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Apply for Ice Giants SDT

Call for Letters of Application for Membership on NASA’s Science Definition Team for Ice Giants Mission Studies

The Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate plans to conduct a generic study of mission options, including science and technology options, for exploring the Ice Giant planets.  The study will build upon, but not be limited to, the National Research Council’s Planetary Science Decadal Survey, entitled “Visions and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022” (available at; the intent of this study is to provide information for the deliberative process for the next Decadal Survey.  Important to this study will be the establishment of a Science Definition Team to guide the technical study team.  NASA invites scientists and other qualified and interested individuals at U.S. institutions, to apply for membership on the Ice Giants Science Definition Team (SDT).

Members of the Ice Giants SDT will provide the technical team and NASA with scientific assistance and direction during preliminary architecture assessment of missions to the Uranus and/or Neptune systems. Near-term activities of the SDT will include the establishment of prioritized science objectives and a realistic scientific concept of operations, development and assessment of alternative architectures, including model payload/instrument suites for proof of concept, and suggestions for threshold science objectives/measurements for viable missions within resource constraints provided by NASA.  NASA will use the products of this study for planning purposes.  The SDT will be formed in January 2016 and will be disbanded after the work is complete, approximately one year later.

The Ice Giants SDT will:

1.   Identify and prioritize science objectives to be addressed by spaceflight mission(s) based upon recommendations from the 2013-2022 Decadal Survey but, also account for recent information and current state of the science.

2.   Participate in mission studies designed to address those science objectives.  Aspects of this participation will include:

  • Science traceability, identification of measurements and specification of model payload
  • Science concept of operations
  • Participation in trade-offs among scientific value, cost, and risk
  • Ranking of alternative architectures
  • Identification of enabling/enhancing technologies

3.   Assist in the preparation of study reports.
All reports and output materials of the study will be made publicly available.  Participation in the Ice Giants SDT is open to all qualified and interested individuals.

SDT member selection will be coordinated with the Chairs.  The selected members will have demonstrated expertise and knowledge in areas highly relevant to Ice Giant science and related technologies and instrumentation.  NASA anticipates the selection of approximately 7–10 SDT members.  Representative(s) from the NASA Planetary Science Division, and possibly other Agency representatives, may serve as ex officio members of the SDT.


Responses to this Call for Membership in the Ice Giants SDT shall be in the form of a Letter of Application.   The Letter of Application should provide clearly defined evidence of the candidate’s relevant demonstrated experience and background.  The Letter of Application may also contain a brief list of references to scientific or technical peer-reviewed papers the applicant has published that formally establish their position of scientific leadership in the community.  References are not included in the page limit (given below). The letter should also contain a statement confirming the applicant’s time availability during the next twelve months to participate on the SDT, particularly if there are any major schedule constraints that may restrict engagement at critical times. The expected time commitment would include the following:

  • One teleconference the first week after selection
  • One face-to-face meeting in the later winter to early spring 2016
  • Availability via phone and e-mail during mission study activities (at JPL) to address any science questions that arise and that cannot be handled by local scientists.  We expect ~4 detailed mission studies to be done as part of this effort.
  • Teleconference to follow each mission study
  • Preparation and review of materials for the final report (draft due June 2016, TBC).
  • Additional teleconferences and face-to-face meetings as the SDT deems appropriate

Note that a significant amount of the interaction among the SDT is anticipated to be via e-mail and web-ex.
Letters of Application are invited only from individuals, and group applications will not be considered.  In addition, collaborations and teams will not be considered.

Each Letter of Application, limited to one page, shall be submitted by e-mail no later than December 31, 2015 (11:59 p.m. EST), to Dr. Curt Niebur at the address below.  The subject line of the e-mail should include "Ice Giants SDT".

The issuance of this Call for Letters of Application does not obligate NASA to accept any of the applications. Any costs incurred by prospective investigators in preparing submissions in response to this Call are incurred completely at the submitter's own risk.

Dr. Curt Niebur
Planetary Sciences Division
Science Mission Directorate
Phone:  202-358-0390