Lunar and Planetary Institute
Lunar and Planetary Institute



NASA Science Mission Directorate Update

August 21, 2007
Source : Planetary Exploration Newsletter

The following article was written by Dr. S. Alan Stern, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Missions Directorate, and is published in the current issue of the Planetary Exploration Newsletter (PEN):  

First, thanks to Mark Sykes for inviting me to write PEN subscribers about recent events since I assumed the reigns of leadership at SMD. But before I do that, I’ll first say that when I arrived at SMD in April, I came with a set of specific goals that apply across all four of SMD’s science themes — astrophysics, planetary, heliophysics, and Earth science. Those goals include:  

 I also want to let you know (if you don’t already) that virtually the entire SMD front office team has been replaced since I came aboard. On arriving I also established an Office of the Chief Scientist to provide independent technical advice that essentially peer-reviews decisions made in SMD. And I established a Senior Advisor for R&A (SARA) position in the front office effective my first day; never before has the front office had a position solely devoted to addressing R&A issues. Nobel-winning cosmologist John Mather from NASA Goddard is our new chief scientist. Former NASA Ames division director Yvonne Pendleton was appointed to the SARA position. Other new people whose names you’ll likely recognize in the new SMD front office include APL’s Andy Cheng as the deputy chief scientist (for space science); JPL’s Randy Friedl as the deputy chief scientist (for Earth science); and SwRI’s Dan Durda who is serving as a special advisor for NEOs and human spaceflight.  

Two common attributes these people all have, as do the other faces in SMD’s new front office roster, are very high energy levels and direct recent experience in the science community. Like myself, most of the new folks in SMD leadership have come to HQ this year from “the receiving end of the bureaucracy,” and therefore understand the frustrations so many in the community have felt. That, combined with the energetic and proactive leadership that Jim Green was already providing since last fall as the new leader of SMD’s Planetary Science Division, and Colleen Hartmann’s incredible assistance as Deputy AA, have made it easy to make advances on numerous issues that had previously been in logjam or unable to even make it to the radar screen.  

Much of our time in the few months our new SMD team been in business has been focused on the FY09 budget to be released early next year. Since FY07 was half over when we came, and FY08 was already formulated and submitted to Congress by my predecessor, FY09 is the first budget that the new team can significantly impact. Since the FY09 budget is still in formulation, information about it is embargoed, but I hope you will see a variety of strong, positive advances when it is released early in February.  

Finally, I’ll close this note by giving examples which are of particular relevance to planetary scientists of some accomplishments that we’ve already made. These are generally small advances, but I hope they signal positive change in SMD’s direction. They include:  

I am now over the word limit Mark wanted for PEN, so I’ll wrap this up here. Drop in if you are in DC, or see you at DPS if you are going.  

Alan Stern
, DC



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Last updated January 30, 2008