The NRC will appoint an ad hoc committee to conduct an assessment of the scientific value of extended missions in the overall program of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The committee’s report will provide recommended guidelines for future NASA decision-making about such mission extensions. In conducting this study, the committee could address the following questions:
- Historically, what have been the scientific benefits of mission extensions? How important are these benefits (for example, benefits that might only accrue during the extended mission phase but not earlier)?
- What is the current SMD Senior Review process for extending missions—for example, how are reviews chartered and conducted, by whom, and using what criteria? What should be division dependent and what should be uniform across the Directorate?
- The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 requires biennial Senior Reviews for each mission extension. Is this biennial time period optimal for all divisions? Would a longer or shorter time period between reviews be advantageous in some cases?
- Does the balance currently struck between starting new missions and extending operating missions provide the best science return within NASA’s budget? That is, how much of an acceleration of new mission initiation could realistically be achieved by reallocating resources from mission extensions to new programs, compared to the corresponding scientific loss from terminated or diminished mission extensions?
- Are there innovative cost reduction approaches that could increase the science cost-effectiveness of extended missions? Are there any general principles that might be applied across the board or to all of the missions for an individual science theme or a particular class? Are there alternative mission management approaches (e.g., transfer to an outside technical or educational institution for training or other purposes) that could reduce mission costs during extended operations and continue to serve SMD’s science objectives?