Science Instrument Definition Team for the Gondola for High Altitude Planetary Science (GHAPS) Project

Call for Letters of Application for Membership on NASA’s Science Instrument Definition Team for the Gondola for High Altitude Planetary Science (GHAPS) Project

The Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate flew two balloon missions leveraging an existing gondola, demonstrating its utility for planetary science. The Division has determined that such a platform is a valuable asset and invites scientists and other qualified and interested individuals to apply for membership on GHAPS Science Instrument Definition Team (SIDT) to help define instrument priorities for a stratospheric balloon gondola telescope that will serve as a community asset for future planetary science observations.

NASA’s Planetary Science Division has begun development of an observing asset hosted on stratospheric balloon missions intended for use by the broad science community. That asset, called Gondola for High-Altitude Planetary Science (GHAPS), is being designed in a modular fashion and to interface to a suite of instruments as called for by science needs. It is envisioned that the gondola will offer a small suite of facility instruments that guest observers can use for their respective science observations.

Stratospheric balloon-borne platforms typically operate at altitudes ~120,000 feet (35+ km) above the Earth. The GHAPS’ Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) is a 1-meter class aperture. The envisaged wavelength span for such a platform would cover the near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared portions of the spectrum.

Members of the SIDT will define the scope of science investigations, derive the science requirements and instrument concepts for GHAPS, as well as prioritize the instruments according to science priorities that address Planetary Science Decadal Survey questions.

Reference material on the Planetary Science Decadal Survey may be found at:

A recent NASA Technical Monograph on planetary science via balloon-borne telescopes is located here:

The Science Instrument Definition Team will:

  1. Describe the array of mission needs, goals, and objectives that would best respond to Decadal Survey science recommendations over multiple missions.
  2. Define and prioritize GHAPS science instruments and their respective requirements within the scope of the GHAPS platform capabilities and concept of operations.
  3. Prepare and write the relevant study report for NASA and the planetary science community.

SIDT members will be provided information on the GHAPS mission concept, the OTA specifications, and expected pointing performance (and platform stability). This short–term and focused SIDT is expected to commence on or about May 23,2016 and will have one month to complete their task. Membership is open to any scientist and instrument developer from the U.S. or abroad, but applicants must be able to support the described activities and schedule.

Applications should submit a one-page letter describing interest and qualifications, as well as a one-page Curriculum Vitae (both in pdf format). The letter should also contain a statement confirming the applicant’s time availability during the one month time period to participate on the SIDT, particularly if there are any major schedule constraints that may restrict engagement at critical times. The expected activities include the following:

  • Teleconferences beginning approximately the week of May 23, 2016;
  • A potential face-to-face meeting in June 2016 in the Washington, DC area (in which SIDT members provide their own travel support);
  • Preparation and review of materials for the final report;
  • Additional teleconferences and face-to-face meetings as the SIDT deems appropriate.

Note that a significant amount of the interaction among the SIDT is anticipated to be via E-mail and WebEx.

Each Letter of Application shall be submitted by E-mail no later than May 6, 2016 (11:59 p.m. ET), to Rob Landis at the address below. The subject line of the E-mail should include “GHAPS SIDT Application”.

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.

Applications must be submitted to Rob Landis ( at NASA Headquarters via E-mail by 11:59 p.m. ET on May 6, 2016.