Category Why Mars

The Mars Exploration Program

From NASA’s establishment in 1958, the space agency looked to Mars as a compelling prize, the one place, beyond the Moon, where robotic and human exploration could converge. Over the years the human space venture to Mars remained a dream, on NASA’s agenda, but always on a distant horizon. NASA’s Mars robotic program—the focus of this study—has now been actualized, mark­ing one of NASA’s greatest achievements.

What has been the nature of NASA’s Mars exploration program? How was it created and sustained? How has it adapted to scientific findings and shifting po­litical winds? What have been the barriers to the program? How was opposition countered? Where is the program going? These and other questions have not been answered adequately in the existing literature. Most writing about Mars deals with specific missions and emphasizes the technical aspects. The people, institutions, politics, and policy behind the technical exploits get relatively little attention. NASA’s role, although mentioned, is seldom addressed in depth. What is significant is that the missions form part of an ongoing government effort that has lasted over half a century and promises to extend indefinitely into the distant future. Mars is a federal program, but it is also a destination, a place and a magnet for the human imagination. For advocates of robotic and human Mars exploration—who seem often to disagree as much as they agree—it is a great quest, a difficult and noble journey into the unknown.

Mars exploration has evolved from the Mariner flybys in the 1960s, which provided the first blurred glimpses of the Red Planet, to orbiters and landers in the 1970s. Later, in the 1990s, NASA created machines capable of not only landing but also roving the planet. The Clinton administration in 1996 set as a national goal that NASA embark on “a sustained program to support a robotic presence on the surface of Mars.”2 By the early twenty-first century, NASA was building an intricate infrastructure on Mars, a technical system involving orbiters, landers, rovers, laboratories, and communications systems. NASA, moreover, had company on Mars, as other nations sent their own devices. The

names of the machines have become well known not only to scientists but also to the public over the years: Mariner, Viking, Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Spirit, Opportunity, Phoenix, MSL with its Curiosity rover, and others. With modern technology, citizens on Earth can participate in an epic adventure and explore Mars through robotic machines of incredible capacity. These machines extend human senses of sight, sound, and touch across millions of miles. They have taken NASA, America, and the world to a period that John Grotzinger, chief scientist of the MSL, called “the golden era of Mars exploration,” a time of “extended, overlapping, and increasingly coordinated missions.”3

The evolution of the program has not been all positive. Nor is the future cer­tain. There have been expensive failures amidst the successes. There have been ebbs and flows in scientific and public enthusiasm, heights of exultation, depths of despair. For Mars exploration, between Viking in 1976 and Mars Observer’s launch in 1992, there was a long gap in missions, and then Mars Observer itself became what was called a $1 billion failure. But NASA maintained the quest in the 1990s and into the new millennium. That it did so was not easy. It was a test of scientific, bureaucratic, and political resilience. The key issue in understand­ing the Mars exploration program is one that is generic in American democ­racy: how to maintain a long-term, large-scale, high-risk, and expensive federal research and development (R&D) program in the face of competing scientific, bureaucratic, and public priorities and ever-changing political winds.

Adopting Voyager

In December 1964, following preliminary studies by NASA, JPL, and industry, NASA’s Science Directorate, the Office of Space Science and Applications, of­ficially established Voyager as a flight program. Like Mariner, it was conceived as a program, not a single project. OSSA projected a mission to launch the first Voyager spacecraft as early as 1971, with successor flights at later two-year Mars opportunities. Webb, who could deal with LBJ on a one-on-one basis, obtained President Johnson’s assent to include modest definitional start-up funds in the budget Johnson sent to Congress in early 1965. By the end of 1965, buoyed by Mariner 4’s success, Congress approved Voyager.

NASA started with strong scientific support for Voyager. The National Acad­emy of Sciences Space Science Board declared in 1965, “The biological explora­tion of Mars is a scientific undertaking of the greatest validity and significance. Its realization will be a milestone in the history of human achievement. Its im­portance and the consequences for biology justify the highest priority among all scientific objectives in space, indeed, in the space program as a whole.”1 Mariner 4 findings seemed to have made it all the more imperative for Mars advocates with an interest in finding life to have a lander program. They saw no other way to answer their questions.

However, while Congress went along with the initiation of Voyager, the schedule and longer-term prospects were uncertain. The political and funding

environment of NASA began to change rapidly for the worse. NASA budgets peaked in 1965-1966. The Vietnam War and Johnson’s Great Society began to place increasing burdens on the overall federal budget. NASA was clearly catching up to the Russians in the race to the Moon, and some of the urgency behind NASA was ebbing. NASA was still a national priority, but other national needs had arisen. The result was less money for “new starts” or implementation of those that were authorized.

In this shifting environment, various NASA centers looked for work in al­ternative areas. The Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, saw op­portunity in Voyager. An aeronautics center, Langley could boast expertise in the science and technology of landing. JPL did not take kindly to Langley’s foray into JPL’s bureaucratic turf, but Langley had support for a role in Mars activ­ity in OSSA. Edgar Cortright, Newell’s deputy, reacted positively to Langley’s proposed Mars entry system at a meeting in 1965. Langley got a go-ahead to continue developing its ideas.2

While JPL and Langley jockeyed for roles, major decisions at the NASA Administrator’s level were under way with implications for both centers. The in­ability to get new programs authorized or funded adequately increasingly trou­bled Webb. He knew that he had to sell a post-Apollo program before NASA reached the Moon to avoid a major downsizing problem for his agency in the early 1970s. He was having difficulty getting the president to focus on post – Apollo goals. Johnson kept telling Webb to wait until next year. The problem was the production line of Saturn 5 rockets (the Moon rockets). To have future uses for more Saturn 5s, NASA needed post-Apollo programs, and it had none.

Once NASA got to the Moon, what would it do? Build a Moon base? Go to Mars? Decisions needed to be made. Without decisions justifying more work on Saturn 5s, von Braun’s Marshall Space Flight Center might have to start laying off rocket engineers. Webb went to Johnson and Congress and explained that it made no sense to spend so much money to create an unparalleled rocket/ spacecraft system and then not keep it going and put it to use. He received sympathy, but no decisions, and decisions had to start soon with the president and his budget given lengthy technology development times.

Webb got Voyager approved by his political masters at a time when NASA’s budget was still ample. It had not been authorized as a “post-Apollo” program, but Webb sought quietly to use it in this way. He did so by choosing to launch Voyager spacecraft by Saturn 5 rockets. This move in October 1965 shocked JPL, Langley, and the scientific community, because the spacecraft they con­

templated did not need so huge a booster. In fact, it would enlarge the scale and substantially raise the cost of Voyager as a program. It would also complicate roles, for the decision meant von Braun would be deeply involved in manage­ment decisions—maybe in charge. Newell tried to sell the use of Saturn 5s to the Mars scientists, however. From his standpoint, OSSA should have use of Saturn 5s and would find uses for this massive capability. He told the SSB, in seeking endorsement, “Fellows, if you don’t help me, George [Mueller, associate admin­istrator of the Office of Manned Space Flight, and bitter rival of Newell] will get all the Saturn 5s.”3 However, there were many scientists inside and especially outside NASA who worried that a Saturn-driven Voyager would take money from smaller scientific robotic programs they wanted.

The Saturn 5 decision ignited a debate within the Mars science community. The debate had many nuances, but at its heart was a question of priorities. There were scientists who were not exobiologists who envisioned a string of Mariner flights to Mars at every two-year launch opportunity. They saw robotic Mars exploration in incremental and multidimensional terms, leading gradually to Voyager’s landing. Murray of Caltech was most articulate in expressing these concerns.4 He was an avid Mars advocate, although a skeptic about finding life on the Red Planet. He and his allies wanted a more comprehensive Mariner program that would systematically study geologic, meteorological, and numer­ous other disciplinary questions in addition to biology. Murray was himself a planetary geologist, and he believed that understanding the Mars physical en­vironment came first and was intrinsic to detecting life on Mars—if there was life on Mars. Exobiologists did not necessarily disagree with this gradualist, comprehensive approach, but they were anxious to get moving as fast as possible toward Voyager. After all, they reasoned, finding life was the big prize, and why not go for it while they could?

The real pressure for more direct flight to Mars came not from scientists but from NASA leadership, and the issue was use of the Saturn 5. Once Webb made that decision, it was obvious that not science but post-Apollo needs were his reasons for the Voyager priority. Moreover, cost considerations in a steady – state NASA budget might mean eliminating possible intervening Mars Mariner flights. Doing so did not sit well with scientists generally or with JPL. But JPL found its own influence in NASA decision making slipping. In the first half of the 1960s, when headquarters was overwhelmingly preoccupied with the Moon, JPL was where the most important technical decisions affecting Mariner were made. In the second half of the decade, headquarters began pulling decisions upward as it thought about the future, and NASA funding became constrained. Plans called for managing Voyager in an Apollo mode, with a strong headquar­ters director making use of multiple NASA centers, industry, and universities.5 The “incrementalists” and Saturn 5 “leaper” camps were both represented in OSSA, but OSSA was not making the Saturn 5 decision.

Pickering, seeing competition from Langley for Voyager, tried to be sup­portive of larger NASA decisions. He said he wanted to move toward Voyager as soon as possible but did not want to eliminate Mariner flights. Some head­quarters officials described the JPL attitude as “schizophrenic.”6 As Koppes, in his history of JPL, wrote, “The ambivalence about, and outright opposition to, Voyager derived from the fundamental question of what the laboratory should be. . . . Voyager would entail a huge expansion of JPL. . . the sheer size of the project would divert the laboratory from the in-house tasks that Pickering and the senior staff considered vital to its elan and substitute extensive monitoring of industrial contracts. JPL staff were ‘doers’ rather than ‘managers,’ and Mariner – type projects allowed them to do what they had come to the laboratory to do.”7

Voyager’s high-level proponents in headquarters were aware of the resis­tance to Saturn 5-Voyager within the scientific community and at JPL. JPL’s attitudes, and traditional independence in general, did not help its cause with NASA Headquarters in decisions about roles in the Voyager program which JPL might play vis-a-vis Langley. Nor did JPL’s use of the California congres­sional delegation to get its way go over well with Webb.

President Johnson postponed post-Apollo decision making as long as he could. At the end of 1966, he acquiesced to Webb’s importunings. As January 1967 began, Johnson sent a budget to Congress that provided $71.5 million to begin developing Voyager hardware using a Saturn 5 rocket. The proposed program would send two large orbiters and landers to Mars in 1973 (a slip from the previously projected 1971 launch) and then do so again in 1975. It was im­plicit that those two missions were the beginning of a major robotic exploration program that would extend further in time and destination. Mars would come first, but NASA would develop a capability to explore the solar system.

The budget also included for the first time funds to start an Apollo Applica­tions Program (AAP) that would also use Saturn 5s in near-Earth orbit. The Skylab “space station” effort would evolve from this activity. The point of both AAP and Voyager from Webb’s perspective was to sustain institutional infra­structure and technological capability in space after the Moon landing, pending the nation’s readiness to make a national policy decision akin to Apollo. The only decision that could be like Apollo in size and dramatic challenge would be one about human flight to Mars. Webb was thus buying time for his agency in a deteriorating political environment. Voyager would be justified publicly in its own right, on the basis of science, but it was also a means to an unstated end— keeping Saturn rockets, von Braun’s center, and human space exploration going.

Webb also wanted to link von Braun to Voyager not only technically but politically. The famed rocket engineer and Marshall Space Flight Center direc­tor had dreamed of going to Mars for years. Webb believed that von Braun could help him sell Voyager in the difficult budget climate. Telling von Braun he could build not only the Saturn 5s for Voyager but also “the main vehicle that would stay in orbit around Mars,” Webb “wanted to link the Voyager to Dr. von Braun’s name and to a proven management team.” He even asked von Braun to move to Washington at least for a time to help sell the program to Congress.8


July 20 came. The Soviets had landed twice, once in 1972 and then in 1974. The first lander had survived 20 seconds and the second most likely crashed, neither transmitting pictures back. Would the United States meet a similar fate? Mars was 212 million miles away as the flight controllers at JPL made the decisions that separated the lander from Viking’s orbiter. Then came the slow descent, begun with a parachute, braced by retro-rockets, as the lander neared the surface. Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, Viking could land—or crash—19 minutes before anyone on Earth would know which fate had occurred. NASA had prepared two press statements: one for success, one for failure. Naugle called the wait the longest of his life.57 It was “nail-biting time,” Martin later said. Mutch looked at his shoes as he waited and silence engulfed the mission control room. Dreading failure, he composed a statement of condolence for friends standing near him.

“A muffled prayer came over the loudspeaker. ‘Come on, baby,’ said a voice.” Finally, the waiting and agony ended: “We have touchdown.”58 When the signal came that Viking had landed safely at 5:12 a. m. (PDT), everyone at JPL gave a loud cheer, followed by hugs, laughs, and other expressions of sheer relief. Hinners cried, as did Lee (whose wife was still days away from giving birth).59 Pictures later showed that Viking came within 10 feet of hitting a huge boulder, and almost certain failure.60

Politicians and the media joined in the celebration. Headlines across the United States and beyond congratulated NASA for what the New York Times called a “superb and triumphant achievement.”61 As Viking sent back the first color pictures of Mars, revealing a light blue sky (later determined to be an imaging error; the sky was pink) above reddish land, there was rapt attention to the mission. President Gerald Ford was among those who greeted the news and photos with awe and excitement. He personally called to congratulate Fletcher, Martin, and the NASA team.62

Viking had passed its first great test in landing. Now all it had to do was find life.

Mars Observer Troubles

Mars Observer was still on target for 1992. However, it was not exactly un­troubled. Its budget was mounting from the $250 million slated for the first in a series of low-cost “planetary observers” its original architects had planned.33 The administration and Congress had approved only one Observer, not a pro­gram of closely coupled missions, and this initial “low-cost” venture was up to at least $450 million in cost in 1988, not counting launch expenses. The problems causing growth were many, but the basic reason for the cost overrun was that Observer was increasingly vital to all stakeholders: NASA, JPL, scientists, the industrial contractors, administration, Congress, and even the Soviet Union.

Seeing Observer as the first U. S. Mars spacecraft in the years since Viking, Mars scientists were desperate to get their experiments on the machine. NASA, JPL, and their political masters did not want it to fail, especially now that it embraced foreign policy purposes. NASA sought to reduce risk through various technological safeguards. Virtually all involved agreed that the delay from I990 to I992 made it all the more essential that the scientific payoff be substantial. Moreover, the use of a shuttle added to the pressures to make the mission wor­thy of the huge launch cost.

Indicative of how costs could rise was a decision in 1986 by Edelson. He had personally ordered that a sophisticated new camera developed by Michael Malin, then at JPL, be put on Observer. He thereby overruled Malin’s JPL superior, who had tried to keep it off. “I’m not going to approve of any mission to Mars, or any planet that doesn’t have a camera aboard,” Edelson had de­clared.34 The decision had merit, but so did other decisions that added expense. Briggs, as NASA official responsible for the flight at headquarters, tried hard to keep costs down, struggling with a host of stakeholders for whom technical suc­cess loomed largest in values. He did not succeed. Many headquarters officials shared the performance-oriented values of those doing the work at JPL.35 Thus, formally and informally, the mission was redefined and grew in instruments and complexity over time.

The rising expense became so much an issue that Briggs in May 1988 asked the Space Science Board’s Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) what instruments might be taken off Mars Observer. The com­mittee refused to say, declaring,

For whatever reasons, Mars Observer has now outgrown all the original Observer class parameters. Moreover, it is clear from the recently promulgated OSSA strategic plan that with the failure to establish a true Observer line, MO almost surely represents the only mission to Mars by this nation in the coming decades. COMPLEX therefore takes the position that in these circumstances MO cannot be judged by the criteria for science return that would apply to Observer-class missions as initially conceived by the Solar System Exploration Committee. Consequently, the potential surrender of any current mission capability that substantially addresses the primary science objectives established for the exploration of Mars is a matter of great concern to the committee.36

On July 19, Fisk went to JPL and met with Allen, the director of the facil­ity. They agreed, via a “handshake,” to descope the mission, removing certain instruments. At the same time, they concurred that NASA would add the Mars balloon relay, with funding from outside the Mars Observer project, to enable possible U. S.-USSR collaboration.37

Moving Ahead: Astrobiology, Pathfinder, and More

Although human exploration was the long-term goal, the search for life in the universe was the immediate driver for Mars activities. Goldin went on CNN after the December 1996 Gore workshop on the Mars meteorite and said he would provide money to nurture astrobiology.59 Huntress had coined the term, a change from Viking-era “exobiology.”60 He wanted to convey a broader search for life in line with recent discoveries of extrasolar planets and possible water under Jupiter’s ice-laden Europa moon. The new term also aimed to herald a new beginning in NASA’s search for life.

Goldin designated Ames Research Center in California as home to a new Astrobiology Institute. Ames had been in jeopardy. It was an old aeronautics center whose role had diminished over the years. Senator Barbara Boxer (D – CA) had urged Goldin to secure Ames, and Goldin told her not to worry. NASA needed a lead center for astrobiology, and Ames was the logical place. It had always had an interest in life sciences and had played an important role in that respect in the Viking era through the pioneering work of biologist Chuck Klein. It had helped keep life-on-Mars research alive in the hiatus years after Viking. Goldin also asked Soffen, who had been lead scientist in Viking, but who had worked at NASA in the Earth observation field subsequently, to return to the life-search quest. He asked him to assist in planning for how NASA should rebuild the astrobiology field. The search for life on Mars and in the universe was now Goldin’s vision and rhetoric for NASA.

What Soffen and others told him, and Goldin well knew, was that NASA and the planetary science community had few life scientists in their ranks. In July, Goldin spoke at the American Astronomical Society meeting and asked his large audience, “How many life scientists are in this room?” Practically no one raised a hand. If we are going to search for life, said Goldin, we are going to need life scientists. He announced that NASA was creating an Astrobiology Institute that would bring traditional planetary scientists and life scientists together.61 Even though NASA’s budget was constricted, Goldin proclaimed he would add astrobiology to his list of priorities. Although based at Ames, the institute would enlist an astrobiology community elsewhere, especially at universities. The in­tent was to rebuild a field of science which had become almost moribund after Viking.

Mars momentum was growing rapidly, the meteorite had been a catalyst, and then came the spectacular impact on the public of the Pathfinder mission. Launched in 1996, Pathfinder landed on Mars on July 4, 1997. For the first time in two decades, an object from Earth had made it successfully to the Red Planet. Pathfinder’s task was not to search for life, but to demonstrate that a faster, bet­ter, cheaper mission could work at Mars. Its role was to establish credibility for the 10-year Mars Surveyor Program. Moreover, it carried a small rover, named Sojourner, and its goal was to show that such a vehicle could maneuver at Mars.

Everything about the Pathfinder/Sojourner mission was fascinating, in­cluding the way the landing was accomplished. Surrounded and protected by a cocoon of airbags, Pathfinder hit the ground and then bounced as high as a five-story building. Then it bounced again, 20 times, before coming to rest a mile from the initial landing point, on an ancient floodplain amidst rocks and boulders.62 When Huntress, who was at JPL witnessing the landing, heard someone announce, “Full stop,” he “jumped up and screamed.” He ran to the mission team. Many were in tears, and one turned to him and said, “Thanks for giving us the responsibility to do this.” Such a heartfelt statement of apprecia­tion “broke me up,” Huntress remembered.63

All the scientists and NASA officials at JPL rejoiced and then celebrated again the next day when Sojourner, a six-wheeled rover, rolled from its carrier and inched along the surface. It eventually met with rocks that got names such as Barnacle Bill, Yogi, Scooby Doo, and Boo-Boo.64

Pathfinder was an unalloyed triumph. Headlines everywhere proclaimed the success, as did appreciative editorials in leading newspapers. Both Clinton and Gore issued congratulatory statements to NASA, and Gore called JPL to praise all those associated with the mission. After so many years and a sequence of failures (Russian and U. S.), it was marvelous to have what was universally seen as a great success.65 Striking pictures of Mars were shown on television, and Clinton admitted he couldn’t get enough of watching them. Gore declared that the “validity” of faster, better, cheaper was being borne out by Pathfinder.66

Huntress was ecstatic: “This mission,” he said, “has demonstrated quite clearly that we can in fact build and launch planetary missions for a low cost.” And low costs “will allow us to continuously launch these missions and provide the American public with the excitement, the drama, and the knowledge that comes from our solar system exploration program.”67

It was obvious that Pathfinder and Sojourner had hit a nerve with the public. NASA released images quickly not only to the media, but to the Internet. This decision to use the Internet brought about the largest virtual participation in exploration by people since the world watched the Apollo Moon landing in 1969. Indeed, no event up to this time had as many “hits” on the Internet—80 million a day in the first days, 450 million by the beginning of August. Various observers commented excitedly on the phenomenon: “It wasn’t just the media that’s picked up on this story,” said Alex Roland, a Duke University history pro­fessor and former NASA historian. “People of their own volition are turning to it in incredible numbers.”68 What was especially impressive, said another NASA watcher, Jerry Grey of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was that this achievement came on “a shoestring” budget. Louis Friedman, ex­ecutive director of the Planetary Society, said that the mission had “reawakened the image of NASA as ‘the can do’ agency.” John Logsdon, space policy profes­sor at George Washington University, called Pathfinder a “robotic folk hero” with the public.69

NASA made the most of the public’s interest, emphasizing cost-benefit com­parisons, pointing out that Pathfinder had cost taxpayers $250 million, whereas Viking would have cost, in 1997 money, $3.6 billion.70 Viking employed thou­sands, whereas Pathfinder only a few hundred. Goldin personally gained enor­mous credit, and he said Pathfinder was just the beginning of NASA’s assault on the Red Planet.

Pathfinder and Sojourner were destined to gradually cease operating in Sep­tember, but while they were highest on the public consciousness, Goldin paid tribute to the late Carl Sagan. He held a special ceremony honoring the famous astronomer, writer, Mars advocate, and advisor to Goldin. With Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, present, Goldin named Pathfinder a memorial station for Sagan.71 Sagan thus joined former Viking scientist and NASA official Tim Mutch as having a memorial station on Mars.

On September ii, 1997, MGS, also launched in 1996, moved into Mars orbit. Its goal was to map Mars in unprecedented detail, almost as much as Mars Observer was to do. NASA again pointed to the difference in spending. NASA priced Mars Observer at $i billion. This mission cost $250 million.

To get into proper lower orbit, MGS used aerobraking, a method by which

it employed the friction of Mars’s atmosphere to slow the descent. However, when it sought to do so, the air resistance caused one of the solar panels needed to power the craft to bend too far backward. NASA had to reposition the space­craft to a higher orbit and replan the mission. The solar panel in question had apparently been damaged earlier in the flight; hence, there was serious concern of added harm. In November, NASA concluded that it could save the mission by very gradually lowering the orbit. This approach would minimize the atmo­spheric resistance, but it would take an extra year before MGS would be in its optimal orbit.72 NASA decided to take the time; the process of a slow aerobrak – ing began. The prognosis was positive.

The NASA budget Clinton proposed in February 1998 was $13.5 billion, a modest decline from the previous year. However, space science fared extremely well, getting another 4% increase.73 With budget balancing continuing to be top priority for the president and Congress, this raise was impressive. Huntress used the good news for science as an occasion to announce he had decided to leave NASA after heading space science since 1993. “We seemed to be on a roll,” he later commented. He felt it was the right time to retire.74 He was also exhausted. Joseph Boyce, one-time NASA chief scientist, marveled that he had lasted this long. Huntress “had the highest threshold of pain I’ve seen,” said Boyce. He saw Goldin “embarrass him in public. Rip him apart. But he knew how to get things out of Goldin. He kept his eye on the ball.”75

Huntress gave way to Weiler, who had run the Origins initiative. Age 49 at the time, Weiler was an experienced science manager who had honed his internal and external political skills earlier as science leader of the Hubble Space Telescope. Pugnacious in style, he got along with Goldin. Because he was a single parent of a child with health problems, he had to leave his office at 4 p. m. Goldin gave Weiler the OK for this need but kept in touch with Weiler via a pager. He called Weiler at any time, day or night, seven days a week.76 Weiler took over at a time of consensus in the White House and Congress that space science, especially Mars, should be protected from budgetary vagaries. The Mars rock was obviously the chief reason for this view.

In the time since the Mars rock announcement, scientific skepticism about the claims had grown, however. A University of Arizona-Scripps Institution of Oceanography study contended that 80% of the organic materials in the rock came from terrestrial contamination. JSC’s McKay found the new report “inter­esting,” but said the team stood by its original contention. Richard Zare of Stan­ford, the most prominent scientist on the team, said the research “cast doubt”

but was not “a refutation” of the life hypothesis.77 He did not believe minds had changed one way or the other since the claim was first announced. What was different, he said, was that prior to the Mars rock, “if you talked about searching for life on another planet, you were considered a nut. It has now become a huge topic that is attracting the best scientists.” Weiler said there would be no settling the Mars debate “until we go there and get some samples.”78

Whatever the scientific debate, the rock, combined with Pathfinder’s pub­lic impact, gave NASA’s Mars exploration program much greater momentum. Goldin saw search for life as the kind of exciting vision that could unify activities in the agency and build support outside.

Origins was a compelling theme for all NASA missions beyond Earth. Astro – biology was now an ongoing activity at NASA, with Ames the lead center. Scott Hubbard, the senior space scientist at Ames who had conceptualized Pathfinder in its formative stage, was working to relate astrobiology to flight missions.79 In 1998, NASA formally established its Astrobiology Institute. This was seen as a “virtual” organization, with many institutions involved in government and the university world. Soffen assisted Goldin and worked with others to get the institute started. Soffen was at an age when he could have retired, but he wanted to help fulfill his own much-delayed dream.

In May, NASA announced the selection of 11 academic and research insti­tutions as the first members of the Astrobiology Institute, calling it “a major component of NASA’s Origins Program.”80 Goldin asked Hubbard to take over for Soffen, now that the institute was under way. Like Soffen, Hubbard was “in­terim.” Goldin said he intended to recruit a “King Kong” biologist to head the new institute.81 The next year Goldin hired the 73-year-old Baruch Blumberg, a biochemist who had won a Nobel Prize, to be its official director.

Also in May 1998, Goldin gave a commencement address at the University of Arizona. He urged the graduates to have a dream and follow it. “Mine,” he said, “is an astronaut on Mars—in a nice, white spacesuit set against a red back­ground, with a NASA logo on one shoulder and an American flag on the other.” In August, he spoke at a memorial for Alan Shepard, the recently deceased first American to fly into space. “Alan,” he promised, “America will go to Mars.”82

Zubrin helped fuel this momentum from outside. The Mars Underground was gone, with Goldin acquiring one of the last remaining red identity buttons from its early days as a quasi-secret society. He “begged me for a button,” Carol Stoker recalled.83 In the Underground’s place was Zubrin’s newly organized Mars Society, which held its first meeting in Boulder in August. At least 750 people from 40 countries paid $180 to attend the four-day conference to make a case for sending humans to Mars. While emphasizing human exploration, Zubrin wanted the robotic program to scout the way. He urged that its budget be doubled.84

The sense of progress was surely felt at JPL. Charles Elachi, director ofJPL’s Space and Earth Science Program, headed a study for how to return samples of soil and rock from Mars, and Goldin approved plans he worked out. Norm Haynes, now Mars program director at JPL, spoke of returning four samples from four separate locations on Mars by 2011.85 His boss, Ed Stone, JPL direc­tor, was caught up in the sense of optimism that permeated the agency, and Stone pressed Haynes hard for action.86 Maybe it would be possible to go even sooner than 2005, some Mars advocates said.

The “yes, we can” mood was embodied in Elachi. Elachi called for sending two MSR landers, perhaps one as early as 2003 and another in 2005. An orbiter would collect samples in 2007 and return them to Earth in 2008. Asked to advise NASA, a panel of the SSB, while applauding the goal of MSR and endorsing the Elachi plan, nevertheless expressed some concerns that it was “aggressive” and entailed “risk.” It stated “low confidence” that NASA had the money for such a multistage mission. It called for a more “comprehensive” approach to under­stand the context of Mars as an abode of life, past or present.87 NASA’s scientific advisors did not wish to deter the agency from speeding toward a goal the Mars community had long sought, but they clearly were worried that NASA might be going too hard, too fast, too narrowly with insufficient resources.

Goldin pushed, and there were some doubters, but most connected with Mars in NASA and at JPL shared Goldin’s enthusiasm and longing. Doubters within NASA tended to keep quiet. No one wanted to be associated with what Huntress had called the “old guard.” NASA was launching two missions to Mars every two years under its Mars Surveyor Program. These were faster, better, cheaper missions. They were now geared to the accelerated goal of MSR. So far they were successful. In December, NASA launched Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO) and followed it up a month later with Mars Polar Lander (MPL). These were half the size of their predecessors (Pathfinder and MGS). The polar lander mission was in part a fulfillment of Lederberg’s desire to “go north” for landing in the Viking era. This was where Lederberg had thought life was most likely to be found. Unfortunately, Lederberg, who had helped pioneer the search for life on Mars, had died in February 1998.

NASA added two penetrators to MPL which would bore as deep as three feet below the planet’s surface. MGS, meanwhile, was gradually wending its way into an optimal orbit, and already sending back striking images. Ironically, one of its first findings was to prove that a “face” on Mars some enthusiasts still believed to have been carved by intelligent beings, and which Viking had detected, was a mesa.88

America was going to Mars. And so were the Japanese. Japan, in July, had successfully launched its first Mars probe, Planet B. Like the U. S. spacecraft, it was scheduled to arrive in 1999. The excitement and ambition among Mars advocates were palpable. As people got to see Mars, even vicariously, they would start to comprehend that there was a fascinating world out there, Zubrin said. It was time for “political action,” he proclaimed.89

In late 1998, NASA sent the elderly ex-astronaut, Senator John Glenn, back into space on a shuttle. It was a media extravaganza, as well as an occasion for national celebration and nostalgia for past glory. Walter Cronkite, who had cov­ered the Apollo landing for television news, came out of retirement to interview Clinton at Cape Canaveral at the time of the launch. Clinton said that he was open to more financial support to NASA for the International Space Station. However, human spaceflight to Mars would have to wait. “Let’s get the Space Station up and going and [then] evaluate what our long-term prospects are,” he told Cronkite.90 Where Mars was concerned, the robotic program held center stage, it seemed to be performing exceptionally well, and there was political support up to the president.

Using Columbia to Advance

On August 28, CAIB released its report on the Columbia disaster. It found that the immediate, technical cause of the shuttle accident was a chunk of foam that had been jarred loose during takeoff and hit a vulnerable part of the shuttle with sufficient force to cause a rupture. On entering Earth’s atmosphere, the enormous heat that built up penetrated the shuttle and caused it to disintegrate. CAIB went beyond the technical explanation to score NASA on numerous or­ganizational fronts, all of which revealed the agency to be less vigilant than it should have been. Finally, it went beyond even NASA to criticize the “failure of national leadership” in space policy. National leaders had not had the will to replace the aging shuttle or provide the vision and money a robust human space program required. CAIB wanted a national policy response—a new vision for the space program. CAIB urged the president and Congress to give NASA a higher purpose for risking human lives, one that was greater than sending people around and around in near-Earth orbit.

Following the publication of the CAIB report, Congress held hearings, mak­ing its own inquiry about what had gone wrong and what specifically NASA was doing to improve the safety situation. The congressional hearing showed that many lawmakers wanted NASA to have a bolder goal and grander “vision” than it had. Exactly what that might be was undecided, however.27

In his first year, O’Keefe had not wanted to talk about destinations. After Columbia, and particularly the new pressures for a bold and clear vision, he was open to possibilities. He understood that that vision would ultimately have to come from the president.

Prior to Columbia, Bush had shown little interest in space. After Columbia, he said “our journey into space will go on.” But what did that mean? O’Keefe, using the leverage he had owing to his connections with Vice President Cheney, organized a small but high-level interagency group of White House and cabinet officials to recommend an answer to that question. The chair of the group was Steve Hadley, deputy director of the National Security Council.28 It was delib­erately a “trans-NASA” body, an attribute that would potentially help it make a recommendation with a more “national policy” base.

The group met periodically behind closed doors in the summer and well into the fall. It considered a range of possibilities. O’Keefe wanted a big decision, but also one that was affordable. Over time, the group decided that a return to the Moon made sense technically and financially. Bush, informed of the committee’s

preliminary thinking, indicated that the Moon was not exciting enough. He wanted to add Mars, much as his father had, in his aborted Moon-Mars initia­tive. The culmination of the planning effort came on December 19. O’Keefe, Cheney, Hadley, presidential science advisor John Marburger, top political advi­sor Karl Rove, and others gathered in the Oval Office with Bush. After looking at decision papers and budget numbers, Bush noted that the decision stressed return to the Moon. “This is more than just about the Moon, isn’t it?” he asked. With some prompting from Cheney, the group responded with “yes.” “Well,” said the president, “let’s do it!” He told Hadley to work out the time and place for the official announcement.29

A Stern Approach to Mars

On April 2, 2007, Alan Stern, age 50, joined NASA. A one-time astronaut candi­date, Stern had a $5.4 billion budget to manage and a constituency up in arms. He pledged to wring more good science out of his budget and to stop “manage­ment by checkbook,” that is, constantly adding money to projects beyond their original cost estimates. Either principal investigators would manage projects within costs, or they would risk project cancellations, he said.63 “There are going to be things I do that cause pain.”64

Griffin had appointed Stern in part to help him deal with the scientific com­munity. Cleave had never been truly accepted by the community. Stern bolstered his office’s status by appointing John Mather to be his chief scientist. Mather was a cowinner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006 for his discoveries connected with the big bang. With Stern (planets) and Mather (telescopes) in charge, space scientists had to take the NASA science leadership seriously.65

Griffin, meanwhile, continued to criticize the scientific community. In May, he accused NAS of failing to take account of realistic costs in its decadal surveys of space science needs. The NAS SSB, he charged, routinely—and dramati­cally—underestimated costs and then complained when NASA scaled back or cancelled projects the science body favored. An NAS spokesman acknowledged that Griffin had a point.66

Stern reinforced Griffin, explaining that scientists were involved in a zero – sum game. Echoing Marburger, he noted that to make room for new projects, NASA would have to turn off long-running projects. One of the longest-run­ning and most celebrated projects under Stern’s aegis was that of Spirit and Opportunity. In May, Spirit made a major discovery. It analyzed a patch of Mars soil that was extremely rich in silica. This provided some of the most convinc­ing evidence yet that ancient Mars was quite wet. The processes that generally produced such a concentrated deposit of silica required the presence of water.

“You could hear people gasp in astonishment,” said Squyres, the principal investigator. “This is a remarkable discovery. And the fact that we found some­thing this new and different after nearly 1200 days on Mars makes it even more remarkable. It makes you wonder what else is still out there.”67 Obviously, long – running, still-productive projects like the Mars Exploration Rovers would not go quietly, particularly when led by a scientist with a public relations sense like Squyres.

Stern was a change agent in temperament but, unlike Huntress, was uncom­fortable and unskilled in bureaucratic politics. Stern was impatient with the routines and constraints of operating in a complex organization. Huntress was a quiet entrepreneur. Stern was overt and public. Stern called his administrative philosophy “pragmatism,” and what he meant by that was “exchanging” more perfect solutions for more practical ones by using existing systems, modified to the least extent practical, to accelerate the pace of exploration.68 He applied that approach to Mars. The goal was MSR—this is what counted. To move the date for MSR closer would mean modifying the schedule of missions he inherited and converting MSL into even more a means toward MSR than it already was. In the long-standing tug-of-intellectual-war between leapers and gradualists, Stern was emphatically a leaper in the sense of wanting to get to MSR quickly.

The problem he had was resistance to the changes he wanted to impose and suspicions on the part of many Mars advocates about his motives. This was especially the case because he was seeking to innovate in a major way in a time of budget stasis. To do the new, he had to cut back on the old, including Mars projects that did not fit into his “pragmatic” philosophy. And he was in a hurry.

Griffin focused on human spaceflight and was reluctant to cope with the scientific community—a group he found vexing. He told Stern he would have a relatively free hand to run SMD. Stern took him seriously and told his staff he “had the keys to the program.”69 He wanted to reshape it in accord with his priorities. Many worried Mars advocates saw him as an “outer planets” man, but he vowed he also had a strong interest in Mars. However, he intended to move Mars research in a better direction. For example, one month after he arrived, JPL came to him asking for more money for MSL. He wanted that practice to stop. What he really wanted to do was to speed up MSR. As he recalled, “What I wanted was to give Mars Sample Return a higher priority. Since I was a boy, people have been talking about Mars Sample Return. I wanted to move it for­ward. . . . I wanted to get the first sample back as soon as possible—unlock the door. An imperfect sample return would be better than none at all.”

He spoke to Griffin and told him about his MSR priority. Griffin responded, “Let’s go.” And Stern was off and running.70 On July io, Stern used a telephone hookup to speak to some 500 Mars scientists attending the 7th International Conference on Mars. He said that it was time for NASA to target MSR in a seri­ous way. A new Mars astrobiology strategy recommended by the SSB set “analy­sis of a diverse suite of appropriate samples” as the highest-priority Mars science objective.71 In keeping with this recommendation, Stern said NASA needed to reorient the existing program as soon as possible in spite of the constrained budget. He proposed to begin by attaching equipment to MSL which would allow it to capture a sample of soil and rock as it moved across the Mars surface. “I think there’s something concrete about putting your stake in the ground,” he declared. Retrieving the sample would come later. Such a return mission would be costly, he stated, perhaps $3 billion to $4 billion. To get that kind of money would require skipping a mission between MSL and MSR. However, he said the lost mission would be worth it, given the significance of MSR. MSR would build support for the planetary program, he argued, in the scientific community, public, Congress, and OMB.

He pointed out that even at the present scaled-back level that the Mars pro­gram had undergone, it still absorbed almost half of all the money the planetary

program had—46%. The Mars community, he urged, should thread the needle. He warned that if the community did not opt for concentrating resources in the manner he described, the Mars budget would shrink. “That’s my analysis,” he said, “not my wish. . . that’s my analysis of the way the politics will go.” He called for an MSR mission in 2018. “Let’s get this done.. . make some history,” he exhorted.72

The Mars community reacted with considerable wariness. MSR was indeed the holy grail of the robotic program. It was the goal toward which the sequence of missions designed by Hubbard and implemented by Figueroa and now Mc – Cuistion moved, the culmination of the “follow-the-water” strategy. What sent a shiver through the community was the trade-off. Stern’s comment about drop­ping a mission to get the money sent a signal of alarm. Which mission? There were many Mars scientists who were not astrobiologists and had other technical interests. And would omitting one mission be enough?

Philip Christensen, a leading Mars scientist and professor of geological sci­ences at Arizona State University, spoke for many of his colleagues when he declared, “I am concerned that the sample return mission would take over the Mars program. If you put that mission too far in the future with not much in between, then you lose a lot of momentum. . . a lot of young talented scientists and engineers.” He saw “a real serious challenge” in carving out enough money in the near term to pay for MSR and still maintain a dynamic program.73

Zubrin wrote an op-ed in Space News entitled “Don’t Wreck the Mars Pro­gram.” He indicated that Stern was possibly thinking beyond killing one mission for MSR, to the point of considering sacrificing all missions, including the 2011 Scout project, to get money for sample return. Zubrin defended the robotic program as an essential precursor to human flight. “Since the origin a decade ago, the existing fly-every-opportunity robotic Mars program has proven to be a brilliant success.” He claimed to be no fan of Dan Goldin, but he gave the former NASA Administrator credit for launching a “sustained exploration program involving frequent launches” which created not only an infrastructure on Mars but a “proficient team competent to carry out ever more complex Mars missions.”74

Stern was undeterred by the criticism. He directed Ames to design a caching box for the MSL. Chris McKay, one-time Mars Underground leader and now an astrobiologist at Ames, was one who supported the push for MSR by starting with changes in the MSL rover. Indeed, he wanted to go further. He called on NASA and the Mars community to think not of one sample return mission, but a program of missions. The first sample return, he said, should be a “simple, pathfinder-like sample return… a technology demonstration.”

By using MSL to cache samples, NASA would get people to begin focusing on sample return as a goal, said McKay. “It ties sample return to the ongoing program. There’s a tendency to think of sample return as something ‘out there.’ … It doesn’t need to be. It can be something in the Mars program.” McKay argued that sample return had to “connect, ultimately, with human exploration of Mars.”75

The European Space Agency, meanwhile, expressed interest in cooperating with NASA on an MSR mission. NASA indicated openness to the possibility, and discussions began in a very general, long-range way.76 Stern had wasted no time in putting his stamp on the implementation of MEP.

As Stern planned what the next development steps in the Mars program would be, the operating program he inherited continued to move forward. In August, NASA launched the first Scout mission. In contrast to the other proj­ects, this mission was generated through a competition in the scientific com­munity and largely run by non-NASA scientists. A Scout mission was intended to be smaller in cost and personnel than a typical NASA/JPL venture. However, it had to be relevant to the NASA strategy, i. e., follow the water.

The goal of Phoenix, as designed by the University of Arizona’s Peter Smith, was to go near the Martian North Pole and “touch” water ice. From Lederberg’s entreaties at the time of Viking, there had been the view that near the poles there would be water (in the form of ice) and evidence of possible life. Phoe­nix would not be equipped to actually determine life issues. Moreover, it was stationary, not a rover. But at $400 million, it did carry a digging capability. It would try to penetrate the ice and see what characteristics it had that might be favorable or unfavorable to life. MPL had had this objective, but it had crashed. Phoenix “rose from the ashes” to take MPL’s place.77

The Bilateral Program’s Uncertainties

As NASA dealt with two missions (Mars Exploration Rovers and MSL) in vary­ing stages along a project cycle, its longer-run hopes for the MAX-C mission rested considerably on ESA and ExoMars decisions. Dordain was having trou­ble getting consensus from the nations to which he reported. France and Britain expressed reluctance to commit to the 2016 planned launch because of questions about who did what in 2018. Dordain complained he had to have decisions by June 29-30, when the Industrial Policy Committee met. That way he could get contractors moving July 1. “If we are not ready to launch the orbiter in 2016, there is no 2018 mission. If I delay agreeing to ExoMars financing until ques­tions about the rover are settled, industry could later tell me I am responsible for their missing the 2016 launch window. I do not want this.” He expected to alleviate some of the concerns expressed about the 2018 mission through the letter from Bolden confirming NASA’s intention to jointly develop the 2018 mission with ESA. He expected that letter June 28.52

It arrived late in the day on June 29. Bolden wrote that NASA would do its utmost to commit to the 2018 mission by September 15, when it hoped to have more clarity about its budget prospects. At this point, Bolden did not know what resources he would have. That reality meant delay on the 2016 decision until September 29-30 when the Industrial Policy Committee would take up the issue again.

Dordain decided that ESA had sufficient existing authority to fund work on ExoMars 2016 to keep an industrial team working on it at a minimal level for a few months. This would enable the mission to go full speed later to make up time for the 2016 launch date—assuming the United States came through with assurance in September and the Industrial Policy Committee gave its go-ahead. Dordain and the Industrial Policy Committee did not wish to foreclose options. Doing nothing amounted to a decision to kill ExoMars 2016, and without the 2016 mission, the 2018 project could be in jeopardy.53

On July 7, Italian Space Agency president Enrico Saggese said that his agency would be willing to sacrifice an entry, descent, and landing module planned for the 2016 flight if that would put the project back on track. Italy’s sacrifice mattered. Italy was the biggest contributor to ExoMars 2016, with 33% of the

ESA budget. Saggese said Italy wanted the collaboration to survive and launch ExoMars 2018. Yannick d’Escatha, president of the French Space Agency (with 15% of the spending on the mission), said his agency would also be willing to sacrifice the entry and descent module to reduce the possibility of the 2016 mis­sion exceeding its budget and threatening the 2018 project.

ESA’s biggest hurdle was NASA’s inability to confirm its role in the 2018 rover mission. Bolden had asked ESA to wait until September, when he could say more about NASA’s commitment. But ESA worried that waiting until mid- September before fully approving the 2016 mission would compromise the 2016 launch date. Dordain decided that ESA would wait until October 1 to make a final decision, meaning it would continue to find the money to keep the con­tractor team going on a skeletal basis with short-term contracts. Missing the 2016 launch date would threaten the 2018 mission since the 2016 mission would provide a telecommunications relay the 2018 rover would need to send informa­tion back to Earth.54


Few individuals or institutions are truly “against” Mars exploration. Opponents are concerned with the issue of priority and whether Mars gets too much versus the outer planets or some other science (or nonscience) option. Throughout the history ofMars exploration, there have been “opponents” who are, in fact, advo­cates for another priority. Their rhetoric typically calls for “balance.” Likewise, there have always been those who oppose federal spending in general, especially for programs they see as nonurgent. Larger, macropolitical forces invariably impinge on decision making in a specific policy sector, such as space. Big science is an inviting target for budget cutters, whether in OMB or Congress.

There have been a number of pressing alternatives within space policy to Mars exploration over the decades, such as Earth’s Moon in the 1960s and Ju­piter’s moon, Europa, in the twenty-first century. Europa also may have life— under its ice. In late 2011, with level NASA funding, Mars came up against huge overruns in the James Webb Space Telescope. This project had extremely influential political support in Congress, more so than Mars. Mars Observer in the 1980s had to wait on the Hubble Space Telescope. Now Mars would wait on Hubble’s successor.

There is only so much money for big science (concentrated or distributed). Unless advocates of Mars make their case strongly and well, they will not neces­sarily get their way. It may be easier to cut a distributed big science program, like Mars, than one that is concentrated in structure, such as the James Webb Space Telescope. A specific mission within a distributed program can be extracted more easily than killing a massive concentrated program, at least one that is well along in implementation.

Politics is about “who gets what, when, and how.” Politics applies to plan­etary science as much as to other fields. Who is to say that Hubble was not deserving of being ahead in line for shuttle launch after the Challenger disas­ter set it against Mars Observer? Earth observation satellites relate to climate change and, arguably, the long-term survival of the human species. Advocates for this part of the space program have a legitimate case to make. Their advo­cates have done so. Proponents of human spaceflight continually press NASA— and, indirectly, robotic Mars missions—for resources. In the long run, human spaceflight and Mars exploration are mutually dependent. In the short run, they compete. Figueroa’s comment that the relationship between these two major NASA programs is akin to that between an elephant and a mouse is apt. NASA Administrator Bolden, in the wake of the Obama budget proposal for FY 2013, set in motion a planning effort for Mars which more strongly linked robotic and human spaceflight. Administrators have sought such a linkage before and sel­dom succeeded in forging a true partnership. The human and robotic programs represent two different cultures within NASA.

Unfortunately, there is never enough money for all worthy endeavors. Ad­vocates of alternatives to Mars become opponents of spending on robotic Mars flights even though that is not necessarily their intent. Similarly, flagship mis­sions become barriers to spending on “little science,” and there can be divisions within the Mars community. NASA centers vie with one another and with uni­versities and industry. The debate is not about good versus bad, but about vari­ous “goods.” Over the long haul, Mars exploration has advanced to the extent that it has prevailed over the “opposition,” or found ways to reach some measure of accommodation through alliances.

Big Science

Mars exploration is a striking example of big science. Big science is character­ized by large organizations, multidisciplinary teams, great expense, government management, and, often, political controversy. There are various examples of big science, at NASA and other agencies, but this Mars endeavor especially illuminates “programmatic” or “distributed” big science. Much big science is concentrated in a single huge machine. But distributed big science in this case consists of missions (also called projects) that make up an extended, multidecadal program of exploration. Projects may be closely or loosely coupled. Some of the individual missions are “big” by any standard, in the sense of having billion – dollar costs. Others are moderate by big science standards, costing hundreds of millions. There was a time in the 1990s when Mars missions were pushed hard to be “faster, better, cheaper” (FBC), attributes that usually meant smaller. But Mars missions have subsequently grown, with MSL listed at $2.5 billion.

Moreover, when the individual missions are aggregated in a coherent program, the combination is obviously very large in scale.

While specific numbers are hard to delineate or aggregate precisely over a half century or more, it is virtually certain that NASA has spent more money on Mars than any other single planet over its existence as an agency. In recent years, approximately one-half of the planetary budget has gone to Mars, and the planet has had its own director in NASA Headquarters and at JPL. Whereas the Cassini mission to Saturn was an example of concentrated, multibillion-dollar big science, the missions to Mars are spread out, with projects of varying scales. The Mars missions are distributed in time—taking place over decades. They are also distributed in purpose—orbiters, landers, and rovers. This is not only big science but an example of a large technical system in action. When Phoenix landed on Mars in 2008, an orbiting Mars satellite photographed the event. At the same time, Spirit and Opportunity roved the terrain. Similarly, Mars Recon­naissance Orbiter “watched” as MSL descended to Mars in 2012. The national policy to create a “sustained. . . robotic presence” on Mars was realized.

Big science is important to better comprehend because it represents a high priority within an agency and within a national budget. Big science projects can be high-visibility “flagships” for an agency and often for a country. In execu­tion, big science projects link government, university, and industry into large and diverse teams, increasingly with international partners. Big science entails extremely challenging management and political issues. It absorbs much of the agency’s money and prevents smaller efforts from being undertaken. The politi­cal dilemmas—who gets what, when, and how—can be the most difficult of all to resolve in making a long-term big science program succeed.