National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Principal Recommendations of the Augustine Commission, 1990
[Editorial Headnote: From the Report of the Advisory
Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 1990),
pp. 47-48. Page numbers of original document in brackets.]
 Principal Recommendations
This report offers specific recommendations pertaining to civil
space goals and program content as well as suggestions relating
to internal NASA management. These are summarized below in four
primary groupings. In order to implement fully these recommendations
and suggestions, the support of both the Executive Branch and
Legislative Branch will be needed, and of NASA itself.
Principal Recommendations Concerning Space Goals
It is recommended that the United States' future civil space program
consist of a balanced set of five principal elements:
- a science program, which enjoys highest priority within the
civil space program, and is maintained at or above the current
fraction of the NASA budget (Recommendations 1 and 2);
- a Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) focusing on environmental
measurements (Recommendation 3);
- a Mission from Planet Earth (MFPE), with the long-term goal
of human exploration of Mars, preceded by a modified Space Station
which emphasizes life-sciences, an exploration base on the moon,
and robotic precursors to Mars (Recommendations 4, 5, 6, and 7);
- a significantly expanded technology development activity,
closely coupled to space mission objectives, with particular attention
devoted to engines + a robust space transportation system (Recommendation
Principal Recommendations Concerning Programs
With regard to program content, it is recommended that:
- the strategic plan for science currently under consideration
be implemented (Recommendation 2);
- a revitalized technology plan be prepared with strong input
from the mission offices, and that it be funded (Recommendation
- Space Shuttle missions be phased over to a new unmanned (heavy-lift)
launch vehicle except for mission where human involvement is essential
or other critical national needs dictate (Recommendation 9);
- Space Station Freedom be revamped to emphasize life-sciences
and human space operations, and include microgravity research
as appropriate. It should be reconfigured to reduce cost and complexity;
and the current 90-day time limit on redesign should be extended
if a thorough reassessment is not possible in that period (Recommendation
- a personnel module be provided, as planned, for emergency
return from Space Station Freedom, and that initial provisions
be made for two-way missions in the event of unavailability of
the Space Shuttle (Recommendation 11).
Principal Recommendations Concerning Affordability
It is recommended that the NASA program be structured in scope
so as not to exceed a funding profile containing approximately
10 percent real growth per year throughout the remainder of the
decade and then remaining at that level, including but not limited
to the following actions:
- redesign and reschedule the Space Station Freedom to reduce
cost and complexity (Recommendation 6);
- defer or eliminate the planned purchase of another orbiter
- place the Mission from Planet Earth on a "go-as-you-pay"
basis, i.e., tailoring the schedule to match the availability
of funds (Recommendation 5).
Principal Recommendations Concerning Management
With regard to management of the civil space program, it is recommended
- an Executive Committee of the Space Council be established
which includes the Administrator of NASA (Recommendation 12);
- major reforms be made in the civil service regulations as
they apply to specialty skills; or, if that is not possible, exemptions
be granted to NASA for at least 10 percent of its employees to
operate under a tailored personnel system; or, as a final 
alternative, that NASA begin selectively converting at least some
of its centers into university-affiliated Federally Funded Research
and Development Centers (Recommendations 14 and 15);
- NASA management review the mission of each center to consolidate
and refocus centers of excellence in currently relevant fields
with minimum overlap among centers (Recommendation 13).
It is considered by the Committee that the internal organization
of any institution should be the province of, and at the discretion
of, those bearing ultimate responsibility for the performance
of that institution. . . .
- That the current headquarters structure be revamped, disestablishing
the positions of certain existing Associate Administrators . .
- an exceptionally well-qualified independent cost analysis
group be attached to headquarters with ultimate responsibility
for all top-level cost estimating including cost estimates provided
outside of NASA;
- a systems concept and analysis group reporting to the Administrator
of NASA be established as a Federally Funded Research and Development
- multi-center projects be avoided wherever possible, but when
this is not practical, a strong and independent project office
reporting to headquarters be established near the center having
the principle share of the work for that project; and that this
project office have a systems engineering staff and full budget
authority (ideally industrial funding--i.e., funding allocations
related specifically to end-goals).
In summary, we recommend:
- 1) Establishing the science program as the highest priority
element of the civil space program, to be maintained at or above
the current fraction of the budget.
- 2) Obtaining exclusions for a portion of NASA's employees
from existing civil service rules or, failing that, beginning
a gradual conversion of selected centers to Federally Funded Research
and Development Centers affiliated with universities, using as
a model the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- 3) Redesigning the Space Station Freedom to lessen complexity
and reduce cost, taking whatever time may be required to do this
thoroughly and innovatively.
- 4) Pursuing a Mission from Planet Earth as a complement to
the Mission to Planet Earth, with the former having Mars as its
very long-term goal--but relieved of schedule pressures and progressing
according to the availability of funding.
- 5) Reducing our dependence on the Space Shuttle by phasing
over to a new unmanned heavy lift launch vehicle for all but missions
requiring human presence.
The Committee would be pleased to meet again in perhaps six months
should the NASA Administrator so desire, in order to assist on
the implementation process. In the meantime, NASA may wish to
seek the assistance of its regular outside advisory group, the
NASA Advisory Council, to provide independent and ongoing advice
for implementing these findings.
Each of the recommendations herein is supported unanimously by
the members of the Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S.
For Further Information Contact Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian,