SBAG Findings and NASA HQ Responses
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
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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
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
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
(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 for
small body close approach opportunities during cruise once a mission is launched
and its trajectory known. For PI led missions, they will be encouraged to
incorporate sufficient flexibility in their planning to pursue any identfied
opportunities, providing the additional risk to the prime mission is assessed
(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
of radar at both Arecibo and Goldstone. NASA Planetary Sciences is committed
to retaining planetary radar capability as long 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
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 phase 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
(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
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
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.