REVIEW OF THE
RESTRUCTURED RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS PROGRAMS
OF NASA’S PLANETARY SCIENCE DIVISION
Committee on the Review of NASA’s Planetary Science Division’s
Restructured Research and Analysis Program
Space Studies Board
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
A Report of
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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This study is based on work supported by the Contract NNH11CD57B with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-45870-2
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-45870-6
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/24759
Cover: Upper Image, a collage of the planets in the solar system as seen by different NASA spacecraft (photo-credit: NASA JPL). Bottom insets (left to right): NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii (photo-credit: NASA-JPL); a researcher peering into a stereo microscope to examine a Stardust aerogel tile (photo-credit: NASA); a computer simulation of different stages in the collision between the two planetary bodies (photo-credit: Erik Asphaug (Arizona State University) and Martin Jutzi (University of Bern)); and NASA engineers preparing the Visible and Infrared Spectrometer for the OSIRIS Rex spacecraft (photo-credit: NASA-GSFC, Bill Hrybyk).
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Review of the Restructured Research and Analysis Programs of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/24759.
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COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF NASA’S PLANETARY SCIENCE DIVISION’S RESTRUCTURED RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS PROGRAM
STEPHEN J. MACKWELL, Universities Space Research Association, Chair
MICHAEL F. A’HEARN,1 University of Maryland (emeritus professor)
JOSEPH K. ALEXANDER, Alexander Space Policy Consultants
JOSEPH A. BURNS, Cornell University
LARRY W. ESPOSITO, University of Colorado, Boulder
G. SCOTT HUBBARD, Stanford University
TORRENCE V. JOHNSON, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
PETER B. KELEMEN, NAS,2 Columbia University
MAKENZIE LYSTRUP, Ball Aerospace
JUAN PEREZ-MERCADER, Harvard University
JOHN D. RUMMEL, SETI Institute
DAVID H. SMITH, Senior Program Officer, Study Director
CHARLES HARRIS, Research Associate
DIONNA J. WISE, Program Coordinator
CHERIE ACHILLES, SSB Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern
SARA PEACOCK, SSB Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director, Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
1 Deceased on May 29, 2017.
2 National Academy of Sciences.
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
FIONA HARRISON, NAS, California Institute of Technology, Chair
ROBERT D. BRAUN, NAE,1 University of Colorado, Boulder, Vice Chair
DAVID N. SPERGEL, NAS, Princeton University and Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Simons Foundation, Vice Chair
JAMES G. ANDERSON, NAS, Harvard University
JEFF M. BINGHAM, Consultant
JAY C. BUCKEY, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
MARY LYNNE DITTMAR, Dittmar Associates, Inc.
JOSEPH FULLER, JR., Futron Corporation
THOMAS R. GAVIN, California Institute of Technology
NEIL GEHRELS,2 NAS, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
SARAH GIBSON, National Center for Atmospheric Research
WESLEY T. HUNTRESS, JR., Carnegie Institution of Washington (retired)
ANTHONY C. JANETOS, Boston University
CHRYSSA KOUVELIOTOU, NAS, George Washington University
DENNIS P. LETTENMAIER, NAE, University of California, Los Angeles
ROSALY M.C. LOPES, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
DAVID J. McCOMAS, Princeton University
LARRY PAXTON, Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory
SAUL PERLMUTTER, NAS, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
ELIOT QUATAERT, University of California, Berkeley
BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR, University of Toronto
HARLAN E. SPENCE, University of New Hampshire
MARK THIEMENS, NAS, University of California, San Diego
MEENAKSHI WADHWA, Arizona State University
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director
CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Administrative Coordinator
TANJA PILZAK, Manager, Program Operations
CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate
MARGARET KNEMEYER, Financial Officer
SU LIU, Financial Assistant
1 NAE, National Academy of Engineering.
2 Deceased on February 6, 2017.
The 2011 National Research Council1 (NRC) planetary science decadal survey, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022,2 noted that while “NASA’s planetary missions are the most visible aspect of the agency’s solar system exploration program . . . they are supported by an infrastructure and research program that are vital for mission success.” Such research activities “generate much of the planetary program’s science value on their own, independent of individual missions” (p. 283). The survey report continues by noting that funding from NASA’s research and analysis (R&A) programs “allow the maximum possible science return to be harvested from missions” (p. 284). R&A programs support a diverse portfolio of activities, including the analysis of data from past and current spacecraft; laboratory research; theoretical, modeling, and computational studies; geological and astrobiological fieldwork in planetary analog environments on Earth; geological mapping of planetary bodies; the analysis of data from Earth- and space-based telescopes; and development of technologies for instruments, missions, and laboratories.
The 2009 NRC report An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Earth and Space Science Missions3 (also known as the Fisk report) highlighted the importance of R&A programs to all of the activities undertaken by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), including those undertaken by the Planetary Science Division (PSD). The 2009 report recommended, in part, that
NASA should ensure that SMD mission-enabling activities are linked to the strategic goals of the agency and of SMD and that they are structured so as to: encompass the range and scope of activities needed to support those strategic goals; provide the broad knowledge base that is the context necessary to interpreting data from spaceflight missions and defining new spaceflight missions; maximize the scientific return from all spaceflight missions; supply a continuous flow of new technical capabilities and scientific understanding from mission-enabling activities into new spaceflight missions; and enable the healthy scientific and technical workforce needed to conduct NASA’s space and Earth science program. (p. 47)
From 2011 to 2014, NASA PSD undertook a process of community discussion and analysis leading to the
1 Effective July 1, 2015, the institution is called the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. References in this report to the National Research Council are used in an historical context identifying programs prior to July 1.
2 National Research Council (NRC), Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011.
3 NRC, An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Earth and Space Science Missions, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2009.
restructuring of its portfolio of R&A programs, in response to the above recommendation from the Enabling Foundation report. This process considered input from the Planetary Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council’s Science Committee and input from other U.S. government stakeholders. The restructured program was announced in late 2013 and initially implemented in the agency’s Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2014 solicitation. Implementation has continued in the ROSES 2015 and ROSES 2016 solicitations.
On August 13, 2015, following the completion of the reorganization of PSD R&A programs, SMD Associate Administrator John M. Grunsfeld approached the Space Studies Board (SSB) with a request to convene an ad hoc committee to examine the elements of PSD R&A programs, as they currently exist following restructuring, for their consistency with past advice from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Following discussions between NASA and the SSB, it was agreed that the committee would address the following questions:
- Are the PSD R&A program elements appropriately linked to, and do they encompass the range and scope of activities needed to support the NASA strategic objective for planetary science and the Planetary Science Division’s science goals, as articulated in NASA’s 2014 Science Plan?
- Are the PSD R&A program elements appropriately structured to develop the broad base of knowledge and broad range of activities needed both to enable new spaceflight missions and to interpret and maximize the scientific return from existing missions?
It was also agreed that in conducting its task, the committee would
- Not examine the PSD R&A programs as they were prior to the restructuring;
- Conduct its review in the context of current budgetary realities that have differed from projections assumed prior to the release of the most recent planetary science decadal survey; and
- Not comment on the strategic science goals and objectives of PSD, SMD, or NASA.
The National Academies established the Committee on the Review of NASA’s Planetary Science Division’s Restructured Research and Analysis Program in April 2016 to address the tasks described above. The committee held its first meeting in Washington, D.C., on May 12-13, 2016. The committee met twice more—in Washington, D.C., on August 16-18 and in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on September 21-23—and assembled the first, full draft of its report in late November. A revised draft of the report was sent to external reviewers on December 2, 2016, and revised in response to reviewer comments in February 2017.
The work of the committee was greatly assisted by the input and other contributions made by many individuals, including the following: Max Bernstein (NASA Headquarters), Michael Bicay (NASA Ames Research Center), Nancy Chabot (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), Lennard Fisk (University of Michigan), James Green (NASA Headquarters), Robert Grimm (Southwest Research Institute), Colleen Hartman (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), Jeffrey Johnson (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory), Janet Luhmann (University of California, Berkeley), Alfred McEwen (University of Arizona), Clive Neal (University of Notre Dame), Michael New (NASA Headquarters), Jani Radebaugh (Brigham Young University), Jonathan Rall (NASA Headquarters), Christophe Sotin (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory), James Spann (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center), Eileen Stansbery (NASA Johnson Space Center), Ellen Stofan (NASA Headquarters), Timothy Swindle (University of Arizona), Mark Sykes (Planetary Science Institute), Meagan Thompson (NASA Headquarters), and Andrew Westphal (University of California, Berkeley).
In addition, the committee gives its special thanks to Nobumichi Shimizu (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) for stepping in and accepting appointment as a consultant at a key phase in the development of this report.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published review 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.
The committee wishes to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Steven Battel (Battel Engineering, Inc.), Richard Binzel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Robin Canup (Southwest Research Institute), John Casani (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, retired), Anita Cochran (University of Texas, Austin), Timothy J. McCoy (Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History), Harry Y. McSween (University of Tennessee), David Morrison (NASA Ames Research Center), Gerald Schubert (University of California, Los Angeles), and Norman Sleep (Stanford University).
Although the reviewers listed above have provided 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 Charles F. Kennel (University of California, San Diego), who 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.
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This report is dedicated to Michael Francis A’Hearn, an outstanding scientist and invaluable member of this committee who passed away on May 29, 2017, while this report was being prepared for publication.
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