There are more actors on the international Earth and space science scene than there were even a decade ago, and the capabilities they bring to these disciplines continue to increase in number and complexity. Historically, however, there has not been a standardized, or even a very good, mechanism for incorporating the capabilities and perspectives of the international Earth and space science scene into the decadal survey process. While international scientists often serve on the decadal survey committees and their supporting panels, they are a relatively small proportion of the survey’s membership and cannot reasonably be expected to represent the science community of their nation or region. Similarly, a single presentation from international partners at a survey committee’s meeting is equally insufficient to provide context for a potential partner’s capabilities and contributions. This workshop session focused on how to better incorporate international perspectives into future decadal surveys, as well as the risks and benefits of international cooperation in this field.
|Moderator:||Robert P. Lin,1 Professor, Department of Physics, University of California, Berkeley; Member, Space Studies Board (SSB); U.S. Representative to and Vice President of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR); Member, 2013 Solar and Space Physics Decadal Survey; Member, Workshop Planning Committee|
Michael Freilich, Director, NASA Earth Science Division
Dennis McSweeney, Deputy Director, Science Division, Office of Interagency and International Relations, NASA
Masato Nakamura, Research Director, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Japanese
Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) David Southwood, Senior Research Investigator and Professor, Imperial College; Director of
Science and Robotic Exploration (retired), European Space Agency (ESA) Jean-Pierre Swings, Chairman, European Space Sciences Committee (ESSC); Professor, Institut d’Astrophysique et de Géophysique, Liège, Belgium
The moderator, Robert Lin, began the session by stating that the goal of this panel is to see how international collaboration can be incorporated more effectively in the decadal survey process. All four of the most recent survey reports sponsored by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) recognized the importance of international cooperation.2 The type of prize that might be expected from enhanced
1 Dr. Lin passed away on November 17, 2012.
2 See the National Research Council (NRC) reports Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, 2007, pp. 214, 250, 294, and 335; New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, 2010, pp. 81-101; Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, 2011, pp. 63-67; and Solar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society, 2013, pp. 122 and 134; all printed by The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
international cooperation includes a more capable space program. Indeed, the advantage of cooperation in the execution of large missions is compelling. Now is an especially opportune time to discuss international collaboration because there are more potential partners than ever before. Besides the traditional partners such as Canada, Europe, Japan, and Russia, new players such as China, India, and Brazil have ambitious and growing space programs. However, cooperation has its challenges, including the ever-changing international political environment, the infamous International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), and mismatches between national budgetary and strategic planning cycles. All of these factors and more can create the impression, real or imaginary, that some partners—the United States included—are “unreliable.” The decadal surveys already have had a huge impact on international space activities. Some space activities are more international than others. Earth science and applications from space, by its very nature, is more amenable to cooperative activities.
The basic theme behind the topics this panel addressed is this: What can the SSB do to foster a greater degree of cooperation via the decadal survey process? The problem, Lin noted, is that it is very difficult to incorporate international collaborations in the survey process for a variety of reasons. Questions posed to the panelists included the following: Does cooperation compete against another program? How do you cost international cooperative activities? and Can you be certain that the international environment will not change and render cooperation problematic? These are not easy subjects to address.
Following the conclusion of his introductory remarks, Robert Lin explained that the panelists had framed a series of important topics to address directly or indirectly in their discussions. These topics included how NASA interfaces internationally; different modes of international cooperation; potential future collaborative efforts; leveraging international assets and capabilities; alignment and timing of national space science strategic planning; the role of the SSB in the international arena; and the role of future decadal surveys in the international arena. The panel discussion is broken into the following high-level topic areas based on the structure of the discussion:
• Earth science perspective on international cooperation,
• NASA perspective on international cooperation,
• JAXA perspective on international cooperation,
• ESA perspective on international cooperation, and
• ESSC perspective on international cooperation.
Michael Freilich began by noting that in Earth sciences international collaboration is not optional. It is absolutely necessary. Far more variables need to be measured, and they need to be measured far better than any single nation could possibly do. All of the spacefaring nations have an inherent interest in making relevant measurements and demonstrating that their national investment is leading to direct societal benefit. As a result, there are several well-credentialed, high-level coordinating groups active in the Earth science arena. For meteorology, there is the Coordinating Group for Meteorological Satellites, a component of the World Meteorological Organization. And just about everything else in this field is the responsibility of the Committee on Earth Observing Satellites (CEOS), a component of the ministerial-level Group on Earth Observations. NASA and its colleagues in ESA, JAXA, the Indian Space Research Organization, and many other space agencies have enduring leadership roles in these coordinating groups.
Freilich continued by noting that the SSB and its decadal surveys can address international collaboration in several ways that are not immediately obvious. The obvious, fully collaborative hardware
model—that is, where partners contribute systems and subsystems to create a spacecraft beyond the resources of one single nation—is very difficult to implement. Fortunately, there are other modes of collaboration.
The easiest mode is mission harmonization. Space agencies can harmonize their Earth observing satellites, for example, by adjusting the equator-crossing times of their orbits so that they gather on a complementary date. Cross-calibration is another way to harmonize national missions. A slightly more ambitious mode of collaboration is something like the so-called A-Train—a constellation of satellites in which spacecraft from different nations are placed into similar orbits to make coordinated, near simultaneous observations of the same region of Earth. The collective data set returned by the constellation is greater than the sum of the return from its independent, autonomous constituents.
Another purer form of collaboration is to allocate whole areas of Earth science to different international partners. For example, NASA could take the lead in oceanic measurements, and ESA could play a similar role for atmospheric chemistry, and so on. This mode of collaboration requires great mutual trust and robust data-sharing protocols.
In summary, Freilich noted that a thorough understanding of the capabilities of missions to be flown by international partners and the type and availability of data sets they will return is key to the conduct of future decadal surveys. The greater the insights survey committees have into the capabilities of international missions, the better positioned they will be to advise NASA as to where to make future investments, especially if unique contributions can be identified.
Dennis McSweeney prefaced his contribution to the discussion by reminding the audience that one of the nine activities assigned to NASA by the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act (Public Law 85-568) was to look for opportunities to cooperate with other nations in pursuing its missions. So, international collaboration is one of NASA’s founding principles. Soon after NASA’s Office of International and Interagency Relations was established in the late 1950s, it developed a set of five guidelines for the conduct of cooperative activities. McSweeney listed them as follows:
1. The designation by each participating government of a central agency for the negotiation and supervision of joint projects;
2. Agreement upon specific projects rather than generalized programs;
3. Acceptance of financial responsibility by each participating country for its own contributions to joint projects;
4. Joint projects must be of mutual scientific interest; and 8.
5. The scientific results from joint projects must be published in the open literature.
Now, more than 50 years later, NASA’s current guidelines for international cooperation are very similar, as listed by McSweeney:
1. NASA’s international partners are generally (but not exclusively) government agencies due to the significant level of investment and legal requirements;
2. Each partner funds its respective contributions, but contributions need not be equivalent;
3. Partnerships and projects must have scientific and technical merit;
4. The proposed cooperation must be consistent with U.S. foreign policy;
5. The cooperation must demonstrate a specific benefit to NASA;
6. Projects must be structured in such a way as to avoid unwarranted technology transfer;
7. Projects must be structured to establish clearly defined managerial and technical interfaces to minimize complexity; and 14.
8. Cooperative activities must be documented in a written, binding agreement closely coordinated with the U.S. Department of State and other government agencies.
The 1958 Space Act gives NASA the specific authority to enter into binding international agreements. Not all government agencies have such authority. However, the Space Act does not relieve NASA of the encumbrances of the interagency-review process overseen by the State Department. The interagency review is cumbersome and typically takes 6 to 12 months to complete.
McSweeney asked how NASA has utilized these guiding principles and its authority to enter into binding agreements. Since 1958, he explained, NASA has entered into more than 4,000 cooperative agreements with some 100 nations. NASA currently has more than 500 active agreements, and two-thirds of them relate to activities of the SMD. More than half of the 50 or so active SMD spacecraft involve international collaboration. Most of NASA collaborative activities are conducted on a project-specific, bilateral basis. Plus, as Freilich noted, NASA participates in all of the multilateral international spacecraft coordination groups.
Masato Nakamura began his comments by noting that the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) is the space science component of JAXA, which was an independent organization until September 2003. The annual budgets of ISAS and JAXA are $150 million and $1.8 billion, respectively. Nakamura noted that before discussing possible Japanese participation in the decadal surveys, it is necessary to understand the differences between space development and science policy between ISAS and NASA and between Japan and the United States. ISAS promotes inter-university activities. ISAS’s facilities are available to scientists and engineers at all of Japan’s universities. To support its activities, ISAS is staffed by 140 professors of all ranks. ISAS has developed some 32 scientific spacecraft as well as solid-propellant launch vehicles.
Japanese spacecraft are developed via a bottom-up process that starts with the submission of proposals in response to an announcement of opportunity (AO) issued by ISAS. Scientific (e.g., astrophysics, solar and space physics, and planetary science) and engineering proposals are assessed by the Steering Committee for Space Science and the Steering Committee for Space Engineering, respectively. These committees are composed of scientists and engineers from both ISAS and academia. Each committee recommends a single mission, and the ISAS Advisory Council for Research and Management picks one of them for implementation.
The selection of a single mission in response to each AO is a reflection of the limited resources available to ISAS. Indeed, as Nakamura explained, the disparate resources available for space science activities at ISAS and NASA is the primary reason why ISAS needs to maintain its own methodology and organization to select missions. The ISAS Steering Committee for Space Science plays the same role as do the decadal survey committees in the United States.
With respect to international partnerships in the decision-making process, communications between Japanese, U.S., and European space scientists are already very good. Information concerning current and planned space missions is regularly exchanged between space agencies. Given the relative scales of space science activities in the United States and Japan, Nakamura did not see a role for ISAS in top-down planning efforts such as the decadal surveys. ISAS’s current mission planning and selection activities have worked well, and Nakamura saw no need to change it. Rather than see ISAS scientists participate in future decadal surveys, he suggested that a list of Japanese scientists familiar with both ISAS and other international space science activities be drafted. The NRC can then use this list to select participants in future study activities.
Nakamura concluded his comments by noting that most ISAS missions embody some degree of international cooperation. NASA and ESA, for example, were invited to contribute instruments to all of ISAS’s astrophysics missions. ISAS is currently working with ESA to develop the BepiColombo Mercury
orbiter. All cooperative missions embody the risk that the partnerships on which they are based will fail. All space agencies should work to minimize this risk.
David Southwood initiated his comments by offering his admiration to the SSB for initiating the process of self-examination inherent in the workshop. He continued by mentioning that Roger Blandford interacted closely with ESA in the early stages of the development of the 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey. ESA found these interactions very useful. Southwood related that the input he provided to the survey took the form of an honest forecast of likely developments in European space science activities in the coming decade. The 2011 planetary science decadal survey committee included European scientists, and Steven Squyres personally briefed Southwood on the survey’s outcomes.
One aspect of the most recent decadal surveys that the European space-science community had tried to do is a form of independent cost and technical evaluation (CATE) to guide large investments of resources. However, the CATE process itself, as described in this workshop, is too time consuming, in Southwood’s opinion, for adoption in Europe.
Europe does not have decadal surveys, per se, but there are analogous strategic planning documents. ESA’s Earth observation program, for example, drew up a decadal-like plan, and it is still going strong 15 years after it was issued. Southwood noted that when he assumed his leadership position at ESA, he had anticipated setting up cooperation missions involving the exchange of hardware with international partners. However, hardware exchange proved unnecessary, and other forms of collaboration, as related by Michael Freilich, were followed. Indeed, European scientists were very reluctant to become involved in hardware exchange because of the economic and political sensitivity of Earth remote-sensing technologies.
The European experience in space science is very different from that in Earth science. Many of ESA’s current activities were initiated following the publication in 1984 of Horizon 2000,3 20-year strategic plan. In fact, it took 25 years to implement all the missions discussed in this plan. The successor plan, Horizon 2000-Plus, 4 was not a success because its mission scope was insufficiently selective. ESA revises its strategic plans approximately every 12 years, and the next planning document, Cosmic Vision 2015-2025,5 was issued in 2005. This new strategic plan does not include named missions. However, the planning process did include the use of an internal design team to “scope-out” reference missions and gauge the likely cost of their implementation. This design team was sequestered from the strategic planning process to maintain independence. According to Southwood, this CATE-like process worked well. However, it was not clear to Southwood how ESA’s strategic planning fits into the NRC’s decadal survey process.
Southwood was clear that the decadal surveys, particularly the most recent astronomy and planetary science surveys, have a massive influence on European activities. Ironically, U.S. disappointments concerning the implementations of some survey recommendations have resounded to Europe’s benefit. Southwood explained that he would have loved to have had a joint NASA-ESA dark energy mission. But, it was not to be. ESA will now “go it alone” with its Euclid mission.
A related, but much more complex, example of NASA’s loss being ESA’s gain is ExoMars. When Southwood took over responsibility for the ExoMars rover mission in 2008, its instrument complement and budget were, respectively, over- and under-subscribed. Southwood’s U.S. counterpart
3 European Space Agency (ESA), Horizon 2000 (N. Longdon, ed.), ESA SP-1070, ESA Publications Division, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, 1984.
4 ESA, Horizon 2000 Plus: European Space Science in the 21st Century (B. Battrick, ed.), ESA SP-1180, ESA Publications Division, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, 1995.
foresaw that the logical and inevitable outcome of NASA’s Mars exploration activities was a sample-return mission; however, NASA could not afford such a mission. There was general agreement between NASA and ESA that a joint program of Mars exploration could alleviate the near-term issues surrounding ExoMars and enable a collaborative sample-return mission sometime in the mid- to long-term future. The plan recommended by the 2011 planetary science decadal survey was highly supportive of this cooperative venture. Unfortunately, NASA has withdrawn from the joint Mars program, and ESA is now forging a new partnership with Russia to conduct joint Mars missions in 2016 and 2018. European-Russian cooperation would, in Southwood’s opinion, be good for the world community, but not without its own set of risks.
The 2011 survey also placed a high priority on a joint NASA-ESA program to explore Jupiter’s Galilean satellites. This recommendation was also in accord with ESA’s hopes and expectations. Unfortunately, the U.S. contribution to this joint program—a Europa orbiter—proved to be prohibitively expensive, and funding for it did not materialize. Again, NASA’s loss was ESA’s gain in that the European component of the proposed joint mission—a Ganymede orbiter—was selected for development as the first of the L-class missions envisaged in the Cosmic Vision plan. A successful mission to the jovian system would represent a major advance in ESA technical capabilities.
Southwood began his concluding comments by outlining two factors that he believes promote successful collaborations. The first factor is modularity; that is, if partnerships fall apart, you should have something concrete to take home with you. The second factor is motivation. You need to understand what motivates potential partners to cooperate with you. You need to understand the culture and frames of reference of your partners. Failure to do so is fatal to collaborations. He illustrated both of his points by referencing the ESA-JAXA cooperation on the BepiColombo Mercury orbiter. ESA is building the mother ship, and JAXA is contributing the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. Both contributions are completely modular. ESA would not have attempted such a complex mission without the lessons it learned from prior collaborations with NASA.
Southwood reserved his final comments for NASA. Although NASA may have the authority to enter into binding international agreements, no such agreements are truly binding unless they are signed by current heads of state of the partnering nations. Nevertheless, international cooperation has been a tremendous benefit for European science. It has also benefited big NASA missions—for example, Cassini—by making them next to impossible to cancel.
Jean-Pierre Swings set the stage for his response by describing the role of the ESSC, which was founded some 35 years ago as component of the European Science Foundation. Its basic function is that of a European SSB. However, its human and financial resources are far smaller than those of its U.S. counterpart. ESSC has strong links with the SSB, and cross-participation in each other’s meetings has been standard for many years. ESSC exists to give independent advice on space science issues within Europe. ESSC is a multidisciplinary body, and it currently has four panels: astronomy and fundamental physics, solar system science, Earth observation, and human exploration and microgravity research.
Swings explained that ESSC is involved in a broad range of activities, including topical studies— current projects include a study on technological breakthroughs for ESA, Toward Human Exploration of the Solar System, and a recently completed report on planetary protection for Mars sample-return missions—and representing the scientific community at the ESA ministerial conferences. With respect to the latter, the topics ESSC will raise at the next ministerial conference include space-data policy, education and public outreach programs, Earth observation programs, life and physical research activities, ExoMars and lunar exploration, and space technology. ESSC also planned to raise at the ministerial conference the issue of coordination in the timing of road-mapping and strategic planning activities of different space agencies.
Swings devoted the remainder of his time to discussion of two issues raised by Robert Lin in his introductory remarks: (1) different modes of international cooperation and (2) potential future collaborative activities.
With respect to the first issue, Swings reminded the audience about the 1998 joint SSB-ESSC study U.S.-European Collaboration in Space Science,6 which listed eight key principles for good international collaborations. These eight principles are as follows:7
• Scientific support through peer review that affirms the scientific integrity, value, requirements, and benefits of a cooperative mission;
• A historical foundation built on an existing international community, partnership, and shared scientific experiences;
• Shared objectives that incorporate the interests of scientists, engineers, and managers in common and communicated goals;
• Clearly defined responsibilities and roles for cooperative partners, including scientists, engineers, and mission managers;
• An agreed-upon process for data calibration, validation, access, and distribution;
• A sense of partnership recognizing the unique contributions of each participant;
• Beneficial characteristics of cooperation; and
• Recognition of the importance of reviews for cooperative activities in the conceptual, developmental, active, or extended mission phases—particularly for foreseen and upcoming large missions.
Of the various types of cooperative relationships that might exist, Swings believes that the only one incompatible with these eight principles is a boss-subordinate relationship.
With respect to future collaborative activities, Swings pointed to a recommendation contained in the 2000 ESSC report Future of International Collaboration in Space Science,8 which recommended the establishment of an Inter-Agency Scientific Collaboration Working (IA-SCWG) that would include responsible executives from key space agencies (e.g., ESA, NASA, JAXA, and Russia) plus space scientists nominated by independent advisory groups such as ESSC and the SSB. Such a group would provide a global forum for discussing collaboration on large missions and also enable the coordination of focused science missions. The latter is, in Swings’ opinion, particularly important because it would help alleviate issues that arise when space agencies independently plan parallel missions with similar goals.
At this point, Robert Lin opened the session to questions and comments from the audience.
Workshop participants made comments and posed questions to the panelists, as described below. Topics discussed included:
• International participation in the decadal survey process,
• Challenges and benefits of international cooperation,
• Suggested mechanisms for international cooperation,
• Thoughts on U.S.-European cooperation, and
• Discussion of COSPAR and its role.
6 NRC and European Science Foundation, U.S.-European Collaboration in Space Science, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1998.
7 NRC and European Science Foundation, U.S.-European Collaboration in Space Science, 1998, pp. 4 and 102-104.
8 European Science Foundation, Future of International Collaboration in Space Science, Strasbourg, France, 2000.
Robert Lin began the discussion by asking about international participation in the 2007 Earth science and applications from space decadal survey. Michael Freilich replied by noting that the survey report was dedicated to the memory of Tony Hollingsworth from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting. He played a key role in the activities of the survey committee but did not live long enough to see the report published. Encouraging international participation in supporting the decadal survey is absolutely necessary. The international missionary work undertaken by Roger Blandford, Steven Squyres, and others in support of their surveys is something future Earth science studies should look at replicating.
Lin continued the theme by asking if it was appropriate for U.S. scientists to become involved in other nations’ planning activities. Masato Nakamura believed that Japan’s missions should be just for Japan. If the NRC invites Japanese scientists to participate in a future next decadal survey, however, then Japan would likely reciprocate by inviting U.S. scientists to participate in Japanese planning activities. David Southwood was not entirely sure how the British or European system would address this issue. During Europe’s Cosmic Vision process, Southwood explained, he was invited to brief the SSB on the Cosmic Vision report.9 He believed that his non-scientific background allowed him to provide an objective and dispassionate presentation to the SSB, and he cautioned workshop participants about who the various scientific communities select to serve as their representatives. He said that because scientists are so enmeshed in one niche within their discipline, they often lack a grasp of the desires of their entire discipline community. This is very important, not only for when this representative engages his or her community domestically, but when dealing with international counterparts as well.
Dennis McSweeny said that there appears to be a great deal of agreement that it is a good idea to strive for increased international participation at some level in the decadal survey process and to have greater U.S. access to international partners’ strategic planning processes for the Earth and space sciences. What McSweeny is not sure about is how formal or informal that participation should be, as both have pros and cons. A more formal structure could become overly bureaucratic and unwieldy, while something informal might be insufficient or underrepresentative of the Earth and space sciences community.
Southwood cautioned participants against involving too many countries in the decadal survey process but said that is separate from NASA cooperating in general with other countries, which he encouraged. He recounted a story of the European Horizon 2000 strategic planning process where the United States was an anticipated partner on a project, but after the planning effort was completed, the United States could no longer participate in the planned program. Planning on the involvement of even more countries in a formal manner would likely create more complications than solutions.
Freilich said that while he agrees with Southwood’s remarks about overly formal incorporation of international cooperation in decadal surveys, on the other hand, if a decadal survey committee is informed as to the real context of international missions, capabilities, and willingness, then the committees can set the size of a “box” for a mission that could realistically come to fruition through an international partnership. The survey does not need to specify a partner but can say that the committee recommends a mission on the basis of the state of international partner capabilities. Then it will be NASA and the science community’s job to make the appropriation partnership happen. McSweeny said that he agrees wholeheartedly.
An audience member reminded panelists that on past decadal surveys, the survey committees were not allowed to build international cooperation into their missions or program architectures (save to recommend that NASA should pursue international cooperation in a very general sense). She asked the panelists for their thoughts on the decadal survey clearly delineating U.S. and international contributions to a mission or suite of missions and if that level of detail is worth the effort. Freilich said that this comment is in line with what he just said and that the decadal survey can very well say what the U.S.
9 ESA, Cosmic Vision. 2005.
investment in a mission should be (and/or should not exceed), thus endorsing the mission but also calling on NASA to pursue an international partnership to develop the mission; Southwood concurred.
Freilich also referenced comments he made on the previous day of the workshop during the Agency-Specific Issues Panel (see Chapter 4), when panelists were asked what preparatory work NASA or others could do prior to the start of a decadal survey. He reiterated his suggestion that NASA conduct its own survey of the capabilities of international partners in the Earth and space sciences for consideration by the decadal survey committee during its program formulation.
An audience member noted that one of the weaknesses of the decadal surveys was insufficient knowledge and consideration of international capabilities. Nevertheless, there are still potential drawbacks to international cooperation to take into account, including the potential for greater mission costs and national security concerns.
Another audience member commented on the traditional top-down nature of decision-making when it comes to international cooperation. He remarked how talk of international cooperation invariably means imposing international cooperation and asked the panelists if there are ways to go about international cooperation from a bottom-up approach. For instance, many students today from all over the world know and interact with one another in a way that could not necessarily be done a generation ago, and those students could form a foundation for future international cooperation.
In response to this, Masato Nakamura said it is worth consideration, noting that, historically, Japanese culture favors a top-down approach for decision-making in nearly all matters. With advents like the Internet and increased informal communications between Earth and space scientists around the world, Nakamura is optimistic that this will lead toward the bottom-up approach the audience member is advocating. Nevertheless, Nakamura explained, the Japanese space science strategic planning apparatus is having trouble reconciling the increasingly shorter timescales for science objectives with the nature of long-term planning. He expressed concern that scientific changes can occur quickly enough to derail a long-term strategic plan.
David Southwood provided some historical examples of how scientists did not envision certain research to be pursued, for instance, research into the Higgs boson particle following theoretical work done by Peter Higgs in the early 1960s or study of the cosmic microwave background radiation. These research topics were based on theories that after direct observation ended up making fundamental changes to their respective realms of science. However, he did not have a suggestion to directly remedy the issue raised by Nakamura.
Michael Freilich also did not have an answer to Nakamura’s concern but agreed with its premise. He explained that there are three incommensurate timescales in U.S. space science planning. First, the timescale of the decadal surveys. Second, the timescale of implementing missions (longer). Third, the timescale of the science (shorter). For Earth science—and likely solar and space physics—Freilich said that once the decadal survey is released, mission science advocates will claim that the priorities of the survey are already irrelevant and that the advocate’s mission should be made the number one priority. While there are these incommensurate timescales, Freilich noted that if NASA as a space agency wants to actually produce science, it cannot continuously reprioritize its mission portfolio and science objectives. NASA will take the risk, he said, that the big, long-timescale missions will be irrelevant when they fly. For him, it is better to fly a mission and find out what contributions it can make than not fly the mission and not even have a chance at advancing the science.
Jean-Pierre Swings suggested establishing a global forum for both established spacefaring nations and newcomers alike. The forum would generate a sense of global community and could be organized by the SSB and the ESSC. Swings said that this type of international collaboration was discussed at a workshop on U.S. civil space policy held by the NRC in 2008.10 Although formalizing such an organization remains a major challenge, he believes it to be a good starting place for enhanced international communication and collaboration in space exploration.
SSB Chair Charles Kennel said that he and Michael Freilich have had similar experiences serving with the [international] CEOS, which included an exchange between the heads of programs from different nations. That exchange was not necessarily focused on planning joint missions but rather to coordinate activities and share enough information so that program managers knew what their counterparts were doing. As a result, he said, from time to time the exchange served as a direct jumping-off point for program managers to solicit a partnership on a mission or other international activity. On a smaller scale, but also on a very practical side in the Earth sciences, the exchange has allowed for useful coordination of the timing of missions and measurements.
David Southwood said that the CEOS handbook11 is a very useful as a directory of stakeholders and services provided by members. However, Southwood urged caution for going from a quick search of a nation’s capabilities and diving straight into a partnership, suggesting that some level of technical assessment needs to be done first before proceeding.
Masato Nakamura, referring back to an earlier exchange of a top-down or bottom-up approach for strategic planning, said that for the most part he is responsible for carrying out discussions with his counterparts in other countries regarding international collaboration. He has had some conversations via CEOS with India, among others, but has had no such conversations with the Chinese. Like Japan, he said, India appears to have a top-down planning approach for its space program. He reiterated past remarks he made calling for a shift towards a bottom-up approach like in the United States and Europe.
Kennel said that a forum akin to what Swings suggested would benefit from being separate from each nation’s political environment. This is an important element to such an organization’s success, because it would allow for member nations to think more creatively about potential scientific and cooperative opportunities on longer time horizons—15 years or more in the future. These discussions could identify specific opportunities for collaboration, as well as identify a partner who would be responsible for developing a significant capability that is necessary for success of the mission. This dialog could then be input for the decadal surveys.
Michael Freilich made an interesting distinction between the Earth and space sciences and NASA’s relationship with ESA and individual European national space agencies. In the Earth sciences, he explained, NASA has had longer-standing and deeper collaborations with the space agencies of Germany and France (among others) than with ESA itself, which is not true for the space sciences. The difficulty of working with ESA in Earth science stems in large part from differences in data policy, but ESA has endorsed a more open data policy recently, which has led to a framework agreement between NASA and ESA for collaboration. Freilich’s overarching point was that, from an SSB standpoint, participants should be aware that European collaboration does not simply mean the NASA-ESA relationship.
10 NRC, Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World: Summary of a Workshop, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2009.
David Southwood concurred with Freilich’s statement, but added that from his experience, in Earth science or any Earth observation activity, ESA represents the interests of Europe, whereas individual nations can play a more minor role. The reasons for this are political and can make it difficult for the United States to cooperate with Europe.
Freilich responded to David Southwood’s comments by stating that he has deep personal experience on both sides of working with Europe, starting with the ERS-1 mission in the 1980s, which was a collaboration between NASA and ESA. Today, the relationships that NASA has with European national space agencies are not necessarily overwhelmingly U.S.-dominant with a minor contribution from a European partner. In fact, when it comes to ocean altimetry, the French space agency, CNES, has taken nearly an equal role as the United States. Although the financial contribution from CNES is not the same, the bottom line is that those missions would not have happened without the participation of CNES.
Jean-Pierre Swings then pointed out that the SSB has contacted the ESSC on several occasions for suggestions of candidates to serve on decadal survey committees and their supporting panels. While the ESSC does not do decadal surveys for ESA, he envisions reciprocating this gesture with very little problem either for a similar activity or for other European planning exercises.
SSB Chair Charles Kennel asked the panelists how they would recommend capturing the creativity of looking at a challenge or opportunity from an international perspective. This is what he and others had in mind when they first suggested the open international forum at the 2008 NRC workshop on Workshop on U.S. Civil Space Policy.12 That forum would not be binding, even in the sense that CEOS is, because it would not be a governmental commitment, but Kennel thinks there is a need for a forum that looks at what can be done from an international standpoint over a long time horizon that can feed back into the decadal survey process.
David Southwood concurred with Kennel but wondered if there was not already a forum of the kind Kennel suggested that was originally established to facilitate international cooperation in space science—COSPAR.13 According to Southwood, COSPAR was set up to be the forum that has been described by Kennel, Swings, and others at this workshop; for instance, after its inception, it was the only place for international scientists to meet with their Soviet counterparts. Today, however, Southwood believes that COSPAR has become more of a scientific conference than true forum, but it could still be used as an umbrella organization for this new forum.
Lennard Fisk, who serves as the U.S. representative to COSPAR under the auspices of the SSB, said that COSPAR has a Scientific Advisory Committee (CSAC)14 that he currently chairs and has for a number of years.15 According to Fisk, what has been discussed regarding an open international forum is precisely what CSAC has tried to encourage COSPAR to be. He agreed with Southwood that COSPAR is a natural starting point for the forum activity, but COSPAR will have to make some changes, including meeting more frequently and meeting in more easily accessible and less costly destinations. Although COSPAR does not have resources of its own and cannot charter studies, Fisk believes it to be a venue for international Earth and space scientists to meet to exchange information, and at times they have had heads of agencies participate in COSPAR meetings as well—although he would like that to happen more frequently.
12 NRC, Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World, 2009.
15 Workshop panelist Jean-Pierre Swings is the vice chair of the COSPAR Scientific Advisory Committee.