Principal-investigator (PI) Earth science missions are small, focused science projects involving relatively small spacecraft. The selected PI is responsible for the scientific and programmatic success of the entire project. A particular objective of PI-led missions has been to help develop university-based research capacity. Such missions, however, pose significant challenges that are beyond the capabilities of most universities to manage. To help NASA s Office of Earth Science determine how best to address these, the NRC carried out an assessment of key issues relevant to the success of university-based PI-led Earth observation missions. This report presents the result of that study. In particular, the report provides an analysis of opportunities to enhance such missions and recommendations about whether and, if so, how they should be used to build university-based research capabilities.