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Space Studies Board Annual Report 2010
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The Space Studies Board is a unit of the National Research Council, which serves as an independent advisor to the federal government on scientific and technical questions of national importance. The National Research Council, jointly administered by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, brings the resources of the entire scientific and technical community to bear through its volunteer advisory committees. Support for the work of the Space Studies Board and its committees was provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract NNH06CE15B and by the National Science Foundation grant AGS-1050550. Cover: Courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration/Solar Dynamics Observatory/Atmospheric Imaging Assembly.
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From the Chair 2010 was the best of years for the Space Studies Board, if not for NASA. As predicted in last year’s annual report, 2010 was a busy year for the Space Studies Board with four decadal surveys underway, and one, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (joint with the Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA), http://www.nap.edu/catalog. php?record_id=12951), released in August. During the course of the year the steering committee and panels of the planetary sciences decadal were very active gathering information from the community and setting pri- orities and formulating recommendations. Their report, Vision and Voy- ages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 (http://www.nap. edu/catalog.php?record_id=13117), although released in March 2011, is another major accomplishment for the SSB in 2010. Similarly the com- mittee and panels of the first-ever decadal survey of life and microgravity sciences in space—a joint study with the Aeronautics and Space Engi- neering Board (ASEB)—completed much of their work in 2010, includ- ing the release of an interim report, Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era of Space Exploration: An Interim Report (http://www. nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12944). Their final report Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13048) was released in April 2011 but is essentially a product of 2010. Finally, the decadal survey on solar and space physics, got underway in 2010, and it is expected to be completed in the Spring of 2012. As well as being a busy year, 2010 was a year of innovation for the SSB. With the exception of the life and physi- cal sciences survey, which did not prioritize missions, the decadal survey committees and panels assessed for the first time the interrelated issues of engineering and technical readiness, managerial complexity, and cost appraisals as they made their recommendations. Framing their recommended programs within budget scenarios, the surveys were not able to recommend a long list of worthy but unaffordable missions. They had to work hard to evaluate each individual proposal, and they had to work even harder to choose among them. The net result was that the planetary science and astronomy and astrophysics decadal surveys made fewer but more concentrated recommendations. Only truly first priority recommendations survived. Never has there been a more complete assessment of NASA space sciences. Never have so many labored so much and so well on strategies whose chances of realization were more uncertain than now. iii
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The first challenges appeared only a few days after New Worlds New Horizons (NWNH) was released. The NWNH report recognized that even in its optimistic budget scenario of a flat inflation-adjusted budget, only one of its recommended large-scale missions could be realized before 2020—the Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), which is for studies devoted to dark energy in cosmology, galaxies, and planetary detection. However, the financial outlook on which the relatively modest WFIRST recommendation was based was overtaken by events. Unexpected and very large cost and schedule overruns in the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) project were emerging alongside, at best, a flat-flat budget outlook for NASA’s astrophysics program. NASA, not wanting to see the United States scientific community shut out of dark energy research, was exploring with the European Space Agency (ESA) the possibility of a 20 percent participation in ESA’s Euclid mission. While the NWNH report did indeed recognize that there could be value in NASA-ESA collaboration on a joint program if that resulted in all the WFIRST science being done in a timely manner and in cost savings to NASA and as long as the United States played “a leading role.” The survey committee did not define what “a leading role” meant. However, in October 2010, the president’s Office of Science and Technology Policy requested that the Academy evaluate the consistency of the WFIRST-Euclid proposal with the NWNH recommendations. Given ESA’s short decision time and the president’s approaching budget request for fiscal year 2012, the study, which was co-chaired by myself and the chair of the NRC’s Board on Physics and Astronomy, had to be done quickly. This is when an avalanche of work started. A hardy band of heroes—committee members and BPA and SSB staff—working days, nights, and weekends, completed this report in 8 weeks. You can read the panel’s report at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13045. The panel’s report did not make any recommendations, but it did assess the various options for implementing a WFIRST-Euclid joint program. At present, NASA and ESA un- certainties persist, although we believe a good faith effort will be made to achieve the scientific objectives set forth in NWNH. The president’s 2012 budget request includes actions on many of the other NWNH recommendations, including an augmentation to the Explorer program and increases in support for theory. I have dwelled at length on this event because it is an omen for the future. For NASA, the events of 2010 portend that its programs are caught in a self-reinforcing budgetary spiral. The profound changes taking place in the human exploration program and the need to reduce the federal budget deficit makes NASA’s financial outlook uncertain at best and most likely bleak. Finally, NASA’s costs for large programs are inflating with unanticipated speed. For SSB, it likely means that we will have to do things like this quick study again. Would we do it again if we had to? You bet. Only next time, the SSB will be better prepared, and we would hope the schedule would not be quite so compressed. In this regard we are exploring how to improve the NRC stewardship of our decadal surveys after they have been released. Our recent adventure emphasizes how important that function is. We have to put all this in perspective. Our decadal surveys each make the point that the space sciences have never been so effective, so rich in possibility. We have been in a golden age of space research. This was also made clear at SSB’s workshop Sharing the Adventure with the Public: The Value and Excitement of “Grand Questions” of Space Science and Exploration. Held in Irvine, California, on November 8-10, it featured some of the international space science world’s most thoughtful communicators, along with leaders of the media—traditional and modern. To- gether we reviewed the achievements of the past 50 years and shared our visions for the next 50 years. We celebrated together the significance of the space enterprise, not only to science, but also to civilization. The next 2 or 3 years promise to be equally busy for the SSB. Now that our decadal surveys are virtually completed, we will review lessons learned and, in particular, examine how our engineering and cost assessments functioned and impacted our judgments of scientific value. In 2011 we are beginning the last of the current round of midterm assessments of the implementation of the surveys, with an assessment of the Earth sciences decadal implementation. In addition, the SSB and the ASEB will have a major responsibility to human spaceflight. In 2010, the Senate and House passed a NASA Authorization Act, which was quickly signed into law by the president. This legislation contains a special request to NASA to “contract with the National Academies for a review of the goals, core capa- bilities, and direction of human space flight.” Many people have remarked that human exploration lacks the kinds of long-range goals that stabilize NASA’s science programs; we will now have a chance to address this issue in depth. Together with the ASEB in 2010 we started to plan how to carry out this mandate. At this early stage, it is difficult to say what the study scope will be, other than that it likely to be very diverse, more so perhaps than many other projects undertaken by either the SSB or the ASEB to date. Some have called it “a generational survey.” All in all, 2010 was an extraordinary year for the SSB. Michael Moloney hit the ground running as our new iv
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board director. He had to. He and the entire SSB staff had one of the most productive years of accomplishment in SSB history. Thanks to each and every one. Thanks to my old friend, Dick Rowberg, who filled in admirably as interim board director until Michael finished his work with the astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey. Thanks to Ray Colladay and the ASEB he chairs for working so well with the SSB in 2010. The entire country owes its thanks to Tom Young, who ended his term of service as SSB vice chair in 2010. The SSB was only one of Tom’s responsibilities. No one has rendered more or better advice to the government on aerospace matters than Tom Young over the past decade. We have been very lucky. When the NRC invited John Klineberg to be nominated to join the board as the SSB vice chair, John remarked that no one could fill Tom Young’s shoes—Tom being the outgoing incumbent. That was beyond a shadow of a doubt true, I told him at the time, adding that they would say the same thing about John when he finished his term of office. Welcome aboard, John. Charles F. Kennel Chair Space Studies Board v
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Space Studies Board Chairs and Vice Chairs SPACE STUDIES BOARD CHAIRS Lloyd V. Berkner (deceased), Graduate Research Center, Dallas, Texas, 1958-1962 Harry H. Hess (deceased), Princeton University, 1962–1969 Charles H. Townes, University of California at Berkeley, 1970-1973 Richard M. Goody, Harvard University, 1974–1976 A.G.W. Cameron (deceased), Harvard College Observatory, 1977-1981 Thomas M. Donahue (deceased), University of Michigan, 1982-1988 Louis J. Lanzerotti, American Telephone & Telegraph Co., Bell Laboratories, 1989-1994 Claude R. Canizares, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1994–2000 John H. McElroy (deceased), University of Texas at Arlington, 2000–2003 Lennard A. Fisk, University of Michigan, 2003–2008 Charles F. Kennel, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, 2008– SPACE STUDIES BOARD VICE CHAIRS George A. Paulikas, The Aerospace Corporation (retired), 2003–2006 A. Thomas Young, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired), 2006–2010 vii
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Contents FROM THE CHAIR iii 1 CHARTER AND ORGANIZATION OF THE BOARD 1 The Origins of the Space Science Board, 1 The Space Studies Board Today, 2 Collaboration With Other National Research Council Units, 4 Assuring the Quality of Space Studies Board Reports, 4 Audience and Sponsors, 6 Outreach and Dissemination, 7 Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship, 7 2 BOARD AND STANDING COMMITTEES: ACTIVITIES AND MEMBERSHIP 8 Space Studies Board, 8 Highlights of Space Studies Board Activities, 8 Space Studies Board Membership, 9 U.S. National Committee for COSPAR, 11 Standing Committees, 11 Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, 11 Committee on Earth Studies, 11 Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life, 13 Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration, 15 Committee on Solar and Space Physics, 18 Space Research Disciplines without Standing Committee Representation, 18 3 AD HOC STUDY COMMITTEES: ACTIVITIES AND MEMBERSHIP 22 Assessing Requirements for Sustained Ocean Color Research and Operations, 22 Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Cooperation on Space and Earth Science Missions, 23 Assessment of NASA Laboratory Capabilities, 24 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, 24 Cost Growth in NASA Earth and Space Science Missions, 29 Decadal Strategy for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics), 29 Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences in Space, 31 NASA’s Suborbital Research Capabilities, 34 ix
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x Contents Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies, 35 Panel on Implementing Recommendations from the New Worlds, New Horizons Decadal Survey, 37 Planetary Protection Standards for Icy Bodies in the Solar System, 37 Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey, 38 4 WORKSHOPS, SYMPOSIA, MEETINGS OF EXPERTS, AND OTHER SPECIAL PROJECTS 41 Sharing the Adventure with the Public—The Value and Excitement of “Grand Questions” of Space Science and Exploration, 41 5 SUMMARIES OF MAJOR REPORTS 43 5.1 Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions, 44 5.2 Capabilities for the Future: An Assessment of NASA Laboratories for Basic Research, 48 5.3 Controlling Cost Growth of NASA Earth and Space Science Missions, 52 5.4 Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies, 58 5.5 Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era of Space Exploration: An Interim Report, 63 5.6 New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 65 5.7 Panel Reports—New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 70 5.8 Report of the Panel on Implementing Recommendations from the New Worlds, New Horizons Decadal Survey, 101 5.9 Revitalizing NASA’s Suborbital Program: Advancing Science, Driving Innovation, and Developing a Workforce, 103 6 CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY 105 7 CUMULATIVE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF SSB REPORTS: 1958-2010 106