TABLE ES.2 Hierarchy of Template Agreements for Cooperative Missions

Mission Phase



Pre-phase A

Letter of Mutual Interest


  • Identify potential high-priority missions under consideration
  • Identify which bodies are studying them
  • Determine how many are likely to be confirmed, and when

Phase A

Letter of Mutual Intent


  • Establish an early program management and project structure and an International Mission Working Group (IMWG) with two program scientists or principal investigators as co-chairs
  • Define objectives, scope, and expectations for Phase B
  • Review project management scheme

Phase B

Study Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)


  • Clarify objectives and scope
  • Formulate anticipated implementation plan
  • Outline responsibilities
  • Select launcher
  • Provide a rough schedule
  • Determine expectations for funding

Mission MOU


  • Create full definition of objectives, scope, plan, schedule, contingencies, and data issues
  • Include project management plans

Phase C/D

Eventually, when necessary, appointment of an International Mission Review Committee (IMRC)


  • Conduct periodic reviews of mission and effectiveness of its service to user community

Finding: The free and open exchange of data lies at the heart of international scientific cooperation.3 When it is missing (as in the case of NASA and ESA in the area of Earth science) significant scientific international cooperation is difficult, if not almost impossible.

Recommendation 14

The joint committee recommends the following:

  • NASA and European space agencies should make a commitment to free and open exchange of data for scientific research as a condition for international scientific cooperation after any proprietary period established for principal investigators;
  • The scientific community, through their international organizations (e.g., ICSU, COSPAR), should openly and forcefully state their commitments to this concept and where there are difficulties; and
  • U.S. and European space agencies should ensure that programs plan and reserve adequate resources for management and distribution of data and develop and implement strategies for long-term archiving of data from all space missions.


National Research Council, Preserving Scientific Data on Our Physical Universe: A New Strategy for Archiving the Nation's Scientific Information Resources, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1995.

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