The 2007 Earth science and applications from space decadal survey recognized that there are many risks and uncertainties in developing a suite of space missions, and it offered a number of programmatic guidelines and rules for guiding NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to minimize these risks and protect the entire balanced program.1 The rules outlined below largely duplicate those presented in the 2007 survey.
Leverage International Efforts
• Restructure or defer missions if international partners select missions that meet most of the measurement objectives of the recommended missions; then (1) through dialogue establish data-access agreements, and (2) establish science teams to use the data in support of the science and societal objectives.
• Where appropriate, offer cost-effective additions to international missions that help extend the values of those missions. These actions should yield significant information in the identified areas at substantially less cost to the partners.
Manage Technology Risk
• Sequence missions according to technological readiness and budget risk factors. The budget risk consideration may favor initiating lower-cost missions first. However, technology investments should be made across all recommended missions.
• Reduce cost risk on recommended missions by investing early in the technological challenges of the missions. If there are insufficient funds to execute the missions in the recommended time frames, it is still important to make advances on the key technological hurdles.
• Establish technology readiness through documented technology demonstrations before a mission’s development phase, and certainly before mission confirmation.
1National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., Box 3.4.
Respond to Budget Pressures and Shortfalls
• Delay downstream missions in the event of small (~10 percent) cost growth in mission development. Protect the overarching observational program by canceling missions that substantially overrun.
• Implement a system-wide independent review process that permits decisions regarding technical capabilities, cost, and schedule to be made in the context of the overarching science objectives. Programmatic decisions on potential delays or reductions in the capabilities of a particular mission could then be evaluated in light of the overall mission set and integrated requirements.
• Maintain a broad research program under significantly reduced agency funds by accepting greater mission risk rather than descoping missions and science requirements. Aggressively seek international and commercial partners to share mission costs. If necessary, eliminate specific missions related to a theme rather than whole themes.
• In the event of large budget shortfalls, re-evaluate the entire set of missions in light of an assessment of the current state of international global Earth observations, plans, needs, and opportunities. Seek advice from the broad community of Earth scientists and users and modify the long-term strategy (rather than dealing with one mission at a time). Maintain narrow, focused operational and sustained research programs rather than attempting to expand capabilities by accepting greater risk. Limit thematic scope and confine instrument capabilities to those well demonstrated by previous research instruments.