Principal-Investigator-Led Missions in the Space Sciences
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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.
Support for this project was provided by Contract NASW-01001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor.
International Standard Book Number 0-309-10070-4 (Book)
Cover: (front) Explorer missions and (back) Discovery, New Frontiers, and Mars Scout missions. Images courtesy of NASA.
Copies of this report 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
Additional copies of this report are available from the
National Academies Press,
500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu.
Copyright 2006 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
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, sharing 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 recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf 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 community 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 government, 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. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
OTHER REPORTS OF THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD
The Astrophysical Context of Life (SSB with the Board on Life Sciences, 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)
Priorities in Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SSB with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [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)
Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope: Final Report (SSB with ASEB, 2004)
Exploration of the Outer Heliosphere and the Local Interstellar Medium: A Workshop Report (2004)
Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space Policy (SSB with ASEB, 2004)
Plasma Physics of the Local Cosmos (2004)
Review of Science Requirements for the Terrestrial Planet Finder: Letter Report (2004)
Understanding the Sun and Solar System Plasmas: Future Directions in Solar and Space Physics (2004)
Utilization of Operational Environmental Satellite Data: Ensuring Readiness for 2010 and Beyond (SSB with ASEB and the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate [BASC], 2004)
Assessment of NASA’s Draft 2003 Earth Science Enterprise Strategy: Letter Report (2003)
Assessment of NASA’s Draft 2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy: Letter Report (2003)
Satellite Observations of the Earth’s Environment: Accelerating the Transition of Research to Operations (SSB with ASEB and BASC, 2003)
Steps to Facilitate Principal-Investigator-Led Earth Science Missions (2003)
The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: Panel Reports (2003)
Assessment of Directions in Microgravity and Physical Sciences Research at NASA (2002)
New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy (2002)
The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics (2002)
Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium (Board on Physics and Astronomy with SSB, 2000)
Microgravity Research in Support of Technologies for the Human Exploration and Development of Space and Planetary Bodies (2000)
Limited copies of SSB 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
NOTE: Listed according to year of approval for release.
COMMITTEE ON PRINCIPAL-INVESTIGATOR-LED MISSIONS IN THE SPACE SCIENCES
JANET G. LUHMANN,
University of California, Berkeley,
JAMES S. BARROWMAN,
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (retired)
Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory
HUGH H. KIEFFER,
U.S. Geological Survey (retired)
JOHN W. LEIBACHER,
National Solar Observatory
GARY J. MELNICK,
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
H. WARREN MOOS,
Johns Hopkins University
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
ALAN M. TITLE,
Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center
National Academy of Public Administration Liaisons
CAROLE P. NEVES
MALCOLM L. PETERSON
PAMELA L. WHITNEY, Study Director
EMILIE W. CLEMMENS, Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow
AMANDA SHARP, Research Assistant
CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Senior Project Assistant
CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Assistant Editor
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
LENNARD A. FISK,
University of Michigan,
GEORGE A. PAULIKAS,
The Aerospace Corporation (retired),
SPIRO K. ANTIOCHOS,
Naval Research Laboratory
DANIEL N. BAKER,
University of Colorado
RETA F. BEEBE,
New Mexico State University
ROGER D. BLANDFORD,
RADFORD BYERLY, JR.,
University of Colorado
JUDITH A. CURRY,
Georgia Institute of Technology
JACK D. FARMER,
Arizona State University
JACQUELINE N. HEWITT,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Harvard Medical Center
RALPH H. JACOBSON,
The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (retired)
TAMARA E. JERNIGAN,
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
University of Hawaii
DEBRA S. KNOPMAN,
CALVIN W. LOWE,
Bowie State University
BERRIEN MOORE III,
University of New Hampshire
Texas Instruments (retired)
University of Alabama, Birmingham
RONALD F. PROBSTEIN,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
DENNIS W. READEY,
Colorado School of Mines
HARVEY D. TANANBAUM,
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
RICHARD H. TRULY,
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (retired)
J. CRAIG WHEELER,
University of Texas, Austin
A. THOMAS YOUNG,
Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired)
GARY P. ZANK,
University of California, Riverside
JOSEPH K. ALEXANDER, Director
TAMARA L. DICKINSON, Associate Director
In response to a request from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Research Council (NRC) established the Committee on Principal-Investigator-Led Missions in the Space Sciences in the summer of 2004 to conduct a study of Principal-Investigator (PI)-led missions in the space sciences. (Appendix A includes brief biographies of the committee members and staff.) Whereas previous committees of the NRC’s Space Studies Board (SSB) considered aspects of PI-led mission lines in the course of other studies (the recommendations of these related NRC studies are provided in Appendix B), the charge to this committee requested an analysis of the issues facing PI-led space science missions today, in particular those issues affecting cost and schedule. Specifically, the committee was charged to
Examine and assess the selection process and objectives for PI-led missions, including the balance between science objectives and cost and management criteria.
Examine the roles, relationships, and authority among members of a PI-led team—for example, the PI, the university, industry, and NASA centers—in past missions.
Identify lessons learned from the scientific and technical performance of previous PI-led missions.
Investigate and analyze the factors contributing to cost overruns of missions, including any requirements that are imposed on PI-led projects during their development.
Identify opportunities for knowledge transfer to new PIs and sustained technical management experience throughout the program.
Identify lessons learned and recommend practices and incentives for improving the overall conduct of future PI-led missions.
The study was conducted in collaboration with the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), which is under separate contract to provide an in-depth analysis of cost growth and relevant management aspects of PI-led missions (material from NAPA’s report is reprinted in Appendix I).1 NAPA study authors attended committee meetings and shared information for the study.
The committee held three data-gathering meetings, during which it obtained perspectives and input from PIs, project managers (PMs), program managers, and representatives of NASA centers, NASA Headquarters, and industry, with the aim of gathering a complete picture of PI-led missions and the processes, procedures, and pressures they face. Throughout these interviews, the committee maintained the perspective of the prospective participants in and beneficiaries of PI-led missions in the space science and engineering communities on the one hand and, on the other, the ultimate customers of NASA: the tax-paying public, which supports NASA and its endeavors for their inspirational value, technical innovation, and contributions to human knowledge of space from Earth’s upper atmosphere to the edges of the universe. The committee also used several electronic newsletters that are widely distributed by professional societies, including the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Sciences and its Solar Physics Division and the American Geophysical Union, to solicit written inputs on the views of the larger community, including those PI-led mission proposers and participants not interviewed due to time constraints.
The following report contains the committee’s consensus on the evolution and current status of the PI-led mission concept, the ways in which certain practices have affected the performance of PI-led missions, and the steps that can be taken to help ensure the successful conduct of PI-led missions into the future. These views are based on the committee’s analysis of the information gathered, including additional data obtained from NASA and PI-led mission program managers and from PIs at the committee’s request.
Of the four PI-led mission lines within NASA’s space science program—Explorer, Discovery, Mars Scout, and New Frontiers—the Explorer is the oldest PI-led mission line, followed by Discovery. Mars Scout and New Frontiers have not yet launched missions. For this reason, the committee focused on the Explorer and Discovery mission lines.
Since 2003 when it commissioned this NRC study, NASA has reorganized and merged its space science and Earth science programs. The Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program, the PI-led mission line for Earth sciences, is now housed in the the Science Mission Directorate along with NASA’s space science mission line. Although part of the overall NASA science program, the ESSP program was not directly within the scope of the committee’s charge and therefore is not analyzed in depth in this report. The committee did, however, take into consideration the ESSP program and also drew on the results presented in the recent report Steps to Facilitate Principal-Investigator-Led Earth Science Missions (NRC, 2004).
The committee did not address the specifics of the early Explorer and Discovery missions, which were not conducted as PI-led missions, or of the PI-led program Missions of Opportunity (MoOs). However, the committee’s information-gathering efforts turned up valuable input from PIs on early Explorer and Discovery missions and MoOs that reinforce the conclusions of this report.
The Committee on Principal-Investigator-Led Missions in the Space Sciences is extremely grateful to those who so generously gave of their time and expertise to assist the committee in compiling information for this study. The committee would like to acknowledge the many individuals who briefed the committee or provided background material, information, or input: Michael A’Hearn, University of Maryland; Vassilis Angelopolous, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley); Charles Barth, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP); Charles Bennett, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC); Alan Binder, Lunar Resources Institute; William Borucki, NASA Ames; Don Brownlee, University of Washington; James Burch, Southwest Research Institute; Walter Cantrell, NASA; Supriya Chakrabarti, Boston University; Ben Clark,
Lockheed Martin Astronautics; Anthony Comberiate, NASA GSFC; Dave Crisp, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); Alphonso Diaz, NASA Science Mission Directorate; Larry Esposito, LASP; James Fanson, JPL; Thomas Fraschetti, JPL; William Gail, Ball Aerospace; Thomas Gavin, JPL; Neil Gehrels, NASA GSFC; Peter Harvey, UC Berkeley; Rod Heelis, University of Texas, Dallas; Paul Hertz, NASA Science Mission Directorate; Dave Jarrett, NASA Headquarters; Robert Lin, UC Berkeley; Roy Maizel, NASA Science Mission Directorate; Michael Malin, Michael Malin Space Systems, Inc.; Chris Martin, California Institute of Technology (Caltech); Todd May, NASA Marshall Space Center; Karen McBride, NASA Science Mission Directorate; Michael McGrath, LASP; Tom Morgan, NASA Science Mission Directorate; Susan Niebur, NASA Science Mission Directorate; Harold Reitsema, Ball Aerospace; Wayne Richie, NASA Langley Research Center; Gary Rottman, LASP; Christopher Russell, University of California, Los Angeles; Charles Sasaki, JPL; Nick Schneider, LASP; Peter Smith, University of Arizona; Sean Solomon, Carnegie Institution of Washington; Tom Sparn, LASP; Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute; Ed Stone, Caltech; and Joe Vellinga, Lockheed Martin Astronautics.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
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:
Daniel N. Baker, University of Colorado,
Charles L. Bennett, Johns Hopkins University,
Louis J. Demas, NASA (retired),
William C. Gibson, Southwest Research Institute,
Wesley T. Huntress, Carnegie Institution of Washington, and
Michael L. Stancati, Science Applications International Corporation.
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 Frank McDonald, University of Maryland. Appointed by the National Research Council, he 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.