The year 1996 has been a particularly fruitful time for NASA. The Galileo spacecraft is conducting a comprehensive investigation of Jupiter from uniquely productive vantage points in orbit around the giant planet. The Hubble Space Telescope continues to astound the world with its frequent revelations of space phenomena. Space Shuttle/Mir dockings have been carried out with impressive professionalism by the American and Russian crews. Accelerating deliveries of flight hardware has kept the International Space Station on track for initial assembly operations next year. And the aeronautics program marked its "return to flight," a renewed emphasis on the use of experimental aircraft with the unveiling of the X-36 tailless experimental vehicle.
We, in NASA, are justifiably proud of these and other accomplishments in aeronautics and space. We are equally proud of another type of accomplishment, one which is less visible to the public but just as important to the future of aerospace in America as are our dramatic operational achievements: we are reinventing NASA to better structure its organization and activities to meet the realities of the times and its potential for the future.
The dictates of reducing the national deficit have made it necessary for the agency to absorb large-scale funding cuts. The challenge has been to cope with these reductions while maintaining program stability. We have responded by seeking and finding new efficiencies in every phase of NASA operations to achieve cost savings with minimal loss of capability. Necessity, in this instance, is the mother of reinvention.
We have reversed cost growth; whereas NASA was experiencing large cost overruns four years ago, we are holding the line on meeting our costs estimates, and in some cases, underrunning those estimates. We have generated considerable savings by streamlining the management of the International Space Station and by restructuring several other large space programs. We have created many processes to reduce costs within the Space Shuttle program without compromising our high safety standards. We are realizing markedly significant savings by compressing the time it takes to design and develop a spacecraft vehicle with costs as a major consideration.
These are just a few of literally hundreds of examples wherein NASA is effecting major savings while maintaining the integrity and capabilities of the programs.
Despite this sharp focus on economy, NASA has by no means abandoned the exciting goals envisioned throughout its heritage. We have developed a NASA Strategic Plan that looks well into the future and targets such possibilities as human planetary exploration missions, lunar-based observatories, hypersonic aircraft, space-based commerce, and a global system for monitoring Earth's land, seas, and atmosphere. And we have created roadmaps that define the technologies needed to attain those goals.
Our strategic plan is bold and exciting, yet a pragmatic plan that accepts the probability of stringent funding for some time to come. We know that, if we are to attain the goals, we will have to do more with less, do it faster, and do it better. We are confident we can do that -- because we're doing it now.
Daniel S. Goldin
National Aeronautics and