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Grading NASA's Solar System Exploration Program: A Midterm Report (2008)

Chapter: Appendix A: Statement of Task

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2008. Grading NASA's Solar System Exploration Program: A Midterm Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12070.
Page 69

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A Statement of Task In Section 301(a) of the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, the Congress directed NASA to have “[t]he performance of each division in the Science directorate . . . reviewed and assessed by the National Academy of Sciences at 5-year intervals.” In late 2006 NASA asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct such an assessment for the agency’s Planetary Science Division. The committee’s statement of task is to: Review the alignment of NASA’s Planetary Exploration Division program with previous NRC advice—primar- ily the reports New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy and several recent studies concerning Mars, such as Assessment of Mars Science and Mission Priorities. More specifically, the committee shall address 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. Identify 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. SEC. 301. PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS. (a) IN GENERAL.—The performance of each division in the Science directorate of NASA shall be reviewed and assessed by the National Academy of Sciences at 5-year intervals. (b) TIMING.—Beginning with the first fiscal year following the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator shall select at least one division for review under this section. The Administrator shall select divisions so that all disciplines will have received their first review within six fiscal years of the date of enactment of this Act. (c) REPORTS.—Not later than March 1 of each year, beginning with the first fiscal year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Ad- ministrator shall transmit a report to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate— (1) setting forth in detail the results of any external review under subsection (a); (2) setting forth in detail actions taken by NASA in re- sponse to any external review; and (3) including a summary of findings and recommendations from any other relevant external reviews of NASA’s science mission priorities and programs. The recommendations made in Assessment of Mars Science and Mission Priorities (NRC, 2003) were summarized in the New Frontiers decadal survey, and therefore including the former was essentially redundant. However, the committee did include recommendations from Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016 (NRC, 2006). This was the most recent of three Mars assessment reports and, in the committee’s view, was the most up-to-date NRC guidance on NASA’s Mars plans. 69

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The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 directed the agency to ask the NRC to assess the performance of each division in the NASA Science directorate at five-year intervals. In this connection, NASA requested the NRC to review the progress the Planetary Exploration Division has made in implementing recommendations from previous, relevant NRC studies. This book provides an assessment of NASA's progress in fulfilling those recommendations including an evaluation how well it is doing and of current trends. The book covers key science questions, flight missions, Mars exploration, research and analysis, and enabling technologies. Recommendations are provided for those areas in particular need of improvement.

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