National Academies Press: OpenBook

An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe (2019)

Chapter: Appendix A: Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request

« Previous: Appendixes
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×

A

Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request

The mandate to carry out this study originated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which stated:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), Section 509 SEC. 509. ASTROBIOLOGY STRATEGY.

  1. STRATEGY.—
    1. IN GENERAL.—The Administrator shall enter into an arrangement with the National Academies to develop a science strategy for astrobiology that would outline key scientific questions, identify the most promising research in the field, and indicate the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the Universe.
    2. RECOMMENDATIONS.—The strategy shall include recommendations for coordination with international partners.
  2. USE OF THE STRATEGY.—The Administrator shall use the strategy developed under subsection (a) in planning and funding research and other activities and initiatives in the field of Astrobiology.
  3. REPORT TO CONGRESS.—Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the National Academies shall submit to the Administrator and to the appropriate committees of Congress a report containing the strategy developed under subsection (a).

In response to this congressional mandate, NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Science Mission Directorate sent the following letter to the chair of the Space Studies Board:

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×

Image

Dr. Fiona Harrison
Chair, Space Studies Board
National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
500 5th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Dr. Fiona Harrison,

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act of 2017 (Section 509) requires NASA to contract with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) to develop strategy for astrobiology that would outline key scientific questions, identify the most promising research in the field, and indicate the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe. The strategy will be used to in planning and funding research and other activities and initiatives in the field of astrobiology; and to provide a foundation for future activities and initiatives related to the search for life in the universe. NASA requests that the NAS perform a study with the following charge.

In preparation for and as an input to the upcoming decadal surveys in astronomy and astrophysics and planetary science, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will appoint an ad hoc committee to carry out a study of the state of the science of astrobiology as it relates to the search for life in the solar system and extrasolar planetary systems. The study will have the following objectives:

  • Take account of and build on NASA’s current Astrobiology Strategy 2015;
  • Outline key scientific questions and technology challenges in astrobiology, particularly as they pertain to the search for life in the solar system and extrasolar planetary systems;
  • Identify the most promising key research goals in the field of the search for signs of life in which progress is likely in the next 20 years;
  • Discuss which of the key goals could be addressed by U.S. and international space missions and ground telescopes in operation or in development;
  • Discuss how to expand partnerships (interagency, international and public/private) In furthering the study of life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe;
  • Make recommendations for advancing the research, obtaining the measurements, and realizing the NASA’s goal to search for signs of life in the universe.
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×

In the course of conducting this study, the committee will consider and regularly consult with the concurrent study “Exoplanet Science Strategy,” in the area of assessing habitability, searching for signs of life, and other relevant areas of scientific overtop. Also the committee will not revisit or redefine the scientific priorities or mission recommendations from previous decadal surveys.

In order for NASA to be able to meet the Congressional mandate of reporting no later than 18 months after enactment, NASA must receive the Academy’s findings no later than August 2018.

I request that the National Academics submit a plan for execution of the proposed review by the Space Studies Board. Once agreement on the scope, cost, and schedule of the proposed study has been achieved, the contracting officer will issue a task order for implementation. We look forward to having the Board’s inputs to this vital activity. The point of contact within the Science Mission Directorate will be Dr. Jeffrey Newmark, who can be reached at (202)-358-0684 or jeftrey.newmark@nasa.gov.

Sincerely,

Image

Thomas H. Zurbuchen, Ph.D.
Associate Administrator,
Science Mission Directorate

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Page 157
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Page 158
Suggested Citation:"Appendix A: Congressional Mandate and Letter of Request." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25252.
×
Page 159
Next: Appendix B: Statement of Task »
An Astrobiology Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $80.00 Buy Ebook | $64.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. It is an inherently interdisciplinary field that encompasses astronomy, biology, geology, heliophysics, and planetary science, including complementary laboratory activities and field studies conducted in a wide range of terrestrial environments. Combining inherent scientific interest and public appeal, the search for life in the solar system and beyond provides a scientific rationale for many current and future activities carried out by the National Aeronautics and Science Administration (NASA) and other national and international agencies and organizations.

Requested by NASA, this study offers a science strategy for astrobiology that outlines key scientific questions, identifies the most promising research in the field, and indicates the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe. This report makes recommendations for advancing the research, obtaining the measurements, and realizing NASA’s goal to search for signs of life in the universe.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!