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Nasa ’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation
PROGRAM FUNDING CONSTRAINTS
The cost realism assessments performed by the committee indicate that the probable costs of Beyond Einstein missions are substantially higher than the current estimates provided by the candidate mission teams. As a result, the committee is concerned that the Beyond Einstein funding wedge provided for its assessment is inconsistent with a healthy long-term program. Assuming that the start of development for a high-priority mission is in 2009, Beyond Einstein Program funding will be severely restricted, potentially crowding out critical research and analysis and technology development needs.
The committee recognizes that the Beyond Einstein funding wedge represents an agreement among NASA, the administration, and the Congress and is viewed as a relatively fixed budget. However, as a result of cost realism assessments, the committee believes that policy makers may need to reconsider the allocation of funds within the budgeting process. NASA may also consider alternative funding sources outside the Beyond Einstein Program. Without such actions, the likely result is that the overall Beyond Einstein Program will be stretched out considerably and difficult to sustain.
Two Beyond Einstein missions can be characterized as partnerships: the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM), a joint NASA/Department of Energy (DOE) effort; and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a partnership between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. NASA’s experience with similar interagency and international space missions is wide ranging and generally successful. Both ESA and DOE have similar experiences, including successful partnerships with NASA. Cassini-Huygens is one example of a mission that involved these three agencies. While partnerships do succeed, aligning priorities among these agencies will require substantial management effort by the involved parties. The complexity of the integration and operations of joint missions is an additional concern. Usually, to manage complexity and risk, the focus is on decoupling and simplifying interfaces whenever possible, a task not easily accomplished on LISA.
The NASA/DOE JDEM partnership, although between U.S. government agencies, is not without potential complications. The present arrangement for sharing responsibilities is governed by the DOE/NASA JDEM Strawman Plan,1 which assumes contributions from each agency in proportion to the role of each in mission development and operation. It would be useful for the two agencies to develop this Strawman Plan into a more detailed agreement, specifically stating the basis for sharing. After a specific JDEM design is chosen, the agencies are expected to develop a funding profile jointly and to agree on a split that reflects the work to be performed by each agency.
The committee recognizes that interagency and international collaboration can, if properly structured, reduce the cost burden on individual agencies, increase the richness of scientific collaboration, and provide larger pools from which to draw technology and talent. The committee also recognizes that such collaboration, if not properly structured, can increase cost and risk by adding bureaucratic hurdles to securing funding, can increase technical and management complexity, and can delay schedule.
The committee assumes that proposed collaborations will be implemented and that partnering organizations and policy makers will successfully follow through on Beyond Einstein mission execution.
INVESTMENTS IN RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Ongoing research and technology investments are the glue that holds the space science community together. Research and analysis engender new questions, while technology provides the means to obtain new data and eventual answers. Without continuous investment funding, the quality of the future missions and science results would certainly suffer. The committee is concerned about possible gaps in missions and about funding having an impact on the supply and quality of scientists, and ultimately, on Beyond Einstein science.