NASA’S Contributions to Science are Laudable, but there is Still More to be Done States New Report

Aug 17, 2018

A new midterm assessment recently released by the National Academies reports that NASA has met or exceeded expectations on funding research and analysis, and technology program recommendations as set forth in the decadal survey “Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022.” The survey, published by the National Research Council, provides a framework of priorities for planetary science research. These recommendations include both large-scale missions, such the Uranus Orbiter and Probe mission to learn more about the planet’s atmosphere and composition, and two smaller scale missions to explore the solar system using medium-sized spacecraft.

Additional recommendations in the report include:

  • Continue to closely monitor the cost and schedule associated with the Europa Clipper to ensure that it remains executable within the approved life-cycle cost range.
  • Continue planning and begin implementation of NASA’s proposed “focused and rapid” architecture for returning samples from the Mars 2020 mission so as to achieve the highest priority decadal flagship-level science.
  • Reevaluate the Mars Exploration Program, which currently has only the Mars 2020 rover in its future missions queue.
  • Continue investment in development of mission-enabling technologies at 6 percent to 8 percent of the Planetary Science Division’s budget.
  • Link education and outreach activities directly to the missions that are providing the science content for those programs, working directly with mission scientists and engineers to ensure a strong connection to NASA’s mission results.

The midterm report applauds the original survey, citing the influence the report has had on developments in planetary science since its inception. “NASA has made a strong investment in technology that has exceeded the Vision and Voyages recommended levels,” said committee co-chair Joe Rothenberg, former NASA associate administrator for space flight, Goddard Center director, and co-chair of the committee that conducted the new study and wrote the report. “This investment has not only enabled science missions in this decade, but is providing for the long-term technology development needed for missions in the next decade, including the Mars sample return program and the exploration of planetary bodies with extreme environments.”

However, the midterm report does note that there is still progress to be made to ensure the success of all the recommendations. The agency must undertake at least one more New Frontiers mission and three more Discovery missions to remain compliant with the schedule outline in the original Vision and Voyages report.

To view the original Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 report, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/13117/vision-and-voyages-for-planetary-science-in-the-decade-2013-2022

To view the midterm report, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25186/visions-into-voyages-for-planetary-sciences-in-the-decade-2013-2022

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