NASA adopts 10-year recommendation for planetary science, issues warning – SpacePolicyOnline.com
The director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division enthusiastically embraces most of the recommendations of the recent decade-long study by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. While Lori Glaze praised the study overall, she noted that the amount of money needed to run the program is much higher than her current NASA plans, and that there are several recommendations that NASA does not agree with. did.
Glaze today held a virtual community town hall meeting to present the agency’s first response to the 781-page Origins, World, and Life: A Decade Strategy for Planetary Science and Astrobiology 2023-2032. presided over.
Decadal Surveys are published by NASA for each of the scientific disciplines (astrophysics, biological and physical research in space, earth sciences and applications from space, solar physics (solar and astrophysics), and planetary sciences). Produced by the National Academy every 10 years. Produced by a panel of experts who volunteer their time, it represents a consensus about the most important scientific questions that need to be addressed over the next decade and our mission to answer them.
This is the third in a series on planetary science and the first to include astrobiology and planetary defense as part of its charter.
Co-chaired by Robin Canup of the Southwest Research Institute and Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, Decadal’s top recommendation for its next major planetary science mission is to send an orbiter to and explore Uranus. In second place is a mission to Saturn’s moon Enceladus, which is believed to have an ocean of liquid water beneath an icy crust similar to Jupiter’s moon Europa.
NASA is already building a spacecraft to visit Europa based on recommendations from the latest Planetary Science Decadal published in 2011. Europa Clipper is scheduled to launch in her 2024. A Mars sample that NASA is also developing for launch was second to his return mission. 10 years after this.
And there is friction. On the one hand, funding for NASA’s planetary science missions is stronger than ever, but on the other hand, scientists are eager to explore more solar system targets than ever before, and money is finite.
Glaze today presented three charts comparing how much it would cost to do everything Decadal recommends over the next decade. This is his $41.12 billion and his Decadal estimate for a “flat” planetary science budget assuming a 2% rise in inflation is $34.99 billion. NASA’s current five-year plan.
The chart above shows the funding needed for both Uranus and Enceladus, while the second chart includes only Uranus. Glaze said research into how his Uranus Orbiter probe his mission could begin by fiscal year 2024 at the latest, and he likely launches in the early 2030s. As for Enceladus, these studies won’t begin until his 2026 fiscal year.
“It’s very difficult in the short term,” Grays said. “We need to be careful because the current planning budget does not reach the standard budget. [I’m] Just trying to set expectations. Decadal said it was “inspirational and continues to advocate for a budget to support the research’s ambitious goals. However, for a little realism, some of the recommended activities were accomplished We need to recognize that we may not be able to.
One of the wildcards in the budget plan is the impact of the delayed launch of Psyche, a mission to explore an asteroid called Psyche. Psyche was supposed to launch by now, but the mission manager concluded in June that he didn’t have enough time to validate the software. An independent review board examines what matters and what is needed to ensure mission success.
Glaze said today that November’s confirmation/termination review will determine Psyche’s fate, but it will need to find funding from somewhere to settle the matter and cover the costs of the delay. There are also uncertainties about the cost of the Europa Clipper mission’s significant overruns and the Mars Sample Return, which has just undergone a major design change.
These 10-year studies were conducted at the request of NASA, which in recent years has requested that the study include “decision rules” on how NASA deals with budgetary contingencies. Glaze called this decision rule of his Decadal “incredibly helpful” and plans to use it as a guide for years to come.
The key recommendations are just a few of what the decade covers, from specific missions to research and analysis (R&A), technology development, and professional status.
Glaze indicated that it is just as “exciting” as Decadal, but with some differences in the agency. As an example, Decadal recommended that NASA develop scientific exploration strategies for various destinations in the solar system.
Glaze disagrees. Such a strategy should come from the planetary science community itself, not NASA. “These research needs to come from the community through bodies such as: [NASA] Evaluation Groups or Advisory Boards, and National Academies Committees and Research. Agencies need to balance investments across the solar system rather than on specific targets, she argues.
The Glaze division is home to NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, and this is the first decade study to address that area. PDCO’s mission is to demonstrate technologies that can locate, track, and mitigate potentially Earth-threatening asteroids and comets (Near Earth Objects (NEO)). PDCO’s first flight project, DART, will next month test one of the methods of striking a small asteroid to change its orbit.
Planetary defense has struggled to gain acceptance in the space science community because it’s not considered a “science” per se, but its inclusion in this decade’s survey seems like a game changer. Decadal is a strong supporter of NASA’s investments in planetary defense, particularly his NEO Surveyor mission, a space-based infrared telescope specifically designed to locate his NEO. NASA has proposed to cut NEO Surveyor’s budget and delay the launch by at least two years in a request for fiscal year 2023, but October calls for it to move quickly.
PDCO Director Lindley Johnson noted at today’s meeting that a budget request was made before Decadal was announced. “Now look at what the Decade Commission of Inquiry said … we have important insight into what the community is thinking,” and that “it will be taken seriously as we finalize our 2024 demands.” …This is just one example of the impact of the Decade Survey.”
In fact, Glaze enthuses that the “power” of the previous decade’s research can be visualized by comparing it to the planetary science programs that were underway and planned ten years ago.
“With so many missions, the reason this is such an exciting time for planetary science is in no small part due to the power of the previous decade of research. I want to take it and dream and imagine where we are in the next decade.
Note: All slides are screen grabs from Glaze’s presentation. NASA said it will post slides, a video of the town hall meeting, and a copy of the Glaze report on the Science Mission Directorate website by the close of business tomorrow.