The major questions forming the foundations of planetary science deal with topics that will almost certainly not be fully addressed in a single decade. Rather, many generations of scientists have already labored over them, and additional generations will likely follow suit. The topics discussed in Chapter 3 are too broad and too fundamental to be fully addressed in the period 2013-2022. However, a general reader interested in the current scope of, and key motivations for undertaking, activities in the planetary sciences need only read Chapters 1, 2, and 3. Those general readers interested in a preview of the spacecraft missions recommended for implementation in the decade to come should jump to Chapter 9.
A decadal plan must be based on the identification and exploitation of those components or subcomponents of the big, foundational topics showing the most promise of resolution in the coming 10 years. Chapters 4 through 8 contain the most basic breakdown of these foundational topics, divided largely in terms of locations in the solar system—i.e., the inner planets (Chapter 5), Mars (Chapter 6), the giant planets (Chapter 7) and their satellites (Chapter 8), and the myriad small bodies that are scattered throughout the solar system (Chapter 4). Thus, Chapters 4 through 8 are devoted to the identification of the particular aspects of Chapter 3’s crosscutting themes and questions showing the greatest promise for resolution in the next 10 years. Chapters 4 through 8 all follow the same general outline, starting with a link to key science questions in Chapter 3, outlining the science goals, identifying important questions and future directions, addressing any necessary technology development, and, finally, discussing potential missions.
Some of the big questions can be better addressed at some specific destinations in the solar system rather than others. Chapters 4 through 8 lay out questions best addressed by visits to the inner planets, to Mars, to the giant planets and their satellites, and to primitive bodies such as asteroids and comets, and begin to define the missions that can gather the data that can answer specific aspects of important questions. Thus, readers with a deeper interest in current planetary science research activities should concentrate on Chapters 4 through 8 and then move on to the discussion of high-priority spacecraft missions in Chapter 9. If readers require more details on the research, infrastructure, and technology required to support these missions, they can turn to Chapters 10 and 11.
Readers who are most interested in near-term matters of public policy will naturally turn to Chapters 9, 10, and 11 to understand what programs the committee has recommended for initiation or for continuation of funding, but they will gain a full understanding of why the committee has reached these conclusions by starting with the big questions.
1. National Research Council. 1994. An Integrated Strategy for the Planetary Sciences: 1995-2010. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
2. National Research Council. 2003. New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
3. On May 25, 2011, following the completion of this report, NASA selected the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return spacecraft as the third New Frontiers mission. Launch is scheduled for 2016.
4. On May 25, 2011, following the completion of this report, NASA selected the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return spacecraft as the third New Frontiers mission. Launch is scheduled for 2016.
5. National Research Council. 2008. Opening New Frontiers in Space: Choices for the Next New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
6. On May 25, 2011, following the completion of this report, NASA selected the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample-return spacecraft as the third New Frontiers mission. Launch is scheduled for 2016.
7. National Research Council. 2001. Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
8. National Research Council. 2010. New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
9. National Research Council. 2010. Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth-Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
10. National Research Council. 2007. Earth Science and Applications from Space—National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.