Grading NASA's Solar System Exploration Program

A Midterm Report

Committee on Assessing the Solar System Exploration Program

Space Studies Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
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Grading NASA's Solar System Exploration Program A Midterm Report Committee on Assessing the Solar System Exploration Program Space Studies Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Contract NASW-01001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Contract DG133R04C00009 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and private funding from the National Research Council. Any opinions, findings, conclu- sions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number 13: 978-0-309-11492-9 International Standard Book Number 10: 0-309-11492-6 Cover: Designed by Timothy Warchocki. Images courtesy of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Copies of this report are available free of charge from: Space Studies Board National Research Council 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Wash- ington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2008 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, shar- ing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and rec- ognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad com- munity of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the gov- ernment, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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OTHER REPORTS OF THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD Assessment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (2007) An Astrobiology Strategy for the Exploration of Mars (SSB with the Board on Life Sciences [BLS], 2007) Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration (SSB with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2007) Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop (2007) Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (2007) Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System (SSB with the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, 2007) The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems (SSB with BLS, 2007) NASA’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation (SSB with the Board on Physics and Astronomy [BPA], 2007) Options to Ensure the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: A Workshop Report A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Astrophysics Program (SSB with BPA, 2007) Portals to the Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers (2007) The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon (2007) An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs (2006) Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016 (2006) Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Venus Missions: Letter Report (2006) Distributed Arrays of Small Instruments for Solar-Terrestrial Research: Report of a Workshop (2006) Issues Affecting the Future of the U.S. Space Science and Engineering Workforce: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2006) Review of NASA’s 2006 Draft Science Plan: Letter Report (2006) The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon—Interim Report (2006) Space Radiation Hazards and the Vision for Space Exploration (2006) The Astrophysical Context of Life (SSB with BLS, 2005) Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation (2005) Extending the Effective Lifetimes of Earth Observing Research Missions (2005) Preventing the Forward Contamination of Mars (2005) Principal-Investigator-Led Missions in the Space Sciences (2005) Priorities in Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SSB with ASEB, 2005) Review of Goals and Plans for NASA’s Space and Earth Sciences (2005) Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station (2005) Science in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration (2005) Limited copies of these reports are available free of charge from: Space Studies Board National Research Council The Keck Center of the National Academies 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001 (202) 334-3477/ssb@nas.edu www.nationalacademies.org/ssb/ssb.html NOTE: Listed according to year of approval for release, which in some cases precedes the year of publication. iv

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COMMITTEE ON ASSESSING THE SOLAR SYSTEM EXPLORATION PROGRAM WESLEY T. HUNTRESS, JR., Carnegie Institution of Washington, Co-Chair NORINE E. NOONAN, College of Charleston, Co-Chair SUSHIL K. ATREYA, University of Michigan CARRINE BLANK, University of Montana WILLIAM V. BOYNTON, University of Arizona BERNARD F. BURKE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology WILLIAM D. COCHRAN, University of Texas LARRY W. ESPOSITO, University of Colorado G. SCOTT HUBBARD, Stanford University WILLIAM M. JACKSON, University of California, Davis MARGARET G. KIVELSON, University of California, Los Angeles RALPH L. McNUTT, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University WILLIAM B. MOORE, University of California, Los Angeles JANET L. SIEFERT, Rice University SPENCER R. TITLEY, University of Arizona Staff DWAYNE A. DAY, Study Director CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Assistant Editor CELESTE NAYLOR, Senior Program Assistant VICTORIA SWISHER, Research Associate STEPHANIE BEDNAREK, Summer Space Policy Intern ABIGAIL FRAEMAN, Summer Space Policy Intern EMILY K. McNEIL, Winter Space Policy Intern v

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SPACE STUDIES BOARD LENNARD A. FISK, University of Michigan, Chair A. THOMAS YOUNG, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired), Vice Chair SPIRO K. ANTIOCHOS, Naval Research Laboratory DANIEL N. BAKER, University of Colorado STEVEN J. BATTEL, Battel Engineering CHARLES L. BENNETT, Johns Hopkins University ELIZABETH R. CANTWELL, Los Alamos National Laboratory ALAN DRESSLER, The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution JACK D. FELLOWS, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research FIONA A. HARRISON, California Institute of Technology TAMARA E. JERNIGAN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory KLAUS KEIL, University of Hawaii MOLLY MACAULEY, Resources for the Future BERRIEN MOORE III, University of New Hampshire KENNETH H. NEALSON, University of Southern California JAMES PAWELCZYK, Pennsylvania State University SOROOSH SOROOSHIAN, University of California, Irvine RICHARD H. TRULY, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (retired) JOAN VERNIKOS, Thirdage, LLC JOSEPH F. VEVERKA, Cornell University WARREN M. WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research CHARLES E. WOODWARD, University of Minnesota GARY P. ZANK, University of California, Riverside MARCIA S. SMITH, Director vi

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Preface In Section 301(a) of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, the Congress directed NASA to have “[t]he perfor- mance of each division in the Science directorate . . . reviewed and assessed by the National Academy of Sciences at 5-year intervals.”1 In late 2006, NASA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct such an assess- ment for the agency’s Planetary Science Division. The statement of task (see Appendix A) for the Committee on Assessing the Solar System Exploration Program was to review the alignment of NASA’s Planetary Exploration Division program with previous NRC advice—primarily the reports New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Inte- grated Exploration Strategy2 and several recent studies concerning Mars, such as Assessment of Mars Science and Mission Priorities.3 Assessment of Mars Science and Mission Priorities was in effect a part of the decadal survey, and therefore including it was essentially redundant. However, the committee did include recommendations from Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016, the most recent of three assessment reports on Mars plans and, in the committee’s view, the most up-to-date NRC guidance to NASA with respect to these plans. 4 More specifically, the committee addressed the following: 1. The degree to which NASA’s current solar system exploration program addresses the strategies, goals, and priorities outlined in Academy reports; 2. NASA progress toward realizing these strategies, goals and priorities; and 3. Any actions that could be taken to optimize the science value of the program in the context of current and forecasted resources available to it. In the letter from NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, the committee was told that “the review should not revisit or alter the scientific priorities or mission recommendations provided in the 1The first of these assessments, prepared jointly by the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board and Board on Physics and As- tronomy, was delivered to NASA in February 2007; it is entitled A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Astrophysics Program (The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007). 2National Research Council, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003. 3National Research Council, Assessment of Mars Science and Mission Priorities, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003. 4National Research Council, Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006. vii

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viii PREFACE cited reports, but may provide guidance about implementing the recommended mission portfolio in preparation for the next decadal survey.”5 The committee held three meetings, in February, March, and May 2007. Because this was a congressionally directed study, the committee also asked relevant congressional staff for input on what kind of report would be most relevant to their work. In addition, committee representatives visited the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the NASA Ames Research Center, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and the Jet Pro- pulsion Laboratory to hear from their directors and scientists on their perspectives on this subject. During the course of the study, NASA revealed plans to make significant changes to the solar system explora- tion program. Although these will not be implemented until fiscal year 2009 and later, the committee requested additional information from NASA about the agency’s planning, particularly with regard to Mars. Those plans are still preliminary, but they were reviewed by the committee. 5Colleen Hartman, for Mary Cleave, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, to Lennard Fisk, Chair, Space Studies Board, October 31, 2007.

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Acknowledgments This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Jim Bell, Cornell University, George R. Carignan, University of Michigan, Ted A. Maxwell, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Alfred McEwen, University of Arizona, Victoria Meadows, University of Washington, George Pace, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (retired), Norman H. Sleep, Stanford University, Ellen Stofan, Proxemy Research, Fred W. Taylor, University of Oxford, Mark Thiemens, University of California, San Diego, and Joseph F. Veverka, Cornell University. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Martha P. Haynes, Cornell University. Appointed by the National Research Council, she was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. The committee also wishes to thank the directors and staff members of the NASA centers and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who met with the committee during several site visits. Finally, the committee wishes to acknowledge the assistance of NASA Planetary Science Division Director James Green, who provided the committee with significant information required to make this assessment. ix

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Contents SUMMARY 3 1 INTRODUCTION 13 NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program, 14 The Midterm Report, 16 Major Obstacles to Fulfillment, 17 2 SCIENCE 19 The First Billion Years of Solar System History, 20 Volatiles and Organics: The Stuff of Life, 21 The Origin and Evolution of Habitable Worlds, 22 Processes: How Planetary Systems Work, 25 3 FLIGHT MISSIONS 27 4 MARS 35 Assessment of Progress Toward Meeting Mars-Specific Recommendations Made in the Solar System Exploration Decadal Report, 36 Progress Toward Meeting Recommendations Made in Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016, 38 Science Return from Current Architecture, 41 Balance in Current Architecture, 42 Addendum: NASA’s New Mars Direction, 43 5 RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS, PLANETARY ASTRONOMY, AND 49 FLIGHT MISSION DATA ANALYSIS Research and Analysis, 49 Planetary Astronomy, 52 Flight Mission Data Analysis, 55 xi

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xii CONTENTS 6 ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES 59 Technologies for the Following Decade, 60 Technology Development, 61 The Deep Space Network, 64 Launch Vehicle Infrastructure, 65 APPENDIXES A Statement of Task 69 B Biographical Sketches of Committee Members and Staff 70 C Technology Background 75 D NASA Technology Readiness Levels 84 E Acronyms 86