Forum on Innovative Approaches
to Outer Planetary Exploration

February 21–22, 2001

Lunar and Planetary Institute
Houston, Texas

Note Change in Meeting Dates!

Final Announcement
February 2001

Dr. Colleen Hartman, NASA Headquarters

NASA Headquarters Office of Space Science,
Outer Planets Program (OPP) Directorate
Lunar and Planetary Institute


The newly-created Outer Planets Program (OPP) Directorate at NASA Headquarters seeks to synthesize the best of recent thought about how planning should proceed during the next two decades for exploration of the outer planets. This two-day Forum will provide members of the international planetary community (including technologists, scientists, and engineers — from universities, industry, and government labs) a chance to share their best ideas.

The Forum will be held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), which is housed in the Center for Advanced Space Studies, 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, Texas.


The abstract deadline has now passed. The selected presenters were chosen by the meeting organizers on the basis of submitted abstracts.

Meeting space is limited. First consideration for attendance at the Forum will be given to those authors whose abstracts were selected by the Program Panel for presentation. Non-presenters who wish to attend must preregister by February 14 (see registration information below), and available space will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. The list of selected presenters is now available.


Each Investigation Focus Area Session will be chaired by a member of the Forum Program Panel who is a nonadvocate expert in subdisciplines of the planetary sciences most relevant to the session.

Each 10-minute presentation will be followed immediately by 5 minutes of discussion. Session chairs will strictly enforce these time limits.

For specific details regarding the schedule for the meeting, please refer to the program and abstracts.


The Outer Planets Program (OPP) is an integrated mission and technology program. Its activities include the selection, development, launch, and operation of outer solar system missions, as well as the selection and development of key technologies. In the Space Science Enterprise Strategic Plan released November 2000, the Europa Orbiter and the Pluto-Kuiper Belt Objects Mission were identified as the two top-priority missions in the program. NASA will select future missions based on science priority, budget availability, and other programmatic factors.

Focus 1 solicits innovative ideas for implementation of four specified missions. Submissions in this category may constitute an integrated mission concept or a specific idea for a technology or measurement relevant to one or more mission.

Focus 2 solicits ideas for alternative investigations or mission concepts not included in the reference mission set.

Focus 3 solicits ideas for multi-mission technologies or infrastructure elements that may enhance the overall program.

Authors of submitted abstracts will be asked to select the one focus area that most closely represents the subject of their proposed presentation. More detailed information about these focus areas follows:

Focus 1:  Strategic Objectives and Key Capabilities

Includes mission concepts, key technologies, or specific measurement techniques for one or more of the following:

  1. Comet nucleus sample analysis:  Provide ideas for in situ or returned sample analysis of pristine comet nucleus material with an emphasis on understanding the possible role of comets in the formation of the solar system and the development of life.
  2. Europa surface and subsurface exploration:  Assuming that the Europa Orbiter identifies a significant amount of subsurface liquid water, provide ideas for future exploration of the Europa environment with emphasis on the search for prebiotic chemical processes or life itself.
  3. Titan atmosphere and surface exploration:  Provide ideas for post-Cassini/Huygens exploration of the Titan environment, with an emphasis on prebiotic chemistry and surface-atmosphere interactions.
  4. Neptune/Triton environment:  Submit concepts for multi-disciplinary orbital studies of the Neptune/Triton environment and/or for in situ studies of Neptune's atmosphere or Triton's surface.
All submissions in this category should be focused on one or more of the exploration objectives listed above. If your idea represents a new technology or capability, you must describe how it enhances or enables one or more of these objectives.

Focus 2:  Other Investigations

Provide ideas for broad science objectives, specific measurements, or mission concepts not captured in Focus 1. Include rationale that states why your proposal represents an important contribution that the Outer Planets Program can make to our understanding of the development and evolution of the solar system and/or life within it. Examples of such investigation categories include but are not limited to:

  1. Chemical inventories and detailed structures of giant planet deep atmospheres.
  2. Ring structure, formation, and dynamics.
  3. Chemical and physical studies of primitive outer solar system bodies such as Centaurs and Trojan asteroids.
  4. Surfaces, internal structures, cratering records, and chemical composition of icy or rocky moons.
  5. Gravitational and magnetospheric studies of the giant planets or their satellites.
Focus 3:  Infrastructure and Multi-Mission Technologies

Provide ideas for new capabilities and technologies that may significantly enhance outer solar system exploration, but which you either cannot or choose not to associate with any specific mission or investigation. Describe your concept in sufficient detail so that its potential benefits to outer solar system exploration are clear; you need not identify specific mission applications. Ideas in this category may include, but are not limited to, new propulsion techniques, spacecraft architectures, mobility concepts, spacecraft autonomy, or operations concepts.


The Forum Program Panel will meet to report on the sessions they have chaired. They will then work together to synthesize their reports for presentation to the entire community in the form of an executive summary, a draft of which will be posted on this Web site by March 12. Forum participants will be invited to review this draft and provide editorial input for the final version of the report.


Speakers' Information
SINGLE slide, overhead, and LCD projectors will be available for oral presentations in the investigation focus area sessions. Computer equipment provided to support the LCD projectors will include laptop PCs with a CD-ROM drive, running Microsoft Windows 98 and Microsoft Powerpoint. Any other equipment needed (e.g., a Mac laptop) will have to be provided by the participant.

For questions regarding audio-visual support, please contact Mary Cloud using the contact information given at the end of this announcement.

The registration fee is $50.00. Participants registering by credit card may use the electronic registration form. All others should print out and mail in the downloadable registration form. Because of limited meeting space, participants MUST register by February 14.

Participants are encouraged to arrive at the Institute at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 21, to pick up name badges and a copy of the compiled volume of selected abstracts. A continental breakfast will be served at 8:00 a.m. each morning of the meeting for the convenience of attendees. The workshop sessions will begin at 9:00 a.m.

Local Accommodations and Maps
We have provided a list of local area hotels with their current room rates. A map of the local area that indicates the location of these hotels in relationship to the Lunar and Planetary Institute is also provided to assist you with your travel plans. Participants are responsible for making their own hotel reservations.

Parking at the Institute is limited. A shuttle will be operating throughout the workshop to take people from a park-and-ride location at the University of Houston-Clear Lake to the Institute. The park-and-ride map shows the location of this parking lot. Please arrange with your colleagues to car pool from the local hotels to avoid the need to use the "spill-over" parking and shuttle service available from the nearby University parking lot.


For further information regarding logistics (including audio-visual support), contact Mary Cloud (phone:  281-486-2143; fax:  281-486-2160; e-mail:

For further information on the Forum, contact Ms. Ruth Netting at NASA Headquarters (phone:  202-358-0539; e-mail:


February 14Preregistration deadline
February 21–22Forum at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas
March 12Draft of Forum report posted on this Web site



Q:  Why has the Outer Planets Program (OPP) Directorate been created at NASA Headquarters?

A:  The Program Directorate was created on December 20, 2000, to provide the kind of focused policy direction and program management that will maximize scientific results from the budget available for outer planetary exploration within the overall mission of the Office of Space Science.

Q:  Why aren't missions to Pluto/Charon and the Kuiper Belt included in the list of Focused Investigation Sessions?

A:  The Office of Space Science has already released an Announcement of Opportunity for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt Objects Mission. Proposals are due on March 21, 2001. The Forum seeks to avoid duplicating or disrupting proposals already under development in response to this AO.

Q:  Why are Focus 1 and Focus 2 structured by target, so that the contributions of technologists, scientists, and engineers will be jointly discussed?

A:  The Director believes that outer planetary exploration is most likely to increase its constituency if the planetary community can produce well-integrated proposals as the cornerstones of its plan for 2001–2010.

Q:   Why is there so little time between release of this announcement and the deadline for submission of abstracts?

A:  The OPP Directorate is committed to making the most of an opportunity that has emerged quite rapidly, and that may recede if not also responded to rapidly. The Program Directorate recognizes that the schedule for submitting abstracts is indeed compressed, and appreciates the willingness of the community to work within this constraint.

Q:  Why doesn't the Forum include a final plenary session in which the Forum Program Panelists publicly evaluate the presentations made in the three Focus Investigation Areas?

A:  The Director believes that the Panelists need time after the conclusion of the Forum to fully evaluate all the presentations that have been made. They will present their preliminary evaluations in an executive summary, a draft of which will be posted on the Web by March 12. Feedback on this draft from the outer planetary community at large will be welcomed.

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