SBAG Findings and NASA HQ Responses
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 16, JANUARY 11–13, 2017
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 15, JUNE 28–JUNE 30, 2016
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 14, JANUARY 27–29, 2016
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 13, JUNE 29–JULY 1, 2015
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 12, JANUARY 6–7, 2015
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 11, JULY 29–31, 2014
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 10, JANUARY 8–9, 2014
FINDINGS FROM STEERING GROUP, NOVEMBER, 22, 2013
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 9, JULY 10–11, 2013
FINDINGS FROM STEERING GROUP TELECON, APRIL 25, 2013
FINDINGS FROM STEERING GROUP MEETING (AT LPSC), MARCH 20, 2013
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 8, JANUARY 14–16, 2013
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 7, JULY 10–11, 2012
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 6, JANUARY 17–18, 2012
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 5, AUGUST 25–26, 2011
FINDINGS ON THE 2ND PLANETARY DECADAL SURVEY, APRIL 21, 2011
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 4, JANUARY 24–26, 2011
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 3, AUGUST 3–4, 2010
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 2, NOVEMBER 18–19, 2009
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 1, JANUARY 12–11, 2009
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 16, January 11–13 30, 2017 (pdf)
SBAG enthusiastically supports the recent selection of two new missions for the Discovery Program. The Discovery Program, with its open nature, objective peer review, and competitive selections, is vital to the exploration of the Solar System. The Decadal Survey recommended a cadence of five Discovery missions in a decade. By selecting two new Discovery-class missions, NASA has made significant progress toward achieving this Decadal Survey priority, a priority that is crucial to the planetary science community as a whole. The considerable efforts made by NASA to enable the selection of two missions are highly appreciated and position the Discovery Program for an active and healthy future.
Space-based Asteroid Survey
SBAG supports NASA's decision to provide continued Phase A funding for the NEOCam mission proposal, but is concerned that no plan for fully funding NEOCam, or any other space-based NEO survey telescope, currently exists. In previous findings, SBAG has noted that NASA has asteroid-based activities across multiple directorates, serving as a cornerstone of future objectives for human exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science, and that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA's Asteroid Initiative. Specifically, simulations indicate that currently operational ground-based facilities alone cannot achieve the Congressional mandate of discovering >90% of NEOs >140 m; a space-based facility with thermal imaging capability is ideally suited to accomplish this task. SBAG urges NASA to consider a means to conduct a space-based NEO survey mission given its cross-cutting foundational importance to the agency at large.
SBAG supports NASA’s plan to fly CubeSats on future large missions and to consider future science missions that could be accomplished with smallsats. The process to develop viable platforms under reasonable cost and risk assumptions and accommodate them on large missions is new and remains to be fully defined, and SBAG supports the programs recently introduced, Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) and Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3), to support this needed development. The SBAG community has a strong interest in using small, low-cost, and flexible platforms for a variety of applications, including: the reconnaissance of near Earth asteroids that may be suitable for human exploration and resource utilization; closing knowledge gaps on the physical properties of asteroids with the purpose of informing planetary defense strategies; characterization of targets of scientific interest to improve knowledge of their origin and evolution; and expanding the sample of visited asteroids, comets and NEOs to support future in situ and sample return missions. In addition, CubeSats have the potential to increase the science return of large missions. However, implementation needs to be carefully considered to be effective.
SBAG gratefully acknowledges the continued support for the Arecibo Observatory by NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) and appreciates NASA’s expressed willingness to continue support of Arecibo’s planetary radar capabilities at the present level, in partnership with NSF. As emphasized in previous findings, SBAG believes that Arecibo is a critical national asset that provides a highly valuable resource for scientific investigations as well as a key capability for planetary defense. Any disinvestment in Arecibo facilities and maintenance could have major negative scientific and security implications. Additionally, SBAG emphasizes that, in the current discussions about the fate of the Arecibo facility, all evaluations of reduced-scale operations should accurately reflect the effect any proposed reductions would have on Arecibo’s planetary radar capabilities.
Planetary Science Data Analysis from Astrophysics Missions
SBAG encourages NASA to consider fortifying present research and analysis programs and/or creating new data analysis programs to realize the full science potential of future data streams from Astrophysics missions that are scheduled to provide an unprecedented amount of data about small bodies and other Solar System objects. The small bodies community recognizes the potential for the large yield of data produced by astrophysics projects, including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, that will be highly relevant to planetary science research over the next decade and a half. Large surveys and targeted observations from ground-based and space-based platforms are likely to create unprecedented volumes of imaging photometry and spectra valuable for the characterization of the various small body populations. Yet there is a concern that the traditional data analysis programs will not be adequate in their present form to accommodate the thorough analysis and research required to fully utilize these data, or even to analyze them at first-pass levels. SBAG urges PSD to develop and share with the community a plan to support planetary science research of data from large Astrophysics missions.
Small Bodies Science and Astrophysics Missions
SBAG appreciates the astrophysics community’s efforts to include early involvement of the small bodies scientific community’s expertise in the design and scope of future Astrophysics space- and ground-based assets. The small bodies community requires unique augmentations and specific desired capabilities for such assets in order to facilitate and enhance cutting edge science, and these requirements should be considered from the start to achieve effective implementation. To further these ends in the future, SBAG plans to form a committee, preferably including the small body science representatives already involved with envisioned assets, to compile a uniform set of basic capabilities and needs to maximize the yield of Small Body and Solar System science with future Astrophysics missions while allowing those missions to achieve their Astrophysics priorities.
In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)
SBAG recognizes that in situ resource utilization technologies being developed for human exploration and commercial asteroid mining are relevant to those being developed for the scientific exploration of small bodies and for planetary defense against impacts. SBAG appreciates the ISRU community sharing information, and notes the synergies between the communities involved, and encourages a strategic communication strategy that can ensure that successes in one area can be infused into the others.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG appreciates the continuing engagement of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) management with the planetary science community. The dialogue between the ARM project and the science community has been highly productive, and the mission has evolved considerably from the original concept, resulting in a marked increase in the mission’s science potential. The possibility of additional science instruments (possibly provided as hosted payloads, as solicited in the ARM Broad Area Announcement (BAA)), could further enhance the science of the mission. In addition, many early technical concerns of the science community have been allayed. The small bodies community’s interest in this mission as now formulated is demonstrated by the large number of proposals in response to the ARM BAA Investigation Team solicitation.
DART, AIM, and NASA Planetary Defense
SBAG expresses continued support for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). Additionally, SBAG continues to support development of the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), the European portion of the joint NASA/ESA Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission (AIDA = AIM + DART). Although AIM was not funded during the recent European Ministerials, SBAG supports the AIM team’s continued efforts to acquire funding for a reduced-scope version of AIM. While DART is capable of meeting its requirements as a standalone mission, the inclusion of the AIM observer spacecraft greatly enhances the overall investigation and provides a key international component to the mission, emphasizing the global scope of planetary defense.
While DART’s progress toward flight is encouraging, there is not yet a specific funding program for planetary defense driven missions and research projects. AIM’s current funding challenges further underscore this issue, which is the need for a mechanism by which missions driven by planetary defense research, rather than science, can be proposed, selected, funded, and, in the case of missions, flown. SBAG reiterates a previous finding that there is a need for planetary defense missions, including technology development research and demonstration missions. Prudent preparation activities would provide an array of proven and reliable tools for use when an Earth-impacting asteroid or comet warranting mitigation is discovered. Finally, it is important to note that, while planetary defense demonstration missions are not science-driven, they provide useful data about the small bodies with which they interact and are, therefore, synergistic with planetary science.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 15, JUNE 28–JUNE 30, 2016 (pdf)
SBAG is excited about the current and future opportunities for the exploration of small bodies across the Solar System. Investigations of the Solar System's numerous and diverse small bodies provide unique scientific insights into the formation and evolution of the Solar System, yield critical information to advance planetary defense objectives, and contribute to achieving NASA's human exploration goals. The SBAG community is encouraged to make every effort to share with the public the excitement, importance, and value gained by exploring our Solar System through a wide variety of missions, projects, and investigations.
Response: NASA continues to support small-body science and exploration as a window onto our Solar System's origin and evolution, as well for understanding hazards to our planet and resources for the future in space. We share in the community's excitement over recent discoveries and future opportunities, and endorse SBAG's encouragement to share our discoveries and vision with the public.
SBAG reiterates the importance of the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month average launch cadence for Discovery missions and urges NASA to strive to achieve this Decadal Survey priority. Given the large number of compelling and mature concepts submitted to the Discovery 2014 AO, selecting two missions would be a means of addressing the Decadal Survey recommended cadence of five missions in a decade. In addition, the selection of two missions from the 2014 AO would leverage the considerable investment of time and resources in development of the AO, preparation of proposals, and evaluation of the submissions. SBAG sees the open nature, objective peer review, and competitive selection of Discovery missions as crucial to enable the exploration of the Solar System and views an active and healthy Discovery Program, as recommended by the Decadal Survey, as a key priority.
Response: SMD has selected two Discovery missions for flight. Note that these missions are also to small bodies. PSD is committed to achieving as fast a cadence as possible for Discovery mission launches in the future, given the resources made available for the program. We are making every effort to achieve an average interval between launches not longer than 36 months.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG supports and appreciates the continued engagement of the small bodies community by the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), through mechanisms such as the recent Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST). SBAG supports the plan as presented by the ARM team to create opportunities for hosted payloads on the ARM spacecraft and to have a competitively selected Investigation Team, both of which would maximize the science return of the mission.
Response: In September 2016 NASA released the ARM Umbrella for Partnerships (ARM-UP) Broad Agency Announcement, along with two appendices: Appendix A was a call for proposals for Hosted Payloads on ARRM, and Appendix B was a call for proposals for membership on the ARM Investigation Team (Phase 1). Proposals in response to both calls were due on November 3; these proposals are currently under review.
Deep Space Network Support for Rosetta
The Rosetta mission has provided a wealth of information that is revolutionizing our understanding of comet evolution and behavior. The Deep Space Network (DSN) has played a critical role in providing the necessary communications with the spacecraft, especially at key times when the mission’s success required high-throughput data downlinks. The mission’s final approach to the comet in September of 2016 is precisely such a time, when the spacecraft will provide its highest resolution images and the navigation data will provide the best constraints on the comet’s mass distribution. Therefore, SBAG urges the DSN to consider the unique science opportunity offered by the final stage of the Rosetta mission when scheduling DSN assets to support this short duration but critical time period, to maximize the science data returned from the mission.
Response: NASA provided DSN support for Rosetta's end of mission, which occurred in a controlled descent impact on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on October 1 at Earth Received Time approximately 11:20 UTC, communicating over DSS-63 (70m antenna in Spain). Critical commanding took place over DSS-43 (70m antenna in Australia) to prepare it for end of mission. JPL Radio Science monitored for S- and X-band signals during and after landing.
Rosetta Data Analysis Program
Data Analysis Programs (DAPs) enhance the scientific return of NASA’s planetary missions by involving a larger segment, with broader expertise, of the scientific community in the analysis and interpretation of data sets designed and collected by mission teams. Now that Rosetta is nearing its end of mission and a significant amount of data from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko are publically archived and available, it is time for greater community participation in the investigation in order to maximize the science results made possible by the Rosetta comet escort mission. SBAG encourages the establishment and funding of a Rosetta Data Analysis Program to be released as soon as possible, but no later than the ROSES 2017 AO. A Rosetta DAP would be a timely and focused effort, consistent with the Focused Program category defined in the Planetary Science Division’s Research and Analysis Program, to support investigations that utilize the unique and newly available set of Rosetta observations of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Response: PSD's plan to institute a Rosetta Data Analysis Program (RDAP) was announced through an informational amendment to ROSES-2016 in September 2016. RDAP proposals will be solicited for the first time in the ROSES-2017 NRA call for proposals.
SBAG gratefully acknowledges the continued support for the Arecibo Observatory by NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) and appreciates PSD’s expressed willingness to continue support of Arecibo’s planetary radar capabilities at the present level, in partnership with NSF. As discussed in previous findings, SBAG strongly believes that Arecibo is a critical national asset that provides a highly valuable resource for scientific investigations as well as a key capability for planetary defense. Any disinvestment in Arecibo facilities and maintenance could have major scientific and security implications. SBAG urges NSF and NASA to continue to work together to preserve the capabilities of Arecibo at a level that reflects the scientific and security interests of the United States.
Response: NSF is in the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (see draft) to evaluate the potential effects of proposed changes to operations at Arecibo, as required by law to inform its decisions on the matter. NASA is a participating agency in NSF's EIS process, and has provided information to NSF concerning NASA's use of Arecibo for planetary radar. NSF issued a Dear Colleague Letter in September 2016 announcing its intent to release a solicitation for proposals involving continued operations of Arecibo and, at NSF's request, NASA has updated its statement on support for planetary radar.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 14, January 27–29, 2016 (pdf)
SBAG celebrates the recent successes of spacecraft missions focused on small bodies across the Solar System, such as New Horizons’ historic exploration of the Pluto system, Dawn’s discoveries at Ceres, NEOWISE’s characterization of thousands of Solar System objects, and Rosetta’s investigation of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These missions have proven to be not only scientifically successful but have also captured public attention in demonstrating how fascinating and diverse these worlds can be. At the same time, SBAG eagerly looks to the future, enthusiastically encouraged by a NASA budget for planetary science that enables scientific priorities in the exploration of our Solar System to be accomplished, through spacecraft missions and research and analysis programs. New discoveries by missions such as OSIRIS-REx’s asteroid sample return, partnerships with Hayabusa2, and New Horizons’ proposed 2019 Kuiper Belt Object encounter are highly anticipated, as are future small bodies missions currently under development and consideration. To support the realization of such a future, SBAG encourages the small bodies community to make every effort to engage with the public and to share the excitement of our current and future exploration of the Solar System.
Response: NASA shares in the excitement over all of these successes, and congratulates the academic, space center and industry project teams that made them happen. We enthusiastically agree with the recommendation that the small bodies community, and the entire planetary science community, should engage the public with the excitement of solar system exploration.
Planetary Defense Coordination Office
SBAG enthusiastically supports the formation of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), a top recommendation by the 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force. This new office will allow greater ease in coordinating planetary defense activities across NASA, other U.S. federal agencies, foreign space agencies, and international partners. The formation of the PDCO is a significant advancement in recognizing the importance of planetary defense activities. Now that the PDCO is established, SBAG encourages the PDCO to investigate means to: 1) complete the NEO population survey to assess the impact threat to Earth, and 2) find ways to support flight validation missions of mitigation techniques.
Response: The PDCO's mission is to lead national and international efforts to detect any potential for significant impact of planet Earth by natural objects, appraise the range of potential effects by any possible impact, and develop strategies to mitigate impact effects on human welfare. NASA appreciates the many past and ongoing efforts of the small bodies' community to carry out this mission. The PDCO continues to support a range of activities and improvements in NEO discovery, tracking, and characterization. With regard to mitigation, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was recently approved to proceed through Formulation Phase A. As a component of the international Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission, in concert with the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM), DART is the first technology capabilities test of a kinetic impactor mitigation technique. A second mitigation technique, the enhanced gravity tractor, is to be demonstrated by the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) which will meet for KDP-B in a few weeks. Other options, particularly for short-warning impact scenarios, also continue to be explored with FEMA and the Department of Energy.
SBAG reiterates the importance of the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month average launch cadence for Discovery missions as an essential guideline. SBAG sees the open nature, objective peer review, and competitive selection of Discovery missions as crucial to enable the exploration of the Solar System and views an active and healthy Discovery Program as a key priority. Given the large number of compelling and mature concepts submitted to the Discovery 2014 AO, selecting two missions would be a means of addressing the Decadal Survey guidelines and regaining the recommended cadence, given that the previous Discovery AO was released in 2010. In addition, the selection of two missions from the 2014 AO would leverage the considerable investment of time and resources in development of the AO, preparation of proposals, and evaluation of the submissions.
Response: The NASA Planetary Sciences Division (PSD) is committed to achieving
as fast a cadence for Discovery mission launches as possible given the resources made available for the Discovery Program. Currently we are striving to achieve a launch cadence for future missions of not longer than 36 months. We are eager to see the Discovery 2014 AO concept studies and final proposals so that the selection process can be completed. Because this competitive process is ongoing, we cannot commit to any specific number of selections.
New Frontiers Program
The New Frontiers program is a critical component of achieving NASA’s Solar System exploration goals, and SBAG strongly supports the release of a New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity (AO) in January 2017, to meet the Decadal Survey recommended cadence of two New Frontiers class missions between 2013-2022. Extensive studies and thorough community-wide discussions formed the foundation for the strategy identified in the Decadal Survey to achieve a robust and balanced exploration of the Solar System, with specific priority missions identified for the upcoming New Frontiers 4 and 5 opportunities. SBAG emphasizes that the New Frontiers 4 candidate missions should be those specifically identified as priorities for the New Frontiers 4 opportunity by the Decadal Survey process. Alternatively, if additions or other changes to the candidate mission list for the New Frontiers program are necessary, SBAG supports an appropriate and transparent community-wide process by NASA to properly re-evaluate the overarching strategy and priorities, such as was done by the NOSSE (New Opportunities in Solar System Exploration) report of 2008. Such an open and transparent approach would further support the credibility and balance of the entire Decadal Survey and increase confidence in the Decadal Survey process, thereby affirming a means through which the input of the entire planetary science community is freely solicited and carefully balanced.
Response: PSD plans to release the Draft AO for New Frontiers 4 (NF-4) in July 2016. The expanded scope for NF-4 was announced in January 2016 following the enhancement in opportunity provided by Congressional direction in the FY2016 appropriation regarding Ocean Worlds. These plans were described to the Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS) in March and presented to the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS) on March 29, 2016. CAPS co-chair, Phil Christensen, briefed the Space Studies Boards on April 27, 2016 stating:1. Proposed change does not alter the scientific priorities that are laid out in the current planetary decadal survey.
2. Enceladus and Titan are significant elements of the decadal survey and their inclusion consistent with the overall scientific priorities discussed in the survey report.
3. A sound management approach should allow the program manager the flexibility to add elements as the situation changes throughout the decade.
NASA issued the Science Objectives for all the targets to the planetary science community in an announcement issued on April 24, 2016.
Arecibo Observatory as a Critical National Asset
Arecibo Observatory provides a unique capability for a range of cutting-edge science that includes astrophysics, aerometry, and planetary science as well as planetary defense and human and robotic exploration missions. Arecibo is a critical national asset whose loss would not only affect science return but also increase the nation’s risk exposure. SBAG is highly concerned about a potential disinvestment in Arecibo facilities and maintenance. SBAG encourages NASA to continue its current support of Arecibo and urges NSF to find a funding formula for Arecibo that reflects the nation’s science and security interests and provides for the stability and productivity of this critical national asset.
Response: NASA considers the capabilities of the Arecibo Planetary Radar to be extremely important to the national research infrastructure, and has supported these capabilities since 1971. The Arecibo Observatory itself is a facility of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds basic operations and use of the 300-meter telescope for astronomy and atmospheric science. PSD does not have sufficient resources on its own to fully operate the observatory, but has communicated to NSF its willingness to continue support for Arecibo's planetary radar capabilities at the present level. Currently, NSF is conducting the studies that it is legally required to complete before any decision on the future of the facility can be made. That decision lies with the NSF Director. We remain in contact with our NSF colleagues, and we will continue to work with them to determine a course of action that can meet budgetary constraints and preserve capabilities that both agencies deem essential.
Support for Dawn’s Extended Mission
The Dawn mission’s investigation of Ceres has revealed fascinating new discoveries about this previously unvisited world, providing new insights into the Solar System’s formation and evolution. Given the compelling results achieved to date and the unique potential to further advance our knowledge of Ceres, SBAG strongly supports the continued operations of the Dawn spacecraft through an extended mission that lasts through the mission’s full potential lifetime, estimated as extending to the end of January 2017. This would only extended Dawn operations by roughly seven months but is a unique opportunity to fully utilize NASA’s investment in Dawn and maximize the mission’s science return.
Response: The Dawn mission extension was part of this year's Senior Review. We are expecting to release the results of that review within the next several weeks.
Value of NEO Survey Capabilities to NASA’s Agency-Wide Goals
SBAG is pleased to hear that NASA is conducting several coordinated studies in 2016 to develop the best-integrated solution for achieving the G. E. Brown Survey Act objectives (discovering >90% of NEOs >140 m by 2020 to assess the threat of the NEOs to Earth (Public Law 109-155 Sec.321)), and SBAG looks forward to hearing the results of those studies at the 16th SBAG meeting. However, as detailed in previous findings and the forthcoming SBAG Goals Document (planned for release in March 2016; http://www.lpi.usra.edu/sbag/goals/), SBAG continues to emphasize: (1) that enhanced NEO survey systems are a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative and complete the congressionally recommended survey for NEOs in a timely manner, and (2) that NASA has asteroid-based activities across multiple directorates as a cornerstone of future objectives for human and robotic exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science, reflected in the aforementioned forthcoming SBAG Goals Document. Therefore, SBAG finds that enhanced NEO survey capabilities should be considered an agency-wide initiative, with the pursuit of a new start, and should not rely solely on support from the resources available to the Planetary Science Division (PSD) of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), the Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) program within PSD, or the newly created Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).
Response: The agency-wide mission-enabling value of NEO survey capabilities is understood. However, the agency programmatic structure does not spread out resourcing as explicitly agency-wide in nature. Typically, one mission directorate must be designated as lead to bring capabilities that benefit the entire agency, even the entire national space endeavor, to fruition. Launch vehicle development and space communications and navigation are examples of this model.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG continues to appreciate NASA’s efforts to engage and communicate with the small bodies community on the topics of science, planetary defense, and resource utilization regarding the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The 100 applications for the Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) show the high level of interest of the community in participating in the formulation of ARM. SBAG thanks the ARM team for creating the FAST and the community members that volunteered and were selected for the FAST, for the substantial work completed in a short timeframe. SBAG encourages the continued engagement between the ARM team and the small bodies community as the mission moves forward and supports the plan for a competed opportunity this year to establish the Investigation Team membership. Consistent with previous findings, for science-driven missions, SBAG continues to support the priorities identified in the Decadal Survey to guide use of Planetary Science Division (PSD) resources and funds.
Response: NASA greatly appreciates the contributions of the community and SBAG to the ongoing processes for the formulation of ARM. The FAST report was a key input to the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) Requirements Closure Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) and ARM strategy discussion, and informed development of the strategy for hosted payloads and the investigation team. While ARM is not a science directed mission, we are pleased to continue a close working relationship with the small bodies' science community. We anticipate further excitement and support from the community as the solicitation for the Investigation Team is released later this year.
Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Program
Research & Analysis (R&A) funds are foundational to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and the Planetary Science Division (PSD). NASA spends a significant fraction of its PSD funds supporting the development, implementation, and operation of robotic missions. Yet the investment in these missions is not fully realized until the science community has analyzed the data to extract new discoveries and to answer the questions that drove NASA to select and fund the mission development. As has been said before, science is not just “bits on the ground”, but rather science gets done when the community at large has the resources to pose and answer questions about our Solar System. NASA’s R&A programs provide this support. Ultimately it is the R&A funding that drives the discoveries of the planetary mission portfolio. The results of current missions form the basis of knowledge that both reduce the risk for future missions and raise new questions that drive subsequent exploration and future Decadal Survey priorities. Because of this, it is essential that NASA fund a robust and reliable R&A program, and SBAG encourages PSD to explore potential means to increase funding to R&A programs to improve the selection rate of highly rated proposals. Additionally, SBAG urges PSD to avoid delays in R&A programs that result in severe gaps in funding opportunities for members of the community and to explore solutions when such gaps occur, even if on a case-by-case basis. Decreases and/or gaps in funding have serious and negative repercussions across the community, and early-career individuals can be especially vulnerable. SBAG urges PSD to engage early-career scientists to explore means to lessen any hardships, even on an individual basis.
Response:: PSD is committed to maintaining a robust R&A program, and understands that stability of funding is extremely important to the research communities. PSD strove, and was able, to maintain nearly constant or steadily increasing R&A funding through a recent period when the overall PSD budget endured a 20% cut. But budgetary limits are only partially responsible for the steady decrease in proposal selection rates over the past decade; in that period, the number of proposals submitted annually to PSD R&A programs increased by roughly 30%. The competition for resources will continue to increase as long as the growth in the budget is outpaced by the growth in the size and aspirations of the community.
We understand that there is always concern in the community when a previously regular cycle of proposal opportunities is altered. The change in the proposal deadlines for the Solar System Workings (SSW) program has been implemented over two years to try to mitigate the perturbation. But this change was essential due to crowding of the annual calendar with other program deadlines and reviews in the Fall. By shifting SSW to a single Step-2 deadline in February, we can better assure the timeliness and quality of the review. This shift will be complete with the ROSES-2016 cycle.
We are also aware of a perception that the burden of a change in the proposal opportunity cadence may fall disproportionally on NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellows, because of restrictions imposed by the program. We remind the community that NPP Fellows are fully permitted by the program to submit proposals to ROSES or other research opportunities in their second and third years, typically in the role of Science PI. They are "discouraged" from doing so in their first year, in order that they can focus effort on their NPP-supported research. The policies are explained in the NPP Policy and Procedures Handbook, at https://npp.usra.edu/policies-procedures/index.shtml#proposals, and in the NPP FAQ document, at https://npp.usra.edu/about/faq/fellow/.
Data Analysis Programs
Data Analysis Programs (DAPs) enhance the scientific value of NASA’s missions by opening up analysis of data sets to a broad segment of the scientific community, offering expertise and viewpoints beyond those of the flight teams. SBAG encourages the speedy establishment of two new programs: A New Frontiers Data Analysis Program and a Rosetta Data Analysis Program. The former will serve as a means to analyze New Horizons data and to establish a continuing DAP for forthcoming New Frontiers missions, while a Rosetta DAP will enable access to a unique set of observations of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that complement the science return of NASA’s existing small body programs.
Response: PSD intends to solicit proposals for the New Frontiers Data Analysis program as part of ROSES-2016. When this Program Element is incorporated into ROSES-2016, an amendment with the text will be released at least 90 days prior to the due date for Step-2 proposals. PSD's current plan is to work toward a Rosetta DAP opportunity in ROSES-2017. In the ROSES-2016 cycle, relevant Rosetta-related research may be proposed to Emerging Worlds or Solar System Workings.
Midterm Decadal Survey Assessment
SBAG supports a 2013-2022 Decadal Survey midterm assessment to evaluate and reinforce the decadal process. Such a process was proposed within the Decadal Survey also as a means of preparation for the next Decadal Survey. SBAG hopes that a midterm assessment does not merely confine its attention to the account of “any new discoveries”, but rather in accounting for “other changes that have taken place”, SBAG encourages a midterm Decadal Survey assessment to address the broader issue of identifying the elements of a healthy scientific community capable of supporting NASA's needs, and what should be done to maintain that community. SBAG particularly encourages the inclusion of early-career participation in the midterm assessment by reaching out to early-career individuals of the research community for membership in the assessment panels. Furthermore, SBAG hopes the midterm review may address key assets and facilities in planetary science studies, such as PI-led laboratories that are particularly vulnerable to funding fluctuations. The productivity of these assets and facilities are often disrupted as a result of the loss of key personnel during times of low grant award rates.
Response: PSD absolutely supports the Decadal Survey process, including the mid-decadal assessment. SMD expects to follow its standard procedures, in cooperation with the National Academies of Science's Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science, to draft the Statement of Task and initiate the review. A draft of the Decadal Midterm task is under development with the plan to provide this to the NAS this summer.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 13, JUNE 29–JULY 1, 2015 (pdf)
The simultaneous spacecraft exploration of Ceres, the Pluto system, and comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko is focusing public attention on small bodies science as never before and provides a spectacular opportunity to communicate the value of our work. SBAG encourages the small bodies community to make extra efforts to engage with the public over these active missions, sharing the results of decades of work to build an exciting and healthy future for small bodies exploration.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG appreciates NASA's efforts to engage and communicate with the planetary defense and small bodies science communities about the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and the extent to which modifications in mission design have been responsive to concerns from those groups. In particular, the reference target asteroid 2008 EV5 offers well-documented opportunities and has been extensively studied as the sample return target for ESA's MacroPolo-R candidate mission. SBAG encourages continued engagement between mission planners and the small bodies community as the mission moves forward and supports the plans for the competed Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) and the succeeding Investigation Team (IT). However, it is important to note that for science-driven missions, SBAG continues to support the priorities identified in the Decadal Survey to guide use of Planetary Science Division (PSD) resources and funds.
Response: NASA greatly appreciates the constructive critiques provided and support shown by the small bodies science community to the Agency's efforts in formulation of ARM. For example, the level of interest shown by volunteers for the FAST (exactly 100 applications!) was fantastic, and the FAST members selected did an incredible job in a short time to respond to the issues they were presented. The FAST report will be published shortly and was a key input to the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) Requirements Closure Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) and ARM strategy discussion in mid-December. While ARM is not a science directed mission, we are pleased to continue a close working relationship with the small bodies science community.
SBAG sees the continuation of an active and healthy Discovery Program as an utmost priority and as a key program to enable the exploration of small bodies in the Solar System. SBAG is therefore heartened by the Discovery 2014 AO and views this as a major step to achieving the strategy and cadence as recommended in the Decadal Survey. The response from the planetary science community to the Discovery AO has been noteworthy and indicative of the enthusiasm for the fundamental contributions to future scientific exploration of the Solar System that the Discovery Program uniquely provides. To this end, SBAG reiterates the importance of the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month average launch cadence as an essential guideline. Given the large number of compelling and mature concepts submitted to the Discovery 2014 AO, selecting two missions would be a means of addressing the Decadal Survey guidelines and regaining the recommended cadence, given that the previous Discovery AO was released in 2010. In addition, the selection of two missions for the 2014 AO would leverage the considerable investment in development of the AO, preparation of proposals, and evaluation of the submissions.
Response: The NASA Planetary Sciences Division is committed to achieving as fast a cadence for Discovery mission launches as permitted by the resources made available for the Discovery Program. Currently we are striving to achieve a no more than 36 month launch cadence for future missions.
Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program
The Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program provides opportunities for the U.S. planetary science community to participate in JAXA's Hayabusa2 sample return mission to asteroid 1999 JU3. Participation from NASA-funded scientists will include providing input for mission planning, asteroid physical characterization, sample site selection, and sample analysis. This participation is important for small body science and is vital for future cooperation between JAXA's Hayabusa2 and NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return missions. It is also important for NASA's Asteroid Initiative since 1999 JU3 is a possible ARM target and a potentially hazardous asteroid.
After accepting Step 1 proposals, NASA delayed the Step 2 proposal due date (originally May 15, 2015) for the Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program. Spacecraft instrument teams and working groups are being organized, and decisions regarding spacecraft mission operations are being formulated for the upcoming encounter. Unfortunately, it is already clear that 2015 Hayabusa2 science team meetings will occur without NASA-funded Participating Scientists as a result of the delay. SBAG is encouraged that a new due date of October 5, 2015 has been set for the Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program but remains concerned that this delay is jeopardizing the potential for NASA-funded scientists to effectively provide input into Hayabusa2 mission plans. SBAG urges NASA to expedite the selection of Hayabusa2 Participating Scientists so that they may be integrated into the Hayabusa2 team in as timely a manner as is possible (i.e., early 2016).
Response: The Step-2 proposal deadline for the Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program was delayed to allow clarifications to be made to the program element language. These clarifications could only be made after iterative discussions with the Hayabusa2 team leadership at JAXA. On the basis of these discussions and documents obtained from JAXA, a project information package (PIP) was then written, reviewed, revised and finally approved through NASA's internal processes before any solicitation for a program element could be released. As with all of its ROSES NRA program elements, PSD strives to announce and execute them in as timely a fashion as possible. The timing between the SBAG-13 meeting and the revised Step-2 announcement was purely coincidental. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft will not reach its target asteroid until mid-2018 and samples will not be returned to Earth until late 2020. PSD is currently on schedule to complete the review process and announce selections by mid-February 2016. This still allows sufficient time for participating scientists to be incorporated into the team for both operations planning and encounter science.
Research and Analysis Program and the Health of the Scientific Community
SBAG appreciates and encourages communication between the Planetary Science Division (PSD) Research and Analysis (R&A) program officials and the scientific community via all possible avenues. Valuable venues include town hall meetings, the Assessment Groups, and the SARA office and website. Uncertainty and misinformation can be especially prevalent and damaging during times of constrained budgets or changes of program direction, and the recent R&A reorganization coinciding with a budget crunch has been a source of considerable anxiety in the scientific community. Rumors are best crowded out by facts. Open communication of the status and evolving directions of PSD's R&A programs is vital, along with the metrics used to assess progress in meeting these objectives.
SBAG endorses the pending NRC Space Studies Board activity to assess PSD's R&A reorganization and hopes that it will address the broader issue of identifying the elements of a healthy scientific community capable of supporting NASA's needs, and what should be done to maintain that community, and does not merely confine its attention to the traceability between R&A program elements and NASA's strategic goals.
In particular, SBAG is concerned about small PI-led laboratories. These have larger capital costs for equipment compared to many R&A-funded projects, and the equipment can be expensive to maintain and operate, requiring people with highly specialized skills. Among R&A-supported research groups, laboratory groups are thus particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in funding during times of low grant award rates, with loss of key people being highly disruptive. At a time when several missions are working to return samples that will need specialized laboratory analyses to achieve their scientific goals, it is crucial to maintain within the scientific community a strong cohort of laboratory practitioners and capabilities.
Response: We appreciate that there is anxiety in the community, and remain committed to providing clear and reliable information by way of solicitations, NASA Advisory Committee and Subcommittee meetings (e.g. Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS)), NASA town halls, social media, and other occasions such as the assessment groups meetings (e.g. SBAG). But NASA cannot police the accuracy of rumors. We rely on the community to filter its own discussions, and to be proactive in obtaining the facts to counter misinformation.
The SSB study of PSD's restructured R&A programs is working from a sharply focused statement of task that is directed toward specific recommendations of previous NRC studies. Issues concerning the health of scientific communities, or the amount of support being provided to particular communities, are not included in, and will not be added to, the statement of task. However, these issues may be taken up in the Mid-Decadal review, which is expected to start up later in 2016.
The R&A restructuring was undertaken to remove redundancies that had accumulated over the decades and to realign the core programs directly to our strategic goals as laid out in the NASA 2014 Science Plan. The Planetary Science Division is acutely aware that we are the primary source of funding for planetary researchers. We also recognize that returned samples are indeed rare and invaluable and as such, require dedicated investigators and facilities, and advanced instruments to analyze them. This implies stable and consistent budgets. We believe that full and open competition is absolutely essential for a healthy research community and despite the fact that the top-line budget for the Planetary Science Division has waxed and waned over many years, we have managed to maintain a stable R&A budget. Within R&A however, we cannot guarantee absolute stability of funding for specific disciplines or types of investigations. When NASA finds a need for stable, consistent funding for certain capabilities they are facilitized, e.g. the JSC Astromaterials Curation Office, Ames Vertical Gun Range (AVGR), Planetary Aeolian Lab (PAL), etc. We are in the process of reviewing all NASA-funded planetary facilities and will be soliciting proposals for new facilities through a Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) likely in early FY17.
Near-Earth Object Survey Telescope
NASA has asteroid-based activities across multiple directorates as a cornerstone of future objectives for human exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science. SBAG reiterates its previous findings that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA's Asteroid Initiative. In 2005, Congress passed the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act, which set the goal of discovering >90% of NEOs >140 m by 2020 (Public Law 109-155 Sec.321). A dedicated space-based NEO survey telescope would be capable of completing the congressionally recommended survey for NEOs much more quickly than using only ground-based survey systems. As an asset critical to agency-wide objectives, the survey telescope should have cross directorate support from all three of NASA's major space exploration directorates and not just from the resources available to the Planetary Science Division (PSD) of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), or the Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) program within PSD.
Response: While the great capability a space-based NEO survey telescope would add to the survey effort is not disputed, as also there would be great contribution to scientific understanding of the small bodies population and their relationship to solar system formation, a single observation system – space or ground-based – does not offer the complete solution to the NEO Observations Program needs. Development of the best integrated solution for achieving the G.E. Brown Survey Act objectives is the subject of several coordinated studies in 2016. Several members of the small bodies community are involved in these studies. PSD requests the continued support of the SBAG community as we complete these efforts to find the best overall path for our NEO Observations Program, targeted for before the time the 16th SBAG meeting is convened.
The Value of Open Community Forums
Collectively, the Assessment/Analysis Groups (AGs) represent an opportunity for regular, open, and broad dialogue between all members of the planetary science community. Furthermore, the AG meetings are forums unique from traditional conferences because they address a spectrum of programmatic, technical, and scientific topics, enabling an intersection of people that does not otherwise occur. This dialogue is essential to ensure a complete communications link between the stakeholders of the planetary science community. The classification of the AG meetings as conferences does not accurately capture the full extent or informational structure of the meetings, nor does it provide an accurate framework for the support logistics of the AG meetings. SBAG strongly endorses a return of the AG meetings to their previous classification or that an alternate solution is found other than treating AG meetings as scientific conferences.
Response: While NASA continues to assess the proper relationship of the AGs to the Agency, we expect that they will remain conferences for the purposes of tracking costs and NASA-funded attendance.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 12, JANUARY 6–7, 2015 (pdf)
SBAG eagerly anticipates a banner year for small bodies science in 2015. While our science will advance across diverse fronts including telescopic, laboratory, and modeling investigations, the simultaneous spacecraft exploration of Ceres, the Pluto system, and comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko will focus public attention on small bodies science as never before. The anticipated flood of discoveries in 2015 is the fruit of decades of effort. The attention it will attract gives the small body science community a spectacular opportunity to communicate the value of our work. To build a healthy future, we all must make an extra effort this year to engage with the public over these exciting missions.
Need for a Near-Earth Object Survey
NASA’s Asteroid Initiative comprises aspects of human exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science related to near-Earth asteroids and comets. SBAG reiterates its previous findings that a space-based near-Earth object (NEO) survey telescope would be a foundational asset that would most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative in the shortest amount of time. Construction and implementation of such an asset should be supported by all three of NASA’s major space exploration directorates and not just by the limited resources of the Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) program within the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Cross directorate support for a space-based asteroid survey is fully consistent with the Asteroid Initiative already established as an agency-wide goal. It should be noted that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be capable of detecting human-accessible NEOs far enough in advance for their mission opportunities to be implementable.
Response: The capability of a space-based NEO survey telescope to complete the survey is not disputed. However, appropriations for the NEO Program do not support acquisition of such a space-based capability. NASA will continue to seek ways to maximize survey capabilities within the means allowed by congressionally appropriated budgets for the NEO Program.
Affirmation of the NAC Statement of Human Missions to NEOs in Their Native Orbits
The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) letter dated August 4, 2014 states that: “It must also be noted that ARM [Asteroid Redirect Mission] is not a substitute for a [human] mission to an asteroid in its native orbit, which appears to be possible at a lower launch energy than previously believed based on recent data2—4. Such a long duration deep space mission would be a logical step toward the horizon goal of humans to Mars.” SBAG strongly supports this NAC statement and finds that a human mission to an asteroid in its native orbit has unique merits and value, regardless of whether ARM is flown. SBAG maintains a summary chart of human-accessible near-Earth asteroid (NEA) data, updated every few months.
Response: The Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS) database provides a valuable analysis and resource for a quick assessment of the viability of all discovered NEOs for future robotic and human spaceflight destinations. Previous humanspaceflight studies have shown that human missions to asteroids in native orbits require substantial investments in technology for habitation systems and in-space propellant systems along with high power electrical systems, assuming the target asteroid is shown to be suitable for human systems interaction. Required current funding profiles and the required safety assessments did not allow for these missions today to be initiated in the near term. The ARM mission well supports the strategy for development of capabilities in the cislunar environment and incremental capability development in NASA's plan for preparing for humans to explore further out in to the solar system. NASA will be developing missions that help us gain the knowledge we need to send humans to Mars. These missions may include visiting asteroids in their natural orbits, and the targets discovered by the Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS) will likely be utilized in future studies.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG appreciates NASA’s efforts to engage and communicate with the planetary science community about the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). SBAG further recognizes that NASA’s Asteroid Initiative has raised awareness and emphasized the importance of asteroids within NASA, to other U.S. Federal agencies, to the general public, and to our international partners.
Although SBAG has not endorsed either Option A (return an entire small asteroid) or Option B (capture and return a boulder from a large asteroid), the SBAG ARM Special Action Team Full Report, generated at the request of NASA, provides information and rationale for the relative benefits of the two options from science, planetary defense, and resource utilization perspectives. SBAG encourages the use of this document if such factors are considered during the selection of the ARM capture system.
However, SBAG reiterates its concerns from the 11th SBAG meeting about the limited benefits of ARM for advancing asteroid science or furthering planetary defense strategies, and that limits in the current knowledge of near-Earth asteroids contribute to schedule and cost risks. SBAG supports continued engagement with the NASA ARM team as the concept is refined.
Response: NASA greatly appreciates the work done by the SBAG ARM Special Action Team. Their findings were key in assisting the Agency in deliberations about the ARM candidate options. Now that the decision has been made, the Agency solicits greater involvement in mission development by the small bodies science community. Maximizing the science, planetary defense, and resource utilization associated with ARM is a goal of NASA leadership. NASA hopes that SBAG will play an important role in linking ARM with the small bodies community.
Cadence of Discovery Missions
SBAG is encouraged by the release of the Discovery AO within 2014, a major step to achieving the strategy outlined in the Decadal Survey. The Discovery program has made important and fundamental contributions to planetary exploration, and is of crucial importance to the future scientific exploration of the Solar System. SBAG regards the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month cadence as an essential guideline and notes that the selection of two missions from the current AO could provide a means to regain the Decadal Survey recommended average cadence of Discovery missions.
Response: The proposals submitted to the 2014 AO are currently in evaluation so any discussion about mission selections must await the completion of that process.
Concern for the Minor Planet Center Status
The Minor Planet Center (MPC) is a unique and crucial facility for the small bodies community both within the United States and internationally. In addition to serving as the clearinghouse for all astrometric observations of asteroids and comets, the MPC also plays a central role in the chain of notification involving potential impactors. SBAG is concerned about recent changes at the MPC, including the resignation of the director and the center’s overall status and future, and urges NASA to review the situation as soon as possible. Such a review should be conducted in conjunction with the International Astronomical Union, the organization under which the MPC is chartered.
Response: Since SBAG 12 convened, the NEO Program established and conducted a review panel staffed by members of the small bodies community, including official IAU representatives, on the MPC's status and future operations. The panel's report is now in final draft and their findings will guide the future course that the Science Directorate Planetary Science Division will take with the MPC.
Support for the NEO Program Development Plan
The recent NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Audit Report, NASA's Efforts to Identify Near-Earth Objects and Mitigate Hazards, includes five recommendations intended to improve NASA’s efforts to discover, characterize, and mitigate near-Earth object threats, and NASA SMD’s response outlines a general plan to make progress on the OIG report recommendations within the year. (15 September, 2014)
SBAG supports NASA’s response to the OIG report and considers the recommended development of a strategic plan for the NEO Program a highly valuable activity. In particular, SBAG urges the strategic plan to draw heavily on community reports (i.e., 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force; 2010 NRC Report: Defending Planet Earth) that outline planetary defense priorities. SBAG strongly supports the creation of a NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office, a top recommendation of the 2010 NAC Task Force report. Furthermore, SBAG recommends that this new office (1) pursue goals specified in congressional direction, such as NEO population survey completion, (2) work towards development of NEO mitigation technologies through additional funded programs, including flight validation of the most promising mitigation system concepts, and (3) utilize cross-agency and international collaborations as warranted in accomplishing those goals. The OIG-recommended full-time equivalent analysis applied to a NEO Program strategic plan guided by planetary defense priorities will be highly informative in creating a program positioned to achieve NASA’s planetary defense objectives.
Response: Status of the NEO Program development will be presented at the next SBAG meeting.
Concern for NASA Educational Efforts
Historically, NASA has taken a leading role in communicating its discoveries to the nation and in inspiring future scientists and engineers. SBAG is concerned about the erosion of NASA’s educational efforts as evidenced by two recent response: the deletion of a $4-million education component of the OSIRIS-REx mission, and the marginalization of the small, local programs that were at the core of the supplementary Education and Public Outreach (EPO) grants to Principal Investigators.
Missions provide unprecedented educational opportunities, while securing public support for NASA programs and assuring a supply of scientifically literate students and teachers. SMD’s goals of enabling STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education; improving U.S. scientific literacy; and advancing national education goals are not served by deleting an educational component of OSIRIS-REx’s outreach plan. Programs lost from the mission include Educators’ and Students’ Workshops, Graduate Student Fellowships, activities kits, internships at partner institutions, and traveling and permanent exhibits. SBAG supports a reinstatement of these OSIRIS-REx education programs within NASA’s new educational policies and approaches.
SBAG is also concerned with the erosion of “grass roots” EPO efforts that were served by programs such as the modest EPO supplements to research and analysis grants. Science is most effectively communicated by those producing it, partnering with education specialists. Dozens of local and grassroots EPO activities, which provide unique opportunities to reach underserved communities, have been deleted, placing their future in jeopardy. SBAG is concerned that the current SMD Science Education Cooperative Agreement Notice will not engage SMD scientists and will risk losing these valuable EPO activities.
Response: SMD's restructured approach to science education is informed by recommendations from all four Decadal surveys, and the National Academy of Science's Board of Science Education. Additionally, SMD's goals are consistent with the Administration's Five-Year Strategic Plan (Co-STEM) and NASA's 2014 Strategic Plan. Most importantly, those goals lean toward an overall desired outcome for SMD Science Education of enabling scientists and engineers into the learning environment more effectively and efficiently for learners of all ages. Past efforts, while notable, are not as optimal in today's environment. Also, the small grants to PI's, while providing short-term benefits, had no overarching strategic approach and were often not sustainable beyond three years. There is a fourth goal of SMD's education restructuring: "Leveraging through Partnerships". It is precisely this goal that addresses the "grass roots" nature recognizing that all education is local and our efforts are best served by partnering with community-based organizations. We look forward to presenting results of the restructuring efforts to the future SBAG meeting in the winter time-frame.
Concern for Technology Development Efforts
While the funding for technology appears to be relatively flat, both exploration and planetary science technology development efforts are in a time of transition and significant changes have occurred that are potential causes for concern by SBAG. The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) may have objectives for technology development counter to near-term infusion opportunities commensurate with standard (e.g. TMCO) risk tolerance. While the restart of Pu-238 production has highly valuable and broad applications across planetary science, the effects of devoting approximately one-third of NASA's PSD technology funds towards Department of Energy (DoE) infrastructure and Pu-238 production efforts on other explicit NASA technology development efforts remain to be seen. The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) flight project and the In-Space Propulsion Technology program were both recently cancelled. The coordination and identification of needs for exploration and planetary science missions requires constant and proactive coordination between the “mission customers” and STMD, in addition to directorate-specific resources to address the gaps. The relationships are maturing and appear to be improving, but it is unclear how technology coordination is occurring and whether appropriate resources are available for both coordination and funding identified technology gaps.
Response: Technology development to close critical capability gaps remains important. Planetary Science is working directly with STMD to identify opportunities to work together to close these capability gaps. For example, SMD and STMD are now in the process of formalizing the methodology for selecting new science-focused solicitation topics for the Game Changing Development (GCD) program and we expect this methodology to be useful for other STMD programs as well. The recent Discovery AO established a new model for infusing relatively new technologies into missions while addressing the risk tolerance concerns. These technologies include the Deep Space Atomic Clock, the Heatshield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology, the Deep Space Optical Communications system, and a number of others. More recently PSD and the GCD program made commitments to partner on 6 different space technologies that are highly relevant to future PSD missions. PSD will continue to work with STMD to address Agency and Planetary technology priorities.
NASA Advisory Council References:
4. Barbee, B. W., Abell, P. A., Adamo, D. R., Alberding, C. M., Mazanek, D. D., Johnson, L. N., Yeomans, D. K., Chodas, P. W., Chamberlin, A. B., Friedensen, V. P., “The Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study: An Ongoing Effort to Identify Near-Earth Asteroid Destinations for Human Explorers,” 2013 IAA Planetary Defense Conference, Flagstaff, AZ, April 15-19, 2013.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 11, JULY 29–31, 2014 (pdf)
The Need for a Near-Earth Object Survey. The NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Section 321, cited as the “George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act” directs that “the Administrator shall plan, develop, and implement a Near-Earth Object Survey program to detect, track, catalogue, and characterize the physical characteristics of near-Earth objects equal to or greater than 140 meters in diameter in order to assess the threat of such near-Earth objects to the Earth. It shall be the goal of the Survey program to achieve 90 percent completion of its near- Earth object catalogue (based on statistically predicted populations of near-Earth objects) within 15 years after the date of enactment of this Act.” The stated goal of NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge is “to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them,” which is well aligned with the congressional direction to identify potentially hazardous objects. However, no plan has been defined or resourced to achieve the congressional goal by 2020. A dedicated space-based survey telescope would achieve this goal in the shortest period of time. SBAG reiterates that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be a foundational asset, significantly advancing NASA’s human exploration, science, and planetary defense objectives.
Response: The capability of a space-based NEO survey telescope to achieve the goals set forth for the survey and the Agency's Grand Challenge is not disputed. However, appropriations for the NEO Program to date do not support acquisition of such a space-based capability. NASA will continue to seek ways to maximize survey capabilities within the means allowed by appropriated budgets.
The Asteroid Redirect Mission. SBAG is composed of members with knowledge and expertise in small bodies throughout the Solar System, including asteroids. As such, the group has pertinent expertise to assess the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept in its ability to address strategic objectives identified in the planetary Decadal Survey and in determining the outstanding risk factors for the execution of the concept based on current knowledge of the NEO population and their characteristics. SBAG supports the following findings as related to the ARM concept:
The portion of the ARM concept that involves a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid sample to cis-lunar space is not designed as an asteroid science mission and its benefits for advancing the knowledge of asteroids and furthering planetary defense strategies are limited and not compelling.
Limits in the current knowledge and large uncertainties in the properties of near-Earth asteroids contribute significantly to schedule and cost risk, and to the risk of mission failure, of either Option A (redirect an entire small asteroid) or Option B (capture and return a large boulder from a larger asteroid) of the robotic ARM concept. Current surveys, observing programs, and other projects are not positioned to sufficiently bridge this knowledge gap within the allotted schedule
After the SBAG 10 meeting in January 2014, at the request of NASA, the SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team (SBAG ARM SAT) was formed and tasked by NASA with providing specific input on the likely physical composition of small (<10 meter diameter) near-Earth asteroids, the likelihood and nature of boulders on asteroids, relevant information gained from meteorites, the properties of asteroid regolith, and the potential for science, planetary defense, and resource utilization. The SBAG ARM SAT responses to these tasks are available on the “Documents” section of the SBAG website and provide more detailed scientific and technical information about the current knowledge of properties of near-Earth asteroids, the limits of that knowledge, and the significant associated uncertainties.
Response: The primary objective of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is to conduct a human exploration mission to an asteroid in the mid-2020s, providing systems and operational experience relevant for future human exploration of Mars. The NASA ARM concept development team greatly appreciates the efforts of the SBAG ARM Special Action Team and their findings have been very important input as the ARM concept continues to mature to meet a Mission Concept Review in 2nd Quarter FY2015. NASA will continue to coordinate with the Small Bodies Assessment Group on the human exploration aspects of the mission, as well as to continue to identify and develop scientific and planetary defense benefits from the mission.
The Discovery Program. SBAG strongly supports the planetary science Decadal Survey and finds that having a Discovery AO in 2014 is a major step to achieving the strategy outlined in the Decadal Survey. The Discovery Program has been highly successful and is of crucial importance to the future scientific exploration of the Solar System. SBAG supports maintaining a regular cadence of Discovery AOs and further urges achieving mission selections at the Decadal Survey recommended ≤24 month cadence.
Response: A Discovery Program AO was released on November 5, 2014. The proposal deadline is February 16, 2015. Based on current budget projections, PSD anticipates an ability to support a 36-month cadence for Discovery AOs.
The New Frontiers Program. The planetary Decadal Survey states the importance of having two New Frontiers class missions in the decade to achieve a balanced exploration portfolio of the Solar System. OSIRIS-REx was selected in May 2011 as the third mission in the New Frontiers Program, and SBAG encourages an AO for the fourth mission selection in the near future as OSIRIS-REx development work is completed.
Response: PSD remains committed to a New Frontiers AO cadence as close as possible to that recommended by the most recent planetary decadal survey, but is constrained to working within the means allowed by appropriated budgets.
The Value of Planetary Radar. Radar is a powerful technique for constraining asteroid orbits, shapes, sizes, and spin states, as well as the potential presence of small orbiting companions and boulders on an object's surface. The capability of radar for revealing the character of small near-Earth asteroids is exemplified by the recent bistatic observation of 2014 HQ124. A chirped X-band transmission from Goldstone was received by Arecibo using a new digital receiver. To enable the ability to characterize potential targets for robotic or crewed exploration and for assessing risks associated with potentially hazardous objects, it is essential to maintain the facilities able to do this work. SBAG reiterates its concern about the future stability of funding for key planetary radar facilities, especially in light of the December 2013 "Dear Colleague" letter from the National Science Foundation.
Response: The two planetary radar observatories provide a critical capability for small body characterization and NASA is committed to continued support for planetary radar, provided budgets allowing us to do so are appropriated. Continuation of support for the Arecibo Observatory depends not only on sufficient budget allocations to the PSD NEO Program, but also on continued support for the facility by the National Science Foundation (NSF), since PSD alone does not have sufficient resources to fully operate the Arecibo Observatory. The NSF is considering several alternative scenarios for the Arecibo facility beyond the present cooperative agreement, which expires in 2016. As stated in NSF's "Dear Colleague" letter of December 2013, the alternatives range from complete closure and deconstruction of the site to maintaining the status quo. NASA continues to work with our colleagues at the NSF to determine the best course of action within the budget constraints of both agencies.
The Establishment of a Planetary Defense Coordination Office. SBAG reiterates the importance of establishing a Planetary Defense Coordination Office, as recommended by the 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force, following the NASA Authorization Acts of 2005 and 2008 that affirmed the need for the establishment of policy and responsibilities with respect to a response for threats posed by near-Earth objects. While the efforts through the NEO Observation program are laudable, an office that would coordinate planetary defense activities across NASA, other U.S. federal agencies, foreign space agencies, and international partners is still needed.
Response: NASA has committed to examine the needs of the NEO Program and develop both a complete program plan and an adequately resourced program office by the end of fiscal year 2015. Study of the needs for interface across both US Government agencies and departments and internationally will be a part of this effort. Additional personnel have already been assigned to assist with the oversight and administration of the current efforts so that key personnel have the time for the more strategic planning this will require.
The B612 Sentinel Project. The B612 Foundation has been unable to meet scheduled milestones under its Space Act Agreement with NASA for the Sentinel mission. SBAG is concerned that reliance on this initiative has delayed NASA's ability to move forward on a NEO survey telescope that is competed and optimally designed to address NASA strategic objectives across planetary defense, human exploration, and science.
Response: To date NASA has found that reliance on the private sector for a space based NEO survey has not advanced our progress toward the goals of the George E. Brown. Jr. NEO Survey Act. The approach is being re-examined as part of the strategic planning for the NEO Program in 2015.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 10, JANUARY 8-9, 2014 (pdf)
Asteroid Redirect Mission. Though SBAG acknowledges that the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is continuing to evolve as the concept development matures, the current formulation has not resolved the issues detailed in previous SBAG findings of July, 2013. The objectives, requirements, and success criteria for the ARM are not clearly defined, including the relevance to planetary defense. There are substantial issues and challenges associated with the identification and characterization of potential targets. Together these combine for considerable schedule and cost uncertainty and risk for the ARM. As requested, SBAG in the near term will provide input for key small body science areas to inform NASA and the ARM formulation team, though we note that SBAG would be willing to provide input at earlier stages in the future.
Response: The ARM concept continues to evolve and mature while it is still in the pre-formulation phase. Input from the SBAG has been valuable to this process and has significantly influenced its development. The second day of the SBAG #11 meeting has extensive briefings on the current state of the program concepts. Additional SBAG feedback is encouraged after seeing those briefings.
Support of Target NEO 2 Findings. The Target NEO 2 workshop had widespread and broad community participation and enabled open discussion and debate of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept. The Target NEO 2 final report finds the need for: ARM requirements and mission success criteria to be clearly defined; an independent cost estimate; competition and peer review; reconsideration of the aggressive schedule; a well-constrained understanding of the target NEA population and the distribution of their physical characteristics; improvement of ground-based observatories and remote characterization follow-up procedures; and a robust NEO survey. SBAG finds that the Target NEO 2 workshop was highly valuable and successful at bringing together experts in the fields pertinent to the ARM concept, supports the well articulated findings in the final report, and urges that the report be used to inform and evaluate further ARM efforts.
Response: We agree on the value of the NEO 2 workshop and its findings for ARM. An interchange meeting with NASA HQ leadership was held with the NEO 2 workshop organizers on 5 December, 2013. The workshop inputs are important factors being considered as we continue the formulation of ARM. Their influence will be seen as the current status of the proposed ARM program is briefed during the SBAG #11 meeting.
Cadence of Discovery Missions. SBAG strongly supports the planetary Decadal Survey, which states the importance of regular competitive mission selections in the highly successful Discovery program. The Decadal Survey recommended cadence of a Discovery AO and mission selection every ≤24 months is not being achieved, and SBAG urges NASA and the administration to develop a plan to accomplish this Decadal Survey recommendation in the near future and for the rest of the decade.
Response: The President's 2015 budget request positions the Discovery AOs to be on a 36-month cadence, starting with the AO that is to be released by the beginning of October, 2014. The anticipated Planetary Science budgets do not support launching Discovery missions every two years.
Review of the Restructuring of the Research and Analysis Program. Restructuring of the Planetary Science Division’s Research and Analysis Program should be required to pass a formal Senior Review prior to implementation to ensure it is able to provide the benefits identified by the 2011 Planetary Science Subcommittee report (Assessment of the NASA Planetary Science Division’s Mission-Enabling Activities, led by Ron Greeley). As identified in the report, this includes an assessment of the work force impact and of revenue neutrality. SBAG finds that the submission of a draft ROSES 2014 document to the Planetary Science Subcommittee does not constitute sufficient review and assessment prior to implementation.
Response: The Senior Review process has been established only for on-going activities, so any Senior Review of the Research and Analysis (R&A) program would be for the pre-restructuring R&A programs and the restructuring's goals. As those goals were derived from the Planetary Science Decadal Survey and the cited 2011 Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS) report, this Senior Review would be evaluating the strategic documents that prompted the Review. However, the Planetary Science Division (PSD) is committed to evaluating and making adjustments to the restructured R&A program as needed.
This evaluation has three primary parts: the program solicitations before ROSES release, the review process during the ROSES year, and statistics at the end of the ROSES year. Before the solicitations were released, the program overview and the individual calls were posted on the USRA website and comments were invited through the PSS and the AGs. Throughout the ROSES year, PSD is surveying participants in the review panels; this survey offers community members to assess the clarity of the restructured programs and the process and outcomes of reviews within the same. To evaluate the effect of the structured programs on proposers, PSD is monitoring proposer and proposal statistics and comparing them to previous ROSES years to determine the impact of the restructuring on the community in this first ROSES year. PSD will report these results to the PSS at the end of ROSES 2014.
Solar System Workings Opportunity. The prior announced deadline of late February 2015 for the Solar System Workings program would result in a ≥20 month gap in proposal due dates for projects formerly submitted through Cosmochemistry, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, Planetary Atmospheres, and Mars Fundamental Research programs. This would cause a serious interruption of funding, lack of opportunities for young career scientists, and damage to the small bodies and broader planetary science research communities. SBAG supports moving this due date to May/June 2014 to address this serious concern.
Response: The due dates for Solar System Workings was moved to May 23, 2014, for Step 1 proposals and July 25th for Step 2.
Dawn at Ceres Participating Scientists. SBAG strongly supports the involvement of participating scientists for Dawn at Ceres, with scientists selected before the encounter, contributing to the mission prior to orbit insertion, and participating in the orbital mission at Ceres. SBAG finds that the draft text for a “Dawn Focused Research and Analysis Program” has a fundamental issue that needs to be revised. The Program’s core requirement that "Spacecraft data that have not been obtained (i.e., future mission data), or those that have not been placed in approved archives may not be proposed for use in DFRAP investigations" will not enable any new scientists to participate prior to and during the Dawn at Ceres encounter. Additionally, opportunities for involvement in the Dawn at Ceres mission, either through a participating scientist or other such program, must be fair, competitive, and equally open to all. SBAG opposes the announcement text as presently written and urges modifications that will allow scientists to participate in the active science mission at Ceres. Given Dawn’s arrival at Ceres in April 2015, time is of the essence if the full potential of NASA’s investment in the Dawn mission is to be retained.
Response: One related result of the recent restructuring of Planetary R&A programs was the reintroduction of the Discovery Data Analysis Program (DDAP). Since the scope of the DDAP includes analysis of PDS-certified Dawn data, it was clear that much of what the initial year or so of the DFRAP would have covered could now be proposed to the DDAP. The need for the DFRAP element was thus eliminated. The Dawn at Ceres Guest Investigator Program (DAC-GIP) has been recently announced, which will embed guest investigators within the Dawn team. The guest investigators will have access to Dawn data "in real-time," and will attend Dawn team meetings. Step-1 proposals are due August 14, 2014, and Step-2 October 9, 2014.
Establishment of a Planetary Defense Coordination Office. The 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force, following the NASA Authorization Acts of 2005 and 2008 that affirmed the need for the establishment of policy with respect to threats posed by near-Earth objects, recommended that NASA establish a Planetary Defense Coordination Office that would coordinate planetary defense activities across NASA, other U.S. federal agencies, foreign space agencies, and international partners. This has not yet been realized, and SBAG reiterates the importance of establishing such an office.
Response: The NASA Authorization Act of 2008 directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director to develop a policy for notifying federal agencies and relevant emergency response institutions of an impending NEO threat if public safety was at risk. OSTP was also directed to recommend which federal agencies to be responsible for protecting the US from NEO threats. NASAThe Science Mission and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorates agrees on the importance of having a focus point at NASA Headquarters to coordinate planetary defense activities across the Agency, and work closely with both the US interagency and international community to advance planetary defense objectives, and to serve as the point of contact with OSTP's planetary defense activities., but efforts to establish this office have admittedly been slow. One of the biggest challenges to establishment is reallocation of workforce from an already overburden civil service quota. However, Although the NAC Planetary Defense Task Force proposed organization structure is still under discussion, personnel have been identifiedduties have been shifted and funding augmented to support this activity. sSome technical work items are in the process of being assigned to field centers, such as Goddard, Johnson, and Ames as well as JPL.
NEO Survey Telescope. NASA’s Asteroid Initiative places emphasis on the exploration of near-Earth asteroids for planetary defense, science, and resource utilization. However, the necessary knowledge concerning the distribution of these objects and their respective characteristics is inadequate in order to successfully formulate NASA’s plans for accomplishing the Asteroid Initiative. SBAG reiterates its previous findings that support the importance of a space-based survey telescope to NASA SMD and HEOMD goals and objectives. Although it is commendable that NASA is exploring alternative options for obtaining these data, a space-based NEO survey asset returns the greatest value with respect to exploration, planetary defense, science, resource utilization and does so in the most cost effective manner. Proper implementation of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative would best be served through a peer-reviewed NEO survey telescope mission that is funded as an agency asset. Such a foundational asset that provides essential data to aid the overall long-term objectives of NASA should be supported across the entire agency and not only through the SMD NEO Program.
Response: The value of a space-based NEO survey is not disputed and NASA will continue to seek ways to initiate such a project within the means allowed of the appropriated budget.
Planetary Science from Stratospheric Balloons. The development of a reusable stratospheric balloon platform has the potential to enable planetary science observations not possible from the ground and to complement space-based assets. Additionally, balloon investigations offer a useful opportunity for scientists to develop experience relevant to being a mission PI and offer a means to increase the TRL of instrumentation for future spacecraft missions. Competed opportunities are needed for the community as a whole to realize those benefits, and a plan and timeline to transition the development program to competed opportunities should be defined and shared with the community. However, the present stratospheric balloon program has yet to demonstrate whether it is a scientifically valuable and cost-effective way to do planetary science. Planned observations need to demonstrate a priori their value/uniqueness and cost-effectiveness relative to available ground-based (not just IRTF) and space-based facilities and instrumentation.
Response: The Planetary Science Division is investigating the scientific value and cost effectiveness of a stratospheric balloon platform for planetary science objectives through a capabilities rapid prototyping project managed by the Glen Research Center and contracted to the Applied Physics Laboratory because of their ample experience with balloon-borne missions. Although the Balloon Rapid Response for comet ISON (BRRISON) flight was not scientifically successful due to a telescope stow action and latch anomaly, it did meet many engineering objectives of the project. This year an upgraded balloon platform with a redesigned stow program and latch mechanism, now called the Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science (BOPPS), is on track for a late September flight to observe comets Pan-STARRS and/or Siding Spring and other planetary targets to complete the balloon prototyping phase of this capabilities demonstration. After completion an assessment will be made on whether it is of sufficient value to initiate a balloon-borne planetary observation program utilizing a dedicated telescope platform with interchangeable instrumentation and competed science missions on an annual or bi-annual cadence.
Technology Budget. The technology budget has a 1/3 reduction from 2012 to 2014 ($100M from $161M) excluding the DOE infrastructure costs. The in-space propulsion technology (ISPT) program appears to be closing out completely. The electric propulsion options have been large PSD investments that have critical gaps and pose a poor risk posture for upcoming AOs. STMD is ramping up technology options that, in general, are not applicable to the evolutionary needs within PSD. Opportunities exist for STMD to leverage the past PSD investments and address critical gaps while being responsive to the science mission directorate technology needs. A clear dialogue/partnership between STMD and PSD to address these strategic PSD gaps is warranted. The remaining return on investment (ROI) appears high for both directorates. The SBIR developed Hall thruster PPU is one such example of a low remaining cost-to-go for high ROI.
Response:The Planetary Science Division is re-planning it's technology investments to respond to the change in budgets and priorities. PSD technology funds are extremely limited, and are focused on maintaining the unique capabilities to produce and fly plutonium-238 based power systems to enable exploration where solar insolation is impractical as a power source.
PSD is looking to leverage technologies being developed by STMD and HEOMD, as well as commercial technologies to provide new capabilities for planetary exploration in the future. PSD is also seeking to initiate new technology investments by developing partnerships to leverage PSD's limited technology dollars. Finally, when making technology development decisions PSD is considering the sustainment model for existing and new capabilities, and is intent that capabilities find broader use beyond PSD's needs so that the burden of sustainment can be shared, and ideally, PSD becomes a marginal buyer.
PSD has made the commitment to develop the NEXT thruster PPU to TRL 6 in partnership with industry in order to provide a thruster-PPU system for the Discovery 2014 AO. PSD remains in dialog with STMD and the ARRM mission planners as to whether the NEXT thruster system can meet their mission requirements. PSD also held a successful workshop to seek commercial interest in developing and maintaining the NEXT thruster system for commercial applications.
PSD recognizes the value of the Hall thruster PPU developed under an SBIR to Colorado Power Electronics. Such an innovative PPU architecture has the potential to serve as a PPU for the PSD developed HIVHAC thruster to provide an affordable electric propulsion system that is focused on PSD mission requirements. The same PPU architecture can also support commercial Hall thrusters, and thus can become a leveraged development with STMD with a shared sustainment model. PSD has funded the CPE PPU to mature it to TRL 6.
(1) Senior Review of the R&A Restructuring Plan. The SBAG Steering Committee finds that a Senior Review, as recommended in the 2011 Planetary Science Subcommittee report, Assessment of the NASA Planetary Science Division's Mission-Enabling Activities, prior to implementation would promote a successful restructuring of the Planetary Science Division's Research and Analysis Program. The scope of this review should also be informed by the questions raised by the planetary community with regards to the reorganization.
Response: This will be addressed in presentations by Jim Green and Jon Rall on Thursday.
(1) Decadal Survey Compliance. The planetary decadal survey states the importance of a balanced portfolio of mission classes when the budget is adequate to support this. The decadal survey also makes clear recommendations for how programs should be prioritized if fiscal conditions are worse than anticipated: “It is also possible that the budget picture could turn out to be less favorable than the committee has assumed. This could happen, for example, if the actual budget for solar system exploration is smaller than the projections the committee used. If cuts to the program are necessary, the committee recommends that the first approach should be descoping or delaying Flagship missions. Changes to the New Frontiers or Discovery programs should be considered only if adjustments to Flagship missions cannot solve the problem. And high priority should be placed on preserving funding for Research and Analysis programs and for technology development.” (Bolded in the report). The focus on flagship missions in the current fiscal environment at the expense of restoring the Discovery cadence, and the continuing funding stress experienced by the Research and Analysis programs, is inconsistent with the decadal survey recommendations.
Response: This will be addressed in detail in Jim Green's presentation Thursday. However, examination of the FY2014 Planetary Science budget will show that emphasis is being place on the competed programs of Discovery and New Frontiers, and the R&A program, at the expense of Mars and Outer Planets.
(2) Travel Restrictions. The current NASA and government restrictions on travel and attendance at workshops, conferences, science team meetings, etc. is severely impacting the ability of the planetary science and engineering communities to conduct their work. The increased level of oversight forces a disproportionate amount of time and effort by agency personnel to comply with the necessary waivers and forms to attend such functions at the expense of focusing on NASA goals and objectives. In addition, these travel restrictions undermine the effective planning of domestic and international meetings by suppressing attendance in a manner that is difficult to predict, limiting vital interactions of individuals working on projects and missions relevant to NASA interests.
Response: The new budget deal passed by Congress should allow the restrictions placed on travel by the previous "Sequestration budget" to be reassessed and relaxed. As these budgets are passed into appropriations, we expect to see more reasonable implementation of travel policies.
(3) Planetary Defense Office. NASA recently announced a Grand Challenge to protect the Earth's population from extraterrestrial impacts. This involves many aspects of detection, characterization, and mitigation of potentially hazardous objects (asteroids and comets). The SBAG notes that currently there is only one expert at NASA HQ who is conversant with the issues of planetary defense. Given that emphasis will now be placed on the Grand Challenge and that this effort will involve multiple NASA directorates (SMD, HEOMD, and STMD), US agencies (DHS, FEMA, DoD, DoE, State, etc.) and international partners, the SBAG finds that establishing a Planetary Defense Office with enough individuals with required skills and expertise would help NASA to more effectively interface with these diverse entities and provide the expertise required to implement the Grand Challenge.
Response: SMD/PSD is looking at options to pursue the establishment of a "Planetary Defense Office" within the expanded resources planned for the NEO Program. Plans are still in formulation, but expect to hear about them in the near future, certainly by the next SBAG meeting.
(4) NEO Survey Telescope. NASA's Asteroid Initiative combines aspects of human exploration, science, resource utilization, and planetary defense. A NEO survey telescope is a foundational asset that will significantly enhance the ability of NASA to properly evaluate its human exploration objectives, perform valuable science, identify potential candidates for in situ resource utilization, and achieve its Grand Challenge with respect to defending Earth's populations from hazardous asteroids. The SBAG reiterates its previous findings that support the importance of a space-based survey telescope to NASA SMD and HEOMD goals and objectives. The new Asteroid Initiative only serves to highlight the importance of this foundational asset. Any reliance solely upon outside entities to fund, build, and operate such an asset, whose success is beyond NASA control, places NASA’s goals and objectives at risk. In addition, SBAG finds that making such an asset a NASA priority would be more consistent with the agency’s acceptance and implementation of its Grand Challenge for planetary defense.
Response: We agree with the value a space-based NEO survey telescope would offer, but in the current fiscal environment direct pursuit of such a stand-alone mission would necessarily come at the expense of other already confirmed priorities. We continue to assess the viability of external partnerships to accomplish these objectives and evolve our NEO Program and commitments as those assessments guide us. We are also pursuing enhancement of existing assets and new concepts which have the potential for high return but still lie within the somewhat expanded fiscal boundaries planned for the NEO Program.
(5) Comet ISON Campaign. Comet ISON presents a rare opportunity to study a potentially bright, sun-grazing comet for many months prior to and possibly after perihelion. The SBAG finds that the willing coordination across NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to support the unique observational campaign through the use of spacecraft assets, ground-based facilities, and the rapid response of an airborne balloon platform is proceeding and should help to maximize the scientific return from this uncommon event.
Response: Although a post-perihelion campaign would have been desirable, the Comet ISON Observation Campaign has been incredibly successful for the truly interplanetary comprehensive study of this comet from discovery to its solar demise. This was an historic campaign by which millions of people saw the comet through NASA's eyes.
(6) Impactor for Surface and Interior Science (ISIS) Mission. JPL is leading a study for a non-competed mission to be co-manifested with the Mars InSight spacecraft. ISIS will impact at hypervelocity speed the OSIRIS-REx target asteroid Bennu, creating a crater and modifying the orbit of that object as a planetary defense demonstration. OSIRIS-REx will be used to gather detailed information about the impact, ejecta, the crater formed, and the effect on asteroid motion. Significant savings are realized in launch vehicle costs (by the co-manifest) and use of OSIRIS-REx (mitigating the need for a second spacecraft component to study the impact results). While total mission cost is estimated at less than $200M, such cost estimates are historically very uncertain for non-competed missions in comparison to the rigorous cost evaluations applied to competed missions. While studying a full-scale hypervelocity impact event for the first time and testing a basic planetary defense scenario are important, the benefit of ISIS has not been determined to exceed those gained from Planetary Science Division funds being used to support the priorities outlined in the Decadal Survey, such as a regular cadence of competed Discovery missions and a robust R&A program.
Response: Although ISIS is an innovative and potentially cost effective concept that leverages the large space-lift margin or observational capabilities of two other confirmed planetary science missions to perform an additional science mission and asteroid deflection demonstration, PSD has determined the current fiscal environment does not allow the Agency to pursue it at this time. The concept study will be wrapped up into a comprehensive information package available to kickstart a future opportunity should it arise.
(7) Deep Impact. The extended Deep Impact mission is providing important and unique observations of comets, including simultaneous, time resolved observations of CO, CO2 and water. A number of important targets are available to Deep Impact for future observations including C/2012 S1 ISON, C/2013 A1 Siding Spring (making an extremely close approach to Mars and will be likely observed by Mars orbit and surface assets), and the highly evolved comet 2P/Encke.
Response: The very regrettable loss of the Deep Impact (DI) spacecraft last August, traced to an overflow of a time-conversion calculation exceeding its limits in the fault protection software which in turn left DI in a configuration that allowed its batteries to drain between planned contacts, unfortunately terminated these extended mission opportunities. However, significant observations of C/Garradd (2009 P1) and limited observations of C/ISON (2012 S1) were obtained.
(8) Asteroid Redirect & Return Mission (ARRM).
(a) Planetary science. While the SBAG committee finds that there is great scientific value in sample return missions from asteroids such as OSIRIS-Rex, ARRM has been defined as not being a science mission, nor is it a cost effective way to address science goals achievable through sample return. Candidate ARRM targets are limited and not well identified or characterized. Robotic sample return missions can return higher science value samples by selecting from a larger population of asteroids, and can be accomplished at significantly less cost (as evidenced by the OSIRIS-REx mission). Support of ARRM with planetary science resources is not appropriate.
Response: The mission objectives of the overall Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) are evolving as concept development matures. NASA has chartered a Robotic Concept Integration Team to assess both the internal NASA study concepts and ideas from the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information released in June 2013. Below are the preliminary ARM mission objectives, which are also being used by this team for alternative robotic mission concept comparison.
- Human Exploration to an Asteroid in the mid-2020's that Prepares for Future Exploration
- Initial use of systems and components, operational experience beyond LEO, crew risk reduction
- Technology Demonstration: Advanced Solar Electric Propulsion
- High power, long lifetime
- Enables future deep-space human exploration and enables multiple applications for Nation's aerospace community
- Enhanced Detection and Observation of Near Earth Asteroids for Planetary Defense
- Asteroid Deflection Demonstration/Proof of Concept for Planetary Defense
- [Small-body planetary] Science
- Partnership Opportunities (International and Commercial)
With the exception of support for viable target identification and characterization by the Near Earth Object Observation Program, planetary science resources are not being utilized.
(b) Searching for Potentially Hazardous Objects. There is great value in enhancing NASA's capabilities in small body discovery and characterization. The enhancement to NEO discovery and characterization efforts proposed as part of the Asteroid Initiative would be greater still if it were to be continued for more than one year. The discovery of smaller asteroids (i.e. potential ARRM targets) is an expected byproduct of this campaign expansion. There is concern that a focus on acquiring ARRM targets, and ARRM itself, can come at the expense of the detection rate and follow-up observations of 140m and larger asteroids.
Response: The detection strategy for NASA's Near Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program continues to be to search for potentially hazardous objects. The discovery of asteroids smaller than considered "hazardous" has been and is expected to continue to be a byproduct of the Program, but the campaign is to be expanded as part of NASA's Asteroid Initiative. This expanded program is planned to continue for the foreseeable budget horizon. The estimated increase in detection rate of smaller asteroids is based on the NEOO Program observation strategy for PHA's, including speed and depth of sky coverage and coordination for follow-up observations. In fact, the challenge of rapid follow-up and characterization of smaller asteroids provides for excellent testing of our techniques and response timelines should a true impact hazard be detected.
(c) Relevance of ARRM to Planetary Defense. Given the size of the ARRM target (< 10m), ARRM has limited relevance to planetary defense. Retrieving a NEO this small only tangentially benefits planetary defense, as the stated target body may not be representative of the larger, hazardous bodies.
Response: The Robotic Concept Integration Team is assessing alternative mission concepts using figures of merit derived from the overall ARM mission objectives listed in response to finding 8(a), as well as programmatic feasibility. We expect completion of this analysis in April 2014. The ARM mission objectives include the primary mission objective "Enhanced Detection and Observation of Near Earth Asteroids for Planetary Defense". This has direct relevance to planetary defense. The secondary objective "Asteroid Deflection Demonstration/Proof of Concept for Planetary Defense" could be one of the distinguishing factors in this comparative assessment of mission concept options.
(d) Mission Objectives. ARRM does not have clearly defined objectives, which makes it premature to commit significant resources to its development. The mission description/objectives fidelity appears to be lower than a "selectable" Discovery mission. NASA statements that deployment of a solar power array is sufficient for mission success, but capture and return of an asteroid to lunar orbit is not, brings into serious question the importance of investment in the asteroid capture and return portion of the mission plan. Firm baseline and minimum requirements must be set in order to assess the cost-effectiveness of achieving those requirements and to assess the value of the mission with respect to exploration goals. The Mars 2020 Science Definition Team released a 150+ page document outlining the mission objectives and merits. There is little comparable justification provided with respect to ARRM, yet ARRM is expected (by some estimates) to be a higher cost mission. The SBAG finds that formation of an independent Mission Definition Team (MDT) prior to commitment of significant resources and mission confirmation would allow for community participation in the relevant fields for the mission (including small body science) and provide a non-advocate peer review of the expected benefit if mission success criteria are met. In place of science objectives and traceability, the strategic knowledge gaps (for HEOMD) and technology roadmap (for STMD) can be used to provide traceability necessary for successful mission implementation.
Response: ARM mission objectives are being clarified as part of pre-formulation. NASA leaders shared with the community their early thinking on potential descope options for the robotic mission in an emphasis of the importance of NASA's need to balance technical and cost objectives in this initiative. As part of pre-formulation, NASA has chartered a Robotic Concept Integration Team (RCIT) to assess mission concept options, including ideas provided in response to the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information released in June. Figures of merit for the RCIT assessment are derived from the preliminary overall ARM mission objectives listed in response to finding 8(a) and ground rules for programmatic feasibility. The RCIT assessment will inform the determination of robotic mission requirements and descope options. NASA is also requesting the SBAG to provide assessment in key small body science areas to inform the RCIT assessment. We look forward to the SBAG's participation in this important activity. Meanwhile, leveraging on-going activities allows NASA to progress critical areas immediately, such as asteroid identification and solar electric propulsion technology development. Risk reduction can be pursued which will have independent merit, but will also be relevant to the selected concept.
(e) Target issues. The population and physical characteristics of low delta-velocity targets having diameters less than 10m are poorly constrained by observations. Because of their intrinsic faintness and long synodic periods, characterization must be undertaken over a short time period primarily during the discovery apparition. Such small objects may be rapidly rotating rubble piles, which could be hazardous to spacecraft during interactions with the target object. The mission must be designed to account for these large uncertainties in the properties of potential targets, which could greatly increase the complexity and cost of the mission. It is impractical to begin the planning and design of any mission to capture such an asteroid in the absence of a pre-existing study on the population and the physical characteristics of its members. Such a study would necessarily take a number of years if commenced now, assuming it is adequately resourced. A robust characterization campaign is imperative. Target characterization will be challenging and is expected to be of the utmost importance to mission success.
Response: The HQ ARM Steering Committee is well aware of the current deficiencies in our understanding of the very small body population, and the challenges for identification and characterization of viable targets. That is one reason why alternative concepts for accomplishing the mission are still in study. However, we disagree that we must have a scientific understanding of the entire population before such a mission can commence. Rather, we need only identification and adequate characterization of a sufficient number of viable candidate targets for the selected mission concept. Several candidates have already been identified for concept alternatives as proof of existence for such objects, although we know adequate characterization is still a challenge. We understand that we may not know everything one might like about a candidate target before launching the mission – rarely do we ever, especially for planetary missions - but these factors will be a recognized element of the mission risk strategy. And what we learn in this endeavor can only increase our understanding of this population of small objects very near the Earth.
(f) Schedule risks. Because of long-synodic periods, a missed launch window will not be recoverable for the same ARRM target. Therefore, multiple targets meeting orbital and physical characteristic requirements and having appropriately phased launch windows will need to be discovered. Given the poor knowledge of the population of these objects, this is a significant mission risk. The stated schedule for the ARRM, which posits funding of a ~$100M study in FY14 and launch in 2017, is unrealistic.
Response: We agree it would be desirable to have multiple potential targets identified for this mission. The observation segment has already set out to do that. The potential schedule of the asteroid identification, redirection, and crewed exploration activities presented by NASA in the June timeframe showed a potential robotic redirect mission launch in 2017, with the caveat that the timeline was notional. The schedule alignment strategy has evolved to a notional timeline which shows a potential robotic mission launch in 2018. NASA has not committed to a launch date for this mission.
(g) Cost risks. As a mission that serves as a technology and operations demonstrator, the management approach and acceptance of risk needs to be better defined to determine the feasibility of the aggressive schedule and its impact on cost and mission success criteria. The full-cost target, funding profile, and funding sources are not provided and limit any credible assessment of the schedule and mission cost to the various directorates. Lack of clarity of both resources available and resources required limits any determination of mission value, merit, and/or whether the mission is the most efficient use of available resources to achieve NASA’s objectives.
Response: ARM mission objectives and cost and schedule goals are being clarified as part of the current pre-formulation phase. Management approach and acceptance of risk will also be clarified. We are only at the stage now where we are looking at the specifics of concept options and how these compare to stated objectives. We are also assessing the "deltas" that would be needed in our budgets to implement this mission as compared to our on-going work elements, such as for a SEP tech demo only and early SLS and Orion flights. Meanwhile, leveraging on-going activities allows NASA to progress critical risk reduction areas immediately, such as the asteroid identification and solar electric propulsion technology development.
(1) Restarting the NEOWISE Mission. The small bodies community strongly supports the immediate restart of the NEOWISE mission. The WISE spacecraft is a unique asset that advances the National goal of sending humans to an NEO in the late 2020s by identifying objects not easily accessible from ground-based telescopes, while providing crucial physical characterization data on these potential targets (e.g., albedo, diameter, and rotation state). On the basis of the post-cryogenic mission performance, the NEOWISE mission is expected to discover ~200 new NEOs in three years of which 25% are expected to be Potentially Hazardous Objects. A total of ~2000 NEOs will be characterized. In addition to expanding our understanding of the NEO population, NEOWISE will also discover several comets and thousands of main-belt asteroids. However, there is urgency to restarting the NEOWISE mission since the spacecraft's orbit is decaying. WISE is in a Sun-synchronous 6am/6pm orbit and by early 2017, the predicted atmospheric drag on the spacecraft is expected to cause the orbital plane to precess into daylight, rendering the telescope unusable. Given that it will take 3-4 months to cool down, and an additional month to check out and recalibrate the sensors, time is of the essence.
HQ Response: We are currently evaluating a proposal from JPL to turn WISE back on in support of enhancing our NEO detection and characterization program. Assuming that we are able to secure the funding needed to adequately support a reactivated NEOWISE mission over an appropriate period of time, we then would move forward with this effort.
FINDINGS FROM STEERING GROUP MEETING (AT LPSC), MARCH 20, 2013
(1) SBAG and PSS Status. The removal of AG Chairs as automatic members of the Planetary Science Subcommittee diminishes independent community input to PSS discussions and the generation of findings. Selected inclusion by PSD management of some — and not all — AG Chairs gives preferential influence to those communities.
HQ Response: The AG structure is currently under review. This finding will be used as input to that review. In the meantime, Don Yeomans is representing the small bodies community on the PSS and he should be utilized to the maximum extent in that position.
Additional Response: The planetary science AG chairs are reinstated as members of the PSS. Formal paperwork to make this official is in progress.
(2) The Need for a Dawn@Ceres Participating Scientist Program. Dawn is currently scheduled to reach Ceres in April 2015. It is important for a Dawn@Ceres Participating Scientist Program to be included by amendment to ROSES 2013 in the near-term. The Dawn@Vesta Participating Scientists have been of significant and continuing value to the Dawn mission, and based on that experience it is clear that Dawn@Ceres Participating Scientists need to be in place well before the Dawn arrival at Ceres. It is expected that the time between Amendment announcement and funding is about 15 months. Consequently, there should be no delay. Time is of the essence.
HQ Response: We believe and have demonstrated in the past (GRAIL) that a PSP can be initiated in a shorter time than 15 months. We seek to continue to provide PSP opportunities taking into account lessons learned from each experience. In the case of Dawn, a review of the implementation and results of the Dawn@Vesta must be undertaken before a Dawn@Ceres can be initiated. We are currently in the process of collecting input from the PSP program for Dawn@Vesta and will take that into account before we release a Dawn@Ceres PSP opportunity.
Additional Response: The goal for any program for additional scientific research on a mission is to increase the scientific return from, and the community participation in, the mission. After interview of participants in the Dawn at Vesta PSP and careful consideration, PSD has decided that the best way to achieve these goals is not through a Participating Scientist Program specific to "Dawn @ Ceres". Instead, a "Dawn Focused Research and Analysis Program" will be created to focus continued attention on the analysis of Vesta now that the data is mostly available in the PDS, and to perform preparatory research for and then during the Ceres campaign. The Dawn Focused Research and Analysis Program is expected to start in FY 2015 (begin solicitation in ROSES 2014) and run for 3-5 years with an annual budget of $1-2M.
(3) The "Capture an Asteroid" Mission Proposal Being Considered by NASA. At our July 2012 meeting in Pasadena a presentation on an asteroid retrieval mission was given by John Brophy of JPL. While the meeting participants found it to be very interesting and entertaining, it was not considered to be a serious proposal because of obvious challenges, including the practical difficulty of identifying a target in an appropriate orbit with the necessary physical characteristics within the required lead time using existing or near- to long-term ground-based or space-based survey assets. When it came to our attention that this project was being seriously considered by the agency, SBAG — representing broad expertise in asteroid science and mission planning — offered to provide an independent technical review of this proposal. The NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group is co-chartered by HEOMD and SMD. The SBAG Terms of Reference state that it is responsible for "providing science input for planning and prioritizing human and robotic exploration activities for the small bodies of the Solar System." This includes near-Earth asteroids. Failure of HEOMD and SMD to utilize SBAG in this situation seems a peculiar decision and raises the serious question of the extent to which HEOMD and SMD wish to make decisions based on restricted input promoting specific outcomes.
HQ Response: The ARM was brought forward by the Administration as a Presidential Budget initiative. As such, to a certain point, information about it was embargoed by the Administration until the President's budget was announced — two months later this year. It was therefore not possible for HEOMD and SMD to use the community forums for input during this period. In fact, only a handful of individuals within both the Directorates knew of the budget initiative. Now that the budget announcement is out and the Asteroid Initiative formally introduced, we are engaging the community forums as you have seen with the Target NEO 2 Workshop and the SBAG 9 meeting.
(4) NEO Survey Missions and Competition. SBAG has made several findings regarding the importance of a space-based survey mission to identify NEO targets necessary for a human exploration mission. Such targets are also important for planetary defense and science missions. Requirements for this survey have been openly discussed (e.g., in the Target NEO workshop), but vary depending upon the detailed characteristics sought, including orbit, composition, size, and rotation state. Final objectives and requirements need to be informed by peer-review and would benefit from public comment by subject matter experts. Investments by the agency in a survey mission should be subject to open competition to ensure that defined requirements will be objectively and most cost-effectively met.
HQ Response: See the response to (6) above.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 8, JANUARY 14–16, 2013
(1) Comet ISON represents an exciting opportunity to study a bright, sun-grazing comet for many months prior to perihelion and (if it survives) after perihelion. A coordinated campaign that best utilizes ground-based, airborne, and spacecraft resources is of high scientific value for providing insight into the composition and structure of ISON, and information about the formation and evolution of primitive solar system material. Planetary Science Division funding support would be valuable and should be prioritized based on the cost and unique science return by the range of available ground-based, airborne/sub-orbital and space-based facilities.
HQ Response: PSD is supporting an extensive observations campaign, which Casey Lisse kindly stepped forward to coordinate at the last SBAG meeting. A workshop scheduled for 1-2 August at APL will detail the plans in work for that campaign.
(2) Balloon investigations offer a useful opportunity for scientists to develop experience relevant to being a mission PI and offer a means to increase the TRL of instrumentation for future spacecraft missions. Thus, such an initiative has value to the small bodies community, and it is appropriate that such an initiative be funded within mission or technology programs rather than research and analysis programs.
HQ Response: PSD is funding the Balloon Rapid Response for ISON (BRRISON) through residual Discovery Program funds as a way to kick-start such a capability for the planetary science community.
(3) The lack of opportunities for Discovery-class missions on a reasonable cadence, as originally established in the program and recommended by the Decadal Survey, demonstrates that the Discovery Program has been given a low priority by the NASA Administration. This results in a radical reduction in the number and diversity of target bodies and the ability to address the solar-system-wide strategic goals of the Planetary Science Division. It also bars the opportunity to implement some compelling, time-critical ride-along or secondary payloads, such as the ISIS concept presented at this meeting. The importance of a robust program of small, competed missions has been demonstrated by the high-value science returned from the investments made in existing and previous Discovery missions. The Planetary Science community recognizes the importance of the Discovery Program to achieve exciting new science and supports the return to the original two year cadence for these AOs and mission selections as recommended in the Decadal Survey. We note the Decadal Survey urged a return to the original goals of the program. These goals were two missions selected for flight every 18-24 months and an increased assumption of risk — goals that were realized in the first decade of the program. The community needs NASA to explain how it intends to accomplish these goals on what timescale and with what priority.
HQ Response: It is simply fact that the PSD budget has dropped well below any worst case scenario envisioned by the Decadal Survey. We had hoped to be able to reestablish the Discovery Program on at least a 36 month cadence, but even that has proven difficult at the budget levels established for Planetary Science. We need the communities continued support as we work through priorities in the challenging budget environment.
(4) We note that the spectacular success of the first near-Earth asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa 1, by our Japanese colleagues and their plans for a follow-on sample return mission, Hayabusa 2, stands as a continuing reminder of the science that can be achieved by small missions (at the level of a technology demonstration mission in the case of Hayabusa 1!) in combination with a willingness to assume reasonable risks, which was one of the original principles of the Discovery program. A study should be undertaken to determine what kinds of missions would be afforded at different levels below current Discovery cost-caps.
HQ Response: We agree this is a concept that may be important to explore in this challenging budget environment. Only a detailed study effort could fully explore both the benefits and the disadvantages of such an approach. The study must also take into account the cost to US investigators for the launch vehicles.
(5) We congratulate our Chinese colleagues on the great success of the flyby of the near-Earth asteroid Toutatis by their Chang’e 2 spacecraft. It is a fine example of extracting continued important science from existing spacecraft assets that have completed their primary science investigations. This is an important lesson, about which we need to be reminded, particularly in an era when our ability to launch new science missions is severely reduced. These continuing observations are not just of value in and of themselves, but can leverage greater value of other science activities. For instance, the ‘ground-truth’ provided by the imaging of Toutatis by Chang’e 2 can be used to understand and increase the value of radar imagery of small bodies, which provide shape and other information on more objects to which we could ever hope to send spacecraft.
HQ Response: We too congratulate the Chinese on successful accomplishment of this challenging endeavor. We also routinely extend the operations of viable spacecraft past their prime missions to obtain bonus science or repurpose them for other investigations.
(6) The fact that a new $1.5B initiative for the Mars 2020 Rover has been justified in part by the need to support the Administration goal of sending a human to Mars in the 2030s is incongruent with the continued failure of NASA to undertake the initiative for a ~$0.5B NEO survey mission, which is critical to finding a target for the Administration goal of sending a human to an NEO by 2025. Funding a NEO survey mission has the collateral benefits of identifying potential NEO targets for ISRU and robotic science missions, as well as Potentially Hazardous Objects for planetary defense. The community needs NASA to explain why such a foundational asset, that benefits multiple communities and stakeholders both on the national and international level, has not been made a priority.
HQ Response: It is also an Administration goal to leverage partnerships and the private sector where possible to achieve needed capabilities and objectives at less cost to the public. For this very important capability, the Administration has elected to partner with the B612 Foundation which has stepped forward to fund, build and operate this asset through a Space Act Agreement.
(7) The Antarctic Search for Meteorites program (ANSMET) is a valuable scientific resource to the small bodies community, as well as the lunar and Mars communities. With NSF’s desire for NASA to accept the responsibility for funding and assuming the leadership of this activity, a new charter should be established, with community input, with the overall goal of establishing a way to ensure a sustained and regular ANSMET program for future years.
HQ Response: We agree and we are working with NSF and the Smithsonian to renew and refine the agreement for the ANSMET program to keep it viable for the future. All agree this is an important program. A draft agreement is expected in late summer.
(8) The recent successes of the Haybusa and Chang'e 2 spacecraft missions, the upcoming launches of NEOSSAT and Hayabusa 2, and the discussion at this meeting (and previous international venues) regarding robotic and human exploration of near-Earth asteroids, make it apparent that there is significant interest from our international partners in both robotic and human exploration missions to these targets. Given the Administration goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025, NASA should engage its international partners to enable higher level and more detailed coordination and collaboration on such near-Earth asteroid missions (e.g., OSIRIS REx and Hayabusa 2) and identify pathways in which international partners can contribute in meaningful ways to the human exploration mission.
HQ Response: NASA engages with potential international partners through a number of channels: bilateral meetings between space agencies; several international forums, both specific to exploration such as ISECG and small bodies such as IPEWG, and more general such as the IAC; and with specific opportunities such as participation with mission proposal teams on all of our solar system exploration mission AOs. Regarding the Asteroid Initiative, the RFI announced on 18 June is a specific pathway soliciting international participation. We believe it is not so much the level of engagement or the lack of pathways, but rather more detailed work with potential international partners to identify areas of strength that are needed where they could make a contribution. For instance, NASA and JAXA are in the process of completing an MOU with respect to supporting Hayabusa 2. That MOU is very similar with the arrangements that were made for NASA support of Hayabusa 1 and provides NASA with about 10% of the returned samples.
August 2, 2012
(1) The Discovery program has substantially collapsed as a source of planetary missions. In its first decade (1992–2001), ten missions were selected for launch. During its second decade (2002–2011), only one was selected.
Implementation of the planetary decadal survey recommendation for a 24–month cadence
of Discovery AOs is imperative.
Merging the Mars Scout program with Discovery puts yet further pressure on this program. Restoring the Discovery program to two selections for launch per call is very important to
the future of American solar system exploration.
It is noted that one new selection is pending as of this date. The next planned Discovery opportunity is currently delayed until 2015. Within the resources it has for missions and mission planning activities, NASA and the Planetary Science Division should work to provide a Discovery opportunity sooner than 2015, as advocated by the decadal survey.
DISCOVERY HISTORY (Initial selections: NEAR, Pathfinder)
AO Date Missions (and year selected)
1994: Lunar Prospector, Stardust (1995)
1996: Genesis, CONTOUR (1997)
1998: Deep Impact, MESSENGER (1999)
2000: Kepler, Dawn (2001)
2002: *No AO Released*
2004: *No Mission Selection*
2006: GRAIL (2007)
2008: *No AO Released*
2010: Not yet selected (selection expected in 2012)
NASA HQ Response: We disagree that the Discovery Program has "collapsed", but do agree that it is currently not achieving the launch cadence that we would all desire. Technically, the Mars Scout Program was not merged with Discovery, but was terminated due to lack of funding. Mars was allowed as a target in the last Discovery AO (2010), but the science for Mars missions was competed on an equal basis with all other solar system science during that opportunity.
We are not pleased that the next Discovery AO is currently delayed until 2015, but this is simply driven by the current budget realities given to the Science Mission Directorate. Short of a reordering of science mission priorities by the Administration, the only way to shorten the time between Discovery AOs as currently envisioned is to see an increase in the budget allocated to the Discovery Program by the Administration and Congress. It has been suggested that a reduction in the cost cap per mission might enable more frequent launches, and perhaps this idea should be examined.
(2) NASA may be allocating potentially significant resources (to be spent within the agency) to support the B612 private space–based telescope initiative. There are questions about the process by which this has come about and the transparency of that process. There are also questions about the conditions under which other groups pursuing a privately funded mission can expect similar support from the agency. Further information is needed to assess NASA's action and its implications.
NASA HQ Response: The process by which NASA enters into Space Act Agreements (SAA) is publically well documented and was precisely adhered to in development of the agreement with B612. That process is documented in NASA Advisory Implementing Instruction (NAII) 1050-1A "SPACE ACT AGREEMENTS GUIDE". One of the elements in evaluating a proposed SAA is to assess the benefit to NASA's mission and objectives. In the Agency assessment of the B612 SAA it was determined that NASA could reasonably expect a 20:1 benefit to cost ratio if B612 is able to bring their Sentinel project to a successful accomplishment of the intended mission.
(3) SBAG reaffirms the high scientific potential of sample return missions, including
missions currently selected and in the planning stages (OSIRIS–REx, Hayabusa–2, etc.). These missions also better inform our understanding of small body characteristics that are relevant for future human exploration. We reiterate the conclusions of the decadal survey that the continuing capability to conduct sample return missions is a desired outcome of maintaining a balanced portfolio of mission classes.
NASA HQ Response: We agree.
(4) SBAG endorses the recommendations in the Precursor Strategy Analysis Group (PSAG) report relevant to Phobos and Deimos. This includes the importance of Phobos and Deimos as targets for human exploration. The PSAG report recognizes the potential strategic value of in situ resource utilization at Phobos and/or Deimos, which could significantly enhance human missions to the Martian system. The report concludes that a robotic precursor mission is required to conduct a combination of remote observations and in situ investigations at one or both moons prior to human arrival, in order to address strategic knowledge gaps in support of both science and human exploration endeavors.
NASA HQ Response: We find a robotic precursor mission to examine in-situ resource utilization at Phobos or Deimos, or any other small body, to be an interesting concept, and look forward to it being proposed in response to future mission opportunities.
(5) SBAG is concerned that SKGs (strategic knowledge gaps relevant to human exploration) are to be ultimately prioritized by only engineers and technologists. After review by engineers and technologists, prioritization is best informed by including scientists in the discussion.
NASA HQ Response: We agree
(6) NASA Planetary Science Division investments in missions and research programs should be competed on the basis of science alone. Filling strategic knowledge gaps relevant to human exploration (SKGs) is a reasonable basis for additional investments by HEOMD to these programs, but should not undermine their science focus.
This finding is in response to Slide 6 (Backup) in the presentation to SBAG 7 by Mike Wargo that states:
“The SKGs will also form the basis for near-term NASA investments in robotic precursor missions through Announcements of Opportunity (AO), competed and secondary missions, etc. A few examples include:
– New Frontiers 4 AO
– Discovery 13 AO
– NASA Lunar Science Institute Cooperative Agreement Notice
– LASER (Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research) and SALMON (Stand Alone
Missions of Opportunity Notice) calls
– Development of early flight opportunities”
NASA HQ Response: We agree that when SKGs cannot be addressed by the planetary science objectives and implementation of our missions, they are a reasonable basis for additional investment in the mission by HEOMD providing such an addition does not have a negative impact, including risk posture, on the baseline science mission.
(1) The SBAG is pleased that the PDS Small Bodies Node is developing an interface to search the numerous and diverse data sets related to small bodies. The Data Ferret has a nice interface for returning information about data on individually identified objects. At present, this is limited primarily to asteroid data and needs to include its comet data holdings. The ability to conduct more sophisticated SQL-type queries is very desired, as is a means of intelligently sifting through large volumes of imaging, spectral and other data accumulated by spacecraft for individual objects (e.g., Eros, Hartley 2, and in the near future Vesta) - perhaps using tools similar to those available for searching data on Mars and the Moon. We request regular updates on these tools at our SBAG meetings.
PDS SBD Response 7/10/12: PDS SBN will begin giving annual reports to SBAG on its activities, including tools under development. It wants to use SBAG as a means of getting feedback to improve its services to the small bodies community.
PSD Response 7/10/12: NASA HQ PSD is also pleased with this development and encourages any enhancements to PDS that will make the data archive more accessible to the scientific community.
(2) The B612 initiative to build a largely privately funded NEO survey telescope is potentially exciting. However, before NASA invests any of its limited resources in supporting this venture, there should be an external peer review of the mission design to ensure that it will satisfy NASA needs, which need to be articulated first, and that those needs are cost-effectively addressed. If the level of needed investment by PSD is equivalent to a Discovery MoO or Discovery mission, then such support should be sought through open competition from those programs.
PSD Response 7/10/12: The Space Act Agreement with B612 for the Sentinel project
was signed 19 June 2012. Incorporated in the SAA are gates and milestones at
which the progress of the project will be reviewed and assessed for continued
benefit to NASA and the NEO community. A NASA Technical Consulting Team has
been established of NASA engineers and NEO science community representatives to
assist NASA in performing these assessments and providing feedback to B612 on the project's progress and capability. Science members are Paul Abell, Don
Yeomans (or Steve Chesley) and Tim Spahr.
(3) Any contribution of instruments or sampling systems by NASA to the ESA
Marco Polo mission should be subject to open competition among potential
PSD Response 7/10/12: If the ESA Marco Polo mission is approved to enter a
formulation phase, NASA will determine the appropriate level of participation by the agency and mechanisms for that participation. NASA SMD/PSD always prefers a competitive process for award of science projects unless there is a clear and compelling reason for an alternate approach, in which case it will always be coordinated with the Planetary Science Subcommittee.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 5, AUGUST 25–26, 2011
(SEPTEMBER 15, 2011)
(1) SBAG endorses the primary conclusion of the Target NEO Workshop Report
that a space-based survey telescope is a foundational asset for piloted and robotic exploration of NEOs, by enabling the identification and characterization of a long synodic period population. Such objects may provide numerous targets for low-energy, short duration missions for reconnaissance, sample return, planetary defense, and human visitation. Note that this finding aligns with a similar finding made by SBAG at our August 2010 meeting (See http://www.lpi.usra.edu/sbag/meetings/aug2010/findings.shtml).
PSD Response 1/17/12: A space-based survey telescope will be the subject of concept studies within the next year or two, and will continue to be allowed as a viable subject of proposal for future Discovery and New Frontiers opportunities.
(2) At the recent SBAG workshop, David Morrison (Director of NASA's Lunar Science Institute [LSI]) proposed expanding the scope of the LSI to include NEOs. This proposal does not seem appropriate because there is very little overlap between the NEO and Lunar science communities. However, the Institute concept has proven useful for the Astrobiology and Lunar Science communities, and expanding it to small bodies has merit, especially given the prospect of future crewed missions to such bodies. If NASA pursues the Institute concept for small bodies, the management of the enterprise should be openly competed. NASA should also consider the potential cost savings associated with managing such an Institute by private corporations and universities.
PSD Response 1/17/12: The concept of a "Small Bodies Science Institute" is being studied in the context of other entities that are already sponsored by the Planetary Science Division. It is unlikely more than one institute would be co-sponsored with Exploration, but a new formulation for it would be re-competed.
FINDINGS ON THE 2ND PLANETARY DECADAL SURVEY
(APRIL 21, 2011)
NO FINDINGS FROM SBAG 4, JANUARY 24–26, 2011
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 3, AUGUST 3–4, 2010
(AUGUST 9, 2010)
(1) NASA policy should be to maximize the science return of all missions by identifying and executing opportunities to fly by asteroids and comets. In the near term this should be incorporated into planning for EJSM and JUNO. This policy should apply to all mission classes. PIs should be encouraged to pursue such opportunities.
PSD Response 1/25/11: It is Planetary Science Division (PSD) policy to look forsmall body close approach opportunities during cruise once a mission is launchedand its trajectory known. For PI led missions, they will be encouraged to incorporate sufficient flexibility in their planning to pursue any identfiedopportunities, providing the additional risk to the prime mission is assessed as minimal.
(2) Human mission plans to an NEO are threatened by a dearth of known reasonable targets. This can only be mitigated by a significant increase in the number of NEOs in low-energy orbits relative to Earth. The success of the WISE mission as an asteroid detection system supports the concept of a $500M-class IR telescope in a heliocentric orbit interior to that of the Earth, as the optimum means by which target asteroids enabling a human mission can be discovered. Such a facility should be given serious consideration and study as the first robotic precursor mission by ESMD in support of a human NEO mission.
PSD Response 1/25/11: PSD has provided significant input to ESMD for serious study of this concept for a "precursor" mission, and this is under consideration along with other factors.
(3) The need for greater certainty in launch date periods for Discovery and New Frontiers proposals continue to be a major issue with the small bodies community. AOs should not be released until NASA can commit to specifc date periods and provide proposers 12 months between AO and proposal due date. Once missions are selected, the same long-term budget commitments must be provided. It takes more than a year to develop a credible Discovery or New Frontiers mission proposal, which represents a substantial investment in time and resources by proposing institutions, industry partners, and NASA centers Uncertain and shifting AO dates result in a waste of time and money as well as degradation and loss of potential science return as targets move and may no longer be available. It is the desire of the small bodies community that the PSS make a similar finding in order to move this issue up to the NAC Science Committee and the attention of the AA for Space Science, since it is our understanding that this policy is made at this level.
PSD Response 1/25/11: Discovery 2010 AO Step 1 proposals are in the evaluation phase. We know it was not pretty getting there and understand the problems and frustrations uncertainty causes, particularly in dealing with small body orbits. Much of it was driven by budget uncertainties, which is a perennial challenge. We are always open to comments on how to do it better. The Decadal Survey is also an important avenue for input.
(4) The 2nd IPEWG Meeting should be held after the EPOXI encounter with Hartley 2 (November 10, 2010) and the Stardust-NEXT encounter with Tempel 1 (February 14, 2011). It is assumed that the duration of the meeting should be 3 days, corresponding to the length of the first meeting. The meeting time should avoid the LPSC conference in Houston, therefore, we propose to hold it the last week of March, nominally March 29–31 at the Ventana Canyon or other resort in Tucson, Arizona.
PSD Response 1/25/11: Due to additional scheduling constraints, the 2nd IPEWG will be held week of 22 Aug, 2011, hosted by Cal Tech on their campus in
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 2, NOVEMBER 18–19, 2009
(MARCH 7, 2010)
(1) Uncertainties in Discovery and New Frontiers AO timing makes planning for solar system missions very difficult. It needs to be recognized that competitive proposals require substantial lead-time before the proposal deadline (often a year or more) in order to design a worthwhile mission. By the time an AO is released with a 90 day due date, proposals are in advanced stages of development and substantial investments have been made in both time and money by scientists, industry partners and NASA centers. Missions are generally designed around science to be conducted at specific targets. Targets move. Significant shifts in mission timeframes can result in the loss of mission opportunity and that substantial investment. Having a reliably predictable AO and mission timeframe would give confidence to the process and support the generation of quality proposals.
[SBAG was gratified to hear that the DRAFT Discovery AO was finally released on 2009 December 9 (roughly 6 months later than originally expected). But our community is still anxiously awaiting the release of the FINAL AO, and we encourage NASA to expedite that release for the reasons cited above.]
PSD Response 8/3/10: Discovery 2010 AO is now released and proposals due 3 Sep, 2010. We know it was not pretty getting there and understand the problems and frustratons uncertainty causes, partcularly in dealing with small body orbits. Much of it was driven by budget uncertaintes, which is a perennial challenge. We are always open to comments on how to do it better. The Decadal Survey is also an important avenue for input.
(2) Radar imaging of NEOs and main-belt asteroids has proven to be a cost- effective way of obtaining detailed information on the physical properties of these objects that is supportive of future robotic and human exploration efforts. We encourage NASA to work with the NSF (which currently provides most of the funding for the Arecibo radar imaging) to find a way to maintain this important capability.
PSD Response 8/3/10: This ;is being done. Radar capability at Arecibo& is funded through FY2011, provided its infrastructure hangs together. This was made possible by a line item in the NASA 2010 Appropriations. Funding beyond 2011 is dependent on two things: 1) NSF recompete of the NAIC management cooperative agreement, and 2) Congressional acton on the NASA 2011 budget submital (and every budget after that). The submitted budget would cover contnued operation ofradaratbothArecibo and Goldstone. NASAPlanetarySciencesiscommitted toretainingplanetary radar capabilityaslong as the budgets to do this are appropriated. (See also Geldzahler presentation tomorrow.)
(3) NASA is investing in an electric propulsion system (NEXT) that is optimized for Flagship and potentially New Frontiers class missions. There is no generally available system that is optimized for Discovery class missions. The great value of electric propulsion technology is being demonstrated by the Dawn mission - a Discovery mission that would otherwise be Flagship class but for the efficiency of electric propulsion thrusters. Electric propulsion greatly expands the suite of science that can be undertaken by Discovery missions. Unfortunately, the propulsion system used by Dawn is not reproducible. Results from industry and government studies highlight the significant cost reductions possible with a low-power Hall thruster system. This system could potentially be based on either existing commercial Hall thruster technology or ongoing NASA investments. Either option requires additional investments (PPU development, life testing, etc.) in order to field a system by the ~2012 Discovery opportunity. We encourage NASA to seek ways to make optimized propulsion technology systems available to all Discovery program proposers in the next AO.
PSD Response 8/3/10: We are seeking ways to do this. Technology insertion ;has been incentivized in the Discovery 2010 AO. Also, see later presentation on Technology WG. The Decadal Survey is also an important avenue for input.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 1, JANUARY 12–13, 2009
(MARCH 11, 2009)
(1) There are compelling small body missions for all three classes of Solar System exploration missions: Discovery, New Frontiers and Flagship. While the Europa Jupiter System Mission has been selected as the next Flagship mission, consideration should be given to a small body mission for the next Flagship opportunity.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [The only Flagship mission identified in the SBAG decadal survey white papers is a comet cryogenic sample return.] This does not need to be addressed.
Jim Green Comment 11/18/09: This is really up to the community — should be part of the decadal survey.
(2) Small bodies represent ubiquitous flyby targets of opportunity for NASA planetary missions during interplanetary cruise. Assessment of serendipitous science to be gained from such flybys, and reasonable support for the associated cost of acquiring the data, should be a standard part of mission planning. In addition, NASA should create a mechanism by which PIs can propose for the funding of cruise-phase serendipitous science of small body targets.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [What is the attitude of the powers that be for requiring contingency for serendipitous flyby science — either asteroid/comet flybys or small satellite flybys for major missions?] Jim Green, Discovery, New Frontiers people?
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: For strategic missions — HQ decision. For PI-led missions there is no HQ policy — it's up to the PI. After selected in p hase A, and in Phase B it could be a mission enhancing addition.
Curt Niebur Response 11/18/09: This smacks of having HQ require missions perform flybys of opportunity. The science content of PI led missions is up to the PI ... Rather than ask HQ to reserve them a spot, the small bodies community should be actively engaging their peers to be sure small bodies science (and the associated flybys of opportunity) is part of missions. Case in point, JEO will be flying through the asteroid belt, but to my knowledge no one in the small bodies community has come forward to make the case for any asteroid flybys on the way there. I've got astrophysicists coming forward with their ideas ranging from useless to interesting, but not so much the small bodies people.
(3) The planetary and astrophysics communities should collaborate to identify small body science opportunities that can be accomplished with astrophysics missions, and how these translate to requirements that are practical within the context of a given mission. These opportunities could include requirements for non-sidereal tracking and spacecraft pointing near to the Sun and the Moon, as well as modifications to the data pipeline. This needs to be done early in the overall mission lifetime to identify investments that planetary science should be making in the astrophysics missions.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [Planetary is supporting NEO discovery work with the WISE mission - how do Planetary and Astrophysics explore these opportunities, and decide the extent to which science from the other division should be supported and who pays for modifications/requisit analysis?] Jim Green? Someone from astrophysics?
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: It's odd. Astrophysics missions don't go anywhere — they ask us to cooperate on missions that do (EPOXI). The WISE NEO work was a modification to the data system to save the data instead of discarding it. Opportunities are explored between divisions at HQ, and when staff or the community brings it to our attention at HQ.
(4) Technology development is needed to support small body missions. This
includes instrumentation for remote and in situ study, sample acquisition and recovery, low-thrust propulsion systems, autonomous operations, and nuclear power sources.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [How is needed technology development determined and is there a path that can bring it to a TRL that can be flown?]
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: If the community thinks technology development needs to be funded, they need to get that into the decadal survey with examples of what's needed.
(5) Missions to small bodies afford frequent opportunities for international collaboration and the enhancement of science return as a consequence of sharing resources. Such cooperative opportunities should be pursued. The SBAG encourages NASA to participate in the newly-forming International Primitive Bodies Exploration Working Group (IPEWG), being mindful of the different approaches to data ownership and sharing that individual countries and cultures possess. In order to craft cooperative agreements, there must be an effort in advance to identify and acknowledge differences in culture and philosophy among international partners towards mission science, data accessibility, and data ownership. This allows for maximum scientific benefit to be realized while minimizing unplanned delays and the increased cost of dealing with post-facto disagreements arising from these differences. The SBAG endorses NASA's sponsorship of the next IPEWG meeting.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [SBAG will be organizing the next IPEWG meeting] — no response needed.
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: SBAG should form a committee to work on IPEWG meeting arrangements. Lot's of dates to work around — see Jim's list of major upcoming response.
(6) NASA Research and Analysis programs are critical, mission-enabling activities for small body missions. Data analysis programs for small body mission data provide essential results that help justify those missions, as well as enable future missions. The SBAG strongly supports enhancement of the NASA R&A programs.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [There will be some discussion that bears on this] — no response needed.
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: We're always interested in input from SBAG, but not sure what else we can do. We're protecting R&A as much as we possibly can while always looking to spend that money more wisely. See Jim's chart — R&A is actually growing (e.g. restoring astrobiology).
(7) Small bodies are numerous and diverse. The fraction of these bodies for which we have spectroscopic and other physical information is small. This includes the changing characteristics of comets over their entire orbits. NASA should commit to providing long-term support for the acquisition of such information for as many of these bodies as possible, which likely number hundreds of thousands of objects over a period of decades. This would involve the use of small, medium and large aperture ground-based telescope facilities. This need not be a crash program, but rather something for which a baseline of ongoing activity should be established and maintained. This affords potential substantial mission cost savings by identifying more dynamically accessible targets for given science goals, and increases mission science return by creating a deeper context within which the data can be interpreted.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [There will be some discussion that bears on this] — no response needed.
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: There is no move afoot to reduce ground-based support of missions.
(8) The SBAG endorses the concept that the large amount of observational data
that will be produced by the mandated searches for the > 140m diameter Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs) should be easily accessible to the scientific community to encourage expanded study of these objects. This volume of data, generated with NASA support, should be archived in the NASA Planetary Data System. The PDS Small Bodies Node is responsible for ingesting and curating small body data, as well as facilitate access to these data by the scientific community. Access to small body data holdings in the PDS should be reviewed, and recommendations addressing the interfaces and tools that are made available to the community, particularly with regard to the large future volumes from PHO searches, should be identified. NASA should provide the resources necessary to implement these recommendations to provide easy identification and access to PHO and other small body data within PDS.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [How does HQ determine the level of support required for PDS to archive data and to provide tools to the community to access that data? How is the state of that assessed and needed capabilities identified?] — Mike Kelley?
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: The nodes are competed and peer-reviewed, and were recently put through a senior review process. We have invested in the MPC, and in the process of upgrading that (see Lindley). PDS is in the process of upgrading to the next version of their architecture (PDS-4), which should be an improvement.
Mike Kelley Response 11/18/09: Need input from Bill Knopf, PE for PDS.
(9) The SBAG reiterates the need for continued support of NASA's Deep Space
Network in the future, including supporting both Ka band and X band
capabilities. This capability is necessary for future, successful deep space probe operations.
PSD Response 11/18/09: [Is there a plan to support data rates from current
missions? Is capability scheduled to decline or is there a plan to expand
support for future missions on what timescale?]
Jim Green Response 11/18/09: The DSN has developed a roadmap (incl. going from
S-band to Ka-band, 34-meter array). For the next SBAG meeting, invite SOMD to
talk about improvements and plans.