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What aeronautics research should be supported by the U.S. government? What compelling and desirable benefits drive that research? How should the government — especially NASA — make these decisions? This monograph develops practical mechanisms for answering these difficult questions. The authors describe ways to evaluate and compare the potential benefits from different research options, show the range of fundamental approaches for research to achieve those benefits, compare rough estimates of the costs of research and subsequent development and implementation against those benefits, and outline a transparent decision process for objectively evaluating competing research options. The monograph illustrates these mechanisms with examples that show the magnitude of aeronautics problems and challenges in economic terms that allow direct comparison across research areas. It also highlights how areas such as general aviation safety might warrant additional attention.

The research in this monograph was funded by NASA Headquarters and was conducted jointly under the auspices of the Transportation, Space, and Technology Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment and the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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