5.6 Report Series: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science: Getting Ready for the Next Planetary Science Decadal Survey
A Report of the SSB ad hoc Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science
The successful completion of a decadal survey requires a significant investment in time and effort by dozens of individuals over a period of several years. Nevertheless, a decadal survey builds on a foundation of preliminary activities performed by NASA, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the wider scientific community. With the initiation of the next planetary science decadal survey approximately 3 years hence, it is appropriate to take stock of advisory and other activities currently under way or scheduled for initiation in the near future to identify any missing elements whose absence might preclude the speedy and expeditious conduct of the coming survey. For example, the 2011 decadal survey, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, specifically noted the following:
This decadal survey commissioned numerous mission studies that were carried out over a relatively short period of time and then subjected to cost and technical evaluations. A more effective method would be for NASA to sponsor studies for potential flagship and New Frontiers missions that capture the broadest possible science questions as well as reduce the time pressure on the decadal survey itself. The committee therefore recommends that NASA sponsor community-driven, peer-reviewed mission studies in the years leading up to the next decadal survey, using a common template for the study report.1
In the spirit of this recommendation, James L. Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, requested that the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS) draft a short report addressing the following four topics:
- What publicly available studies of future flagship- and New Frontiers-class missions has NASA initiated since the completion of Vision and Voyages?
- What are the priority areas—as defined in Vision and Voyages—where publicly available mission studies have not been undertaken?
- What are appropriate mechanisms by which mission-study gaps might be filled in the near- to mid-term future?
- 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?
This document is the first of a series of brief, topical reports drafted by CAPS members in response to the committee’s charge, as follows:
[T]he committee may prepare concise assessments of progress on the implementation of the decadal survey’s recommended scientific and technical activities. The assessments will be based on evidence gathered by the committee at its in-person and virtual meetings. The committee’s assessment reports may include findings and conclusions on key strategies being pursued by the agencies and the status of agency actions that relate to the state of implementation. The reports may also highlight scientific discoveries and engineering and technical advances relevant to progress on the science objectives identified in [Vision and Voyages].2
NOTE: “Introduction” reprinted from Report Series: Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science: Getting Ready for the Next Planetary Science Decadal Survey, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2017, p. 1.
1 National Research Council (NRC), Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2011, p. 314.
2 The statement of task for the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science is available at http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=49864.
CAPS addressed the four topics identified by Dr. Green during and shortly after its March 28-30, 2017, meeting in Washington, D.C. The committee’s discussions and deliberations focused on two topics: (1) actions taken to implement the recommendation in Vision and Voyages concerning mission studies and (2) whether some decadal science priorities might be addressed by missions not considered in Vision and Voyages but motivated by recent scientific discoveries and technical advances.