Assessment of NASA’s Draft 2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy

In a letter dated January 7, 2003 (Attachment 1), the NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science requested that the Space Studies Board (the Board) of the National Research Council (Attachment 2) review the draft “2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy,”1 which NASA provided on February 7, 2003. In carrying out the requested review, the Board focused on the main areas listed in the letter of request:

  1. Responsiveness to the NRC’s guidance on key science issues and to opportunities provided in recent science strategy reports,

  2. Attention to interdisciplinary aspects and overall scientific balance,

  3. Identification and exposition of important opportunities for education and public outreach,

  4. Integration of technology development with the science program, and

  5. General readability and clarity of presentation.

INPUT USED IN PREPARING THE ASSESSMENT

Detailed recommendations from the National Research Council (NRC) decadal surveys and other recent reports provided important input to the Office of Space Science (OSS) planning process. The chairs of the Solar System Exploration Survey Committee, the Solar and Space Physics Survey Committee, the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Committee on the Physics of the Universe attended the OSS strategic planning workshop held in San Diego, California, November 7–8, 2002, and briefed the participants on the results of the decadal strategy reports.2 The Board director also presented the highlights of Life in the Universe: An Assessment of U.S. and International Programs in Astrobiology.3 This review of the OSS strategy document incorporates inputs received from relevant standing committees of the Board—the Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP), the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX), the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life (COEL), and the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA). The Board also had an opportunity to discuss the strategy document with NASA staff at the Space Studies Board meeting on March 24, 2003, when Ms. Lisa May of the OSS provided a briefing on the draft document. The Board then reviewed and discussed the document, along with the discipline committees’ responses, and assembled this consensus assessment.

The Board has organized its assessment into six categories in keeping with the charge: (1) general observations, (2) responsiveness to the NRC’s guidance on key science issues and opportunities, (3) interdisciplinary aspects and scientific balance, (4) integration of technology development with the science program, (5) opportunities for education and outreach, and (6) readability and clarity of presentation. The Board has



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Assessment of NASA’s Draft 2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy In a letter dated January 7, 2003 (Attachment 1), the NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science requested that the Space Studies Board (the Board) of the National Research Council (Attachment 2) review the draft “2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy,”1 which NASA provided on February 7, 2003. In carrying out the requested review, the Board focused on the main areas listed in the letter of request: Responsiveness to the NRC’s guidance on key science issues and to opportunities provided in recent science strategy reports, Attention to interdisciplinary aspects and overall scientific balance, Identification and exposition of important opportunities for education and public outreach, Integration of technology development with the science program, and General readability and clarity of presentation. INPUT USED IN PREPARING THE ASSESSMENT Detailed recommendations from the National Research Council (NRC) decadal surveys and other recent reports provided important input to the Office of Space Science (OSS) planning process. The chairs of the Solar System Exploration Survey Committee, the Solar and Space Physics Survey Committee, the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Committee on the Physics of the Universe attended the OSS strategic planning workshop held in San Diego, California, November 7–8, 2002, and briefed the participants on the results of the decadal strategy reports.2 The Board director also presented the highlights of Life in the Universe: An Assessment of U.S. and International Programs in Astrobiology.3 This review of the OSS strategy document incorporates inputs received from relevant standing committees of the Board—the Committee on Solar and Space Physics (CSSP), the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX), the Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life (COEL), and the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (CAA). The Board also had an opportunity to discuss the strategy document with NASA staff at the Space Studies Board meeting on March 24, 2003, when Ms. Lisa May of the OSS provided a briefing on the draft document. The Board then reviewed and discussed the document, along with the discipline committees’ responses, and assembled this consensus assessment. The Board has organized its assessment into six categories in keeping with the charge: (1) general observations, (2) responsiveness to the NRC’s guidance on key science issues and opportunities, (3) interdisciplinary aspects and scientific balance, (4) integration of technology development with the science program, (5) opportunities for education and outreach, and (6) readability and clarity of presentation. The Board has

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highlighted in this short report what it believes to be the salient points relevant to these areas, which are discussed below.4 GENERAL OBSERVATIONS The Board believes that the draft “2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy” document provides an informative survey of OSS scientific objectives, goals, and associated missions. It identifies NASA’s science objectives for each space science theme area and notes key missions and programs that the OSS has identified to address objectives. The document also discusses some resource requirements and external relationships to other federal agencies and international partners. The Board commends the OSS for incorporating into the 2003 draft document suggestions that the Board made for improving the 2000 plan:5 The document provides a clear presentation of how astrobiology fits into the overall plan and does a good job of connecting the technology and future missions in the OSS theme areas. However, the Board does not find the draft document to be a true strategy. As the Board noted in its prior review of the draft 2000 strategic plan, more explicit information about resources, criteria for decision making, priorities, mission plans, time lines, and contingencies could have transformed this document from a “handbook for what we intend to do and why” into a strategy.6 While some elements of a strategy are included, they are dispersed throughout the draft document and do not convey an integrated strategic approach to the OSS program. The Board is also concerned that the document, in some areas, overlooks critical strategic guidance prepared by the scientific community in NRC science strategy reports that were requested by NASA. RESPONSIVENESS TO THE NRC’S GUIDANCE ON KEY SCIENCE ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES In assessing the draft document, the Board paid particular attention to the extent to which the document reflects the guidance and priorities provided by the NRC to the OSS on space science issues. The Board is pleased that the OSS document captures some of the core elements of the solar system exploration (SSE) survey, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy, and the astronomy and astrophysics (AA) survey report, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium. At the same time, the Board found that the document neglects the priorities recommended in the solar and space physics (SSP) survey, The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics. In addition, the Board believes that the OSS draft document could be clarified and strengthened by making explicit the process used to create the OSS program and the priorities for the program it presents. The Board is concerned that the draft OSS document does not integrate the results of some NRC surveys into certain theme programs, the most obvious being the Sun-Earth Connection (SEC) section of the document. The goals presented in the SEC section do not refer to the SSP survey, nor does the document provide a connection between the missions included in the SEC theme and those identified as high priorities in the SSP