CAPS concludes that there are a variety of mechanisms by which mission and technology studies might be generated prior to the initiation of the next planetary science decadal survey. These mechanisms include activities by the analysis/assessment groups, NASA solicitations, community workshops, and focused RFIs from industry and academia. A concerted program of such activities would provide a sound foundation for the deliberations of the next planetary science decadal survey when it begins its work in the second quarter of 2020.
The fourth and final question posed to CAPS asks what other activities might be undertaken in the near- to mid-term future to optimize and/or expedite the work of the next planetary science decadal survey committee. A prime source of input to the next survey is other reports of direct or indirect relevance to planetary science drafted by National Academies’ committees. Relevant reports address the following topics:
- Review of the decadal survey process, completed 2015;77
- CubeSats, completed 2016;78
- Extended missions, completed 2016;79
- Review of the Planetary Science Divisions’ research and analysis programs, completed 2017;80
- Large strategic missions, in review, report due late 2017;81
- Planetary protection policy development process, in progress, report due 2018;
- Planetary science midterm assessment, in progress, report due 2018;
- Review of sample analysis facilities, being initiated, report due 2018;82
- Exoplanet exploration strategy, being initiated, report due 2018;
- Astrobiology strategy for search for life in the universe, being initiated, report due 2018; and
- Planetary protection for Mars moons sample-return missions, requested, report due 2018.
Both Vision and Voyages and its predecessor, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy,83 benefited from community input in the form of white papers. However, the white papers received focused almost exclusively on science and mission priorities for specific bodies or classes of planetary bodies. Very little input was received on issues related to the scope, organization, and
77 NASEM, The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2015.
78 NASEM, Achieving Science with CubeSats, 2016.
79 NASEM, Extending Science: NASA’s Space Science Mission Extensions and the Senior Review Process, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2016.
80 NASEM, Review of the Restructured Research and Analysis Programs of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2017, in press.
81 NASEM, Large Strategic NASA Science Missions: Science Value, Policies, and Role in a Balanced Portfolio, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2017, in review.
82 The statement of task for this study asks, in part: “What laboratory analytical capabilities are required to support the NASA Planetary Science Division’s (and partner’s) analysis and curation of existing and future extraterrestrial samples?” However, the important issues relating to sample-receiving and -quarantine facilities are not mentioned.
83 NRC, New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003.
conduct of the respective survey. Examples of areas where community input could be particularly important concerns the following topics:
- Strategic coordination with adjacent scientific disciplines. There are areas of common scientific interest between the disciplines of planetary science, biology, astrophysics, and heliophysics. The most obvious linkages occur between solar system science and biology (astrobiology) and between planetary science and astrophysics (exoplanet studies); all are frontier science areas. Fortunately, the recently commissioned exoplanet exploration and astrobiology strategies (see above) will begin to address these linkages. Nevertheless, the task of defining the best scientific use of the ensemble of thousands of spatially unresolved exoplanet observations and high-spatial-resolution solar system observations may fall to the next astrophysics and planetary science decadal surveys. Similarly, there is an overlap between the interests of the solar system and heliophysics communities in the areas of planetary aeronomy and magnetospheric studies. Thus, there is a need for community input in how to define the scope (boundaries) of the next planetary science decadal survey and how to interact effectively with adjacent communities while remaining responsive to the institutional needs of the relevant NASA science divisions and their counterparts in other federal agencies.
- The organization of the decadal survey and its panel structure. Both Vision and Voyages and New Frontiers in the Solar System employed a similar organizational structure. That is, both had a steering group and a series of topical panels organized around different solar system destinations. These organizational arrangements for both planetary science decadal surveys were the result of considerable discussions and deliberations. Nonetheless, questions continue to be raised in the planetary science community as to whether a destination-oriented panel structure favors certain bodies (e.g., Mars, which had a dedicated panel) over others (e.g., Venus, which did not have a dedicated panel). Therefore, it is worthwhile to reexamine the pros and cons of other organizational arrangements—for example, looking at the solar system from a process-first (multi-object) perspective.
CAPS concludes that discoveries since the last decadal survey, ongoing exploration by missions that will generate new findings in the coming years, and a wealth of new enabling technologies make prioritization of the coming decade a challenge in terms of choice between the wealth of directions to explore. Mission studies need to be initiated, new technologies need to be assessed, and the planetary science community at large needs to get ready for the next decadal survey. The time to act is now to prepare for the opportunities of the next decade.
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