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Steps to Facilitate Principal-Investigator-Led Earth Science Missions Appendixes
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Steps to Facilitate Principal-Investigator-Led Earth Science Missions A Statement of Task BACKGROUND The current Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) flight program possesses some special challenges. For example, the Earth science community is largely one of data users rather than system developers; the flight mission design and construction experience base is especially thin in the academic research community. Further, NASA’s ESE has adopted a policy in which all flight missions will be selected competitively. An approach based on open competition is fundamental to a strong research program, but it can create uncertainties regarding issues such as the relative responsibilities of selected Principal Investigators (PIs) and NASA centers, particularly if the PI is not located at a NASA center. Cost and schedule problems have recently led NASA/ESE to cancel or consider cancellation of the SPARCLE and the Vegetation Canopy Lidar (VCL) missions. A misunderstanding of the appropriate roles and responsibilities of the various institutions involved in the programs may have contributed to these problems; unexpected costs and technical roadblocks have also played a role. Developing and implementing a satellite mission is a major task, and many universities and academic scientists may not have the necessary experience and infrastructure. The possibility exists that many of these issues could be addressed as part of the proposal solicitation and evaluation phases. Thus, NASA also wishes to better understand how organizational roles and responsibilities influence the likelihood of success of these PI-missions, as well as how to integrate programmatic guidance with the PI’s science objectives. That Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) missions are proposed under a strict cost cap adds to the necessity for realism in cost estimation and the risk of cost growth due to, for example, unanticipated technical problems. TASK The Committee on Earth Studies will focus on successes and failures of both Earth and space science missions that have been led by academic researchers. It will seek out common threads drawn from recent experience and will identify steps that may increase the chances for success for PI-led missions. Issues to be considered will include, but not be limited to, the role of advanced technology development, the proposal solicitation and evaluation process, basic infrastructure needs and capabilities at universities, teaming arrangements and alternative frameworks for partnerships between universities and NASA centers and other organizations, and cost and schedule
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Steps to Facilitate Principal-Investigator-Led Earth Science Missions estimation. In addition, as the use of PI-led missions is only part of the NASA/ESE observational strategy, the committee will examine issues related to the coordination of observations from multiple space missions. The study will contrast the PI mode with alternative ways of conducting missions, rather than simply comparing it with a NASA center-run operation. Such a comparison would be misleading as NASA centers have capabilities and experience in mission development that would not be expected for university-based PI-led operations. Indeed, one of the objectives of a PI-led mission could be to build up the capabilities of the host institution.
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