This would include efforts from various application areas that perform demonstrations on the Moon, as well as comparative planetary science work in the Environment application area performed on other planets.

3. COTS – This would include the COTS efforts in the Transportation application area, and possibly supplemental funding from other areas that need COTS to work (Exploration, etc).

4. ISS and other space station support and use – This would include space station work done for the Health, Medicine, and Biology application area, any satellite servicing work involving space stations in the Exploration application area, Energy application area demonstrations like SPS and SRS tests using space stations, and any other uses of space stations.

5. Commercial suborbital use, Centennial Challenges, other prizes, and scholarships – This would include Environment, Defense and Security, Education, and Transportation use of commercial suborbital vehicles. It would also include Education prizes and scholarships. Prizes have been described mainly in terms of the Education application area in the preceding sections, but in fact they could and should come from any and all of the application areas.

6. New Millennium demonstrations; space infrastructure demonstration and development – Some of the Exploration application area work would fall under this category for space infrastructure. Many application areas, like Environment, Energy, Communication and Media, and Transportation, could also provide work for robotic technology demonstrations in the spirit of the New Millennium program or space infrastructure demonstrations.

7. Aeronautics – This would include projects in application areas that use aviation, like Defense and Security, Transportation, and Environment.

8. Human Satellite Servicing and Exploration – Obviously the Exploration application area is the centerpiece of this NASA area. However, work for this area could also come from other application areas, like the Environment and Defense and Security application areas, for example for servicing Earth observation satellites.

Note that the Education application area could, and probably would, provide work and capabilities for just about any of the above NASA areas.

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