Archive of SBAG Findings
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 23, June 1–2, 2020
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 22, January 14–16, 2020
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 21, June 24–25, 2019
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 20, January 29–31, 2019
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 19, JUNE 13–14, 2018
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 18, JANUARY 17–18, 2018
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 17, JUNE 12–14, 2017
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 16, JANUARY 11–13, 2017
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 15, JUNE 28–JUNE 30, 2016
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 14, JANUARY 27–29, 2016
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 13, JUNE 29–JULY 1, 2015
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 12, JANUARY 6–7, 2015
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 11, JULY 29–31, 2014
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 10, JANUARY 8–9, 2014
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
Findings from SBAG 23, June 1–2, 2020 (pdf)
SBAG urges NASA to include Ceres as an “Ocean World” when considering missions to that category of Solar System bodies, including the upcoming New Frontiers round if applicable. The wealth of data returned from the Dawn mission and ongoing astronomical studies demonstrate that Ceres is either a relict Ocean World or a current one. Ceres is the most accessible Ocean World, and missions to Ceres can achieve many objectives of interest to the astrobiology community. Ceres is regarded in NASA’s “Roadmap to Ocean Worlds” to be a stepping stone to more distant objects of interest. If Ocean Worlds are to be considered valid targets for the upcoming New Frontiers round, we urge NASA to include Ceres. Recent NASA-funded mission studies show that mature concepts for Ceres missions exist.
NASA Response: The Roadmap to Ocean Worlds produced by OPAG did identify Ceres as a “candidate ocean world” and recommended that mission studies be undertaken and considered for recommendation to NASA as part of the current Decadal Survey. NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) supported a Ceres mission concept study under the Planetary Mission Concept Studies (PMCS) program, and the resulting reports have been made available to the Decadal Committee and to the public. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science, at PSD’s request, conducted a short study and issued a report on Options for the Fifth New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity. In its report, CAPS concluded that Ocean Worlds remains a compelling mission theme for New Frontiers; however, in this study CAPS did not consider other possible ocean worlds targets aside from Enceladus and Titan, because “this would require a decadal-level assessment.” The Decadal Survey, CAPS wrote, “will comprehensively evaluate the merits of ocean worlds exploration endeavors at different bodies and for a variety of mission classes.” NASA will eagerly receive the recommendations of the Decadal Survey when its final report is published. In the meantime, the Second Community Announcement: Advance Notice Regarding New Frontiers 5 (NF5) Announcement of Opportunity invites public comment on mission themes and other aspects of NF5; the public comment period is open until February 19, 2021.
SBAG encourages NASA to develop a process that would permit US scientists to participate in missions led by non-US space exploration agencies (e.g., ESA, JAXA, CSA, etc.), including during the early stages of these missions. In developing such a process, the procedure could be modeled after the existing Astrophysics APEX Program. Once a protocol is established that enables the lead agency to approach NASA, such involvement would allow US scientists to be actively involved in and funded to participate in international missions, thereby increasing the scientific return from such non-US led missions. These activities would also provide the additional benefits of increasing US coordination and participation on international missions, and would leverage additional mission opportunities that are not actively under consideration by NASA.
NASA Response: NASA/PSD’s intent is to support Participating Scientist Programs (PSPs) whenever possible and appropriate, subject to the availability of resources. Discussion of how best to conceive and manage PSPs has been ongoing in PSD. Beyond the fundamental goal of broadening mission science return, PSPs are perceived to serve two distinct ends: (a) mainly but not exclusively for NASA missions, opening opportunities to join mission teams to people (including early-career scientists) who may not have had the opportunity to join at the mission’s inception but whose contributions could be substantial; and (b) particularly for non- US missions, facilitating early and continuing participation by US scientists through mission development and operations. Balancing these goals for international missions is situational and depends on the intent and initiative of the lead space agency; it is relatively rare that the lead agency approaches NASA before scientist-to-scientist collaborations have begun.
Anticipating the needs of other agencies and the US planetary science community with regard to international missions in development is challenging. The Astrophysics Explorer US Participating Investigator (USPI) program has tried to address the challenge; however, this program has received few proposals and has made no selections, indicating that a clear solution has not yet been found.
SBAG is concerned that the current global pandemic is producing unprecedented obstacles to community participation in the Planetary Decadal Survey, and that these obstacles may be particularly onerous for under-represented portions of our community. The community appreciates the extension on the due dates for the white papers, but SBAG strongly encourages NASA to continue to work with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to pursue strategies to ensure diverse community participation including, but not limited to, developing alternative avenues to provide input, giving additional attention to the diversity of the panels, and/or encouraging more input at later stages of the process.
NASA Response: NASA encourages broad participation by the planetary science community in the Decadal Survey; but the makeup of the Decadal committees and the conduct of the Survey itself are NASEM’s prerogative and not directed by the agency. NASA/PSD did work with NASEM to expand the timeline for submission of white papers, resulting in a distribution of submission deadlines by topic. The Survey needs to hold to its original basic timeline, however, because of the need for the final report to be available to inform the FY2024 budget request.
The SBAG community reaffirms its awareness of the unique observational capabilities supplied by planetary radar and urges NASA to apply continued effort toward achieving at least one operational planetary radar facility at all times and particularly at scheduled high-priority observation events. As part of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office's near-Earth object (NEO) surveillance strategy, planetary radars play a decisive role in both identifying and excluding Earth impact threats, often in a much more timely manner than would otherwise be possible. Hence, planetary radars must be available at all times to fulfill their planetary defense mission. Between planned and unplanned maintenance, natural disasters, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there have been multiple instances in which no planetary radar assets were available to conduct observations for planetary defense and planetary science objectives. In addition to producing an ongoing compromised planetary defense posture, future radar outages coincident with the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) NEO deflection demonstration in October 2022 or during reconnaissance of the Janus mission target, binary asteroid (175706) 1996 FG3, in April/May 2022 could significantly reduce returns from these missions. Actions to ensure greater planetary radar resilience include, but are not limited to, maintaining a robust stockpile of critical parts and equipment, developing adequate contingency plans, and commissioning a third radar facility such as that planned for Canberra, Australia.
NASA Response: The collapse of the Arecibo 305-m telescope was a tragic end for a facility that adeptly served and enabled breakthroughs in multiple areas of atmospheric science, planetary science, and astrophysics for many decades. NASA will continue to utilize the 70- meter Goldstone Solar System Radar facility in California to characterize known NEOs and other targets. The Goldstone facility has greater pointing capability but less range than had been possible with Arecibo’s planetary radar, and some scientific research on planets and distant asteroids will be impacted. The Goldstone facility returned to full operations in November 2020 after successful delivery and testing of a new klystron tube for its high-power transmitter. In the short term, NASA is considering ways to enhance resilience at Goldstone. However, this opens the opportunity to think more broadly about what is required for a future planetary radar capability, and NASA welcomes the Decadal Survey process and other avenues for discussions with other key government stakeholders in looking ahead to possible next generation planetary radars.
As discussed at the most recent meeting of the PAC, the SBAG and LEAG communities have grave concerns about aspects of the most recent Discovery selection process. The Discovery selection statement appeared to rule out both small body and lunar missions as selectable due to considerations of programmatic balance. These considerations should have been known to NASA prior to the release of the Discovery 2019 Announcement of Opportunity. In addition, the FAQ document, which was promised to the planetary science community at public meetings several months ago, has not yet been released.
There is concern among both communities that significant time, effort, and resources were wasted to produce high-quality Discovery mission concepts (some of which received Category 1 designations) that never would have been selected regardless of scientific merit based on the programmatic balance rationale given in the Discovery selection statement.
SBAG requests that in the future, if programmatic balance is to be a criterion by which missions are selected, NASA clarify prior to the program call which destinations would be acceptable for consideration within the Discovery program. However, SBAG’s view is that future Discovery program calls should be open to all destinations, and that each destination be considered on its own individual merit. This is especially important with respect to small body destinations given the extreme diversity of these objects (i.e., near-Earth asteroids, mainbelt asteroids, dwarf planets, Trojan asteroids, Centaurs, comets, Trans Neptunian Objects, etc.) that span the entire breadth of the Solar System.
From the LEAG perspective, the Discovery selection statement made it clear that NASA’s other investments in lunar missions played a role in the non-selection of a lunar mission. As expressed to the PAC, the ability to submit future innovative lunar mission concepts to the next Discovery mission opportunity should not be precluded by the activities of other NASA programs, whose goals are not necessarily guided by the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, and whose capabilities have not yet been demonstrated. LEAG’s strongly held viewpoint is that future Discovery program calls should clearly state that all destinations will receive full consideration (explicitly including the Moon).
SBAG and LEAG jointly support compelling science be the prime driver for future Discovery mission opportunities and selections.
Furthermore, SBAG and LEAG jointly request that the FAQ document outlining the process and details behind the Discovery mission selection be provided to the planetary science community at the earliest opportunity.
NASA Response: NASA/PSD understands that there is a perception in the community that small-body missions which were selectable in the Discovery competition may not have been selected partly because of programmatic balance considerations that could have been articulated in advance or that were extraneous to the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Language in the Discovery Selection Decision Document explaining the non-selections, which may have contributed to this perception, was terse, and unfortunately did not fully capture the complexity of the decision process. Choosing from the pool of outstanding proposals was challenging. Each selectable mission concept was fully considered based on the published evaluation and selection processes, which included programmatic factors. As Dr. Lori Glaze explained at the March 2020 PAC meeting, there were small-body and lunar mission proposals that were highly rated. These proposals were not ruled out at any point in the process prior to the final selection meetings. The point is well taken that any programmatic factors that could affect selection should be fully clarified and explained at the start of the process, as is done for New Frontiers. PSD will continue to incorporate this into its planning for future Announcements of Opportunity. This being said, the stunning successes of recent and current small-body missions, and the anticipated successes of those in development, suggest that it is time to assess what key science questions have been answered, which still remain, and what new questions have been raised by these missions, in order to refine and sharpen justifications for future missions. Dr. Glaze discussed these issues with the Decadal Survey Small Bodies Panel at its open session on November 13, 2020.
Findings from SBAG 22, January 14–16, 2020 (pdf)
SBAG encourages NASA to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure that future budgets support the Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission (NEOSM) at a level sufficient to achieve the mission's planetary defense goals as currently scheduled. SBAG congratulates NASA and its partners on bringing NEOSM to its present level of development. Past SBAG findings and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine's Finding Hazardous Asteroids Using Infrared and Visible Wavelength Telescopes have emphasized the importance of a space-based near-infrared asteroid survey mission, and we reiterate that support here. NEOSM would provide a major contribution towards fulfillment of the George E. Brown Congressional goal of discovering 90% of the near-Earth asteroid (NEA) population larger than 140 meters in size, while characterizing the diameters of a significant fraction of that NEA population. Additionally, NEOSM would provide a dataset important for small-body science, human exploration, and resource utilization.
NASA Response: NASA is fully supportive of the National Academies’ study findings and appreciates the value of a space-based infrared survey. If it is included in future budgets, NASA would plan to pursue a NEO Surveillance Mission concept that is focused on Planetary Defense objectives. This concept would benefit from technology development and other work performed under NEOCam’s extended Phase A. The NASA submission for the FY 2022 President’s budget request to Congress currently is in preparation.
SBAG urges NASA to continue its efforts to broaden participation in the field and to develop a workforce that supports and understands the benefits of a diverse community. SBAG strongly approves of the efforts of NASA's Planetary Science Division to support early career researchers and individuals from historically underrepresented groups in their pursuit of successful planetary science careers. Examples include the PI Launchpad workshop and the trialing of dual-anonymous peer review during ROSES-2020.
NASA Response: NASA strongly supports diversity across the planetary science community and strongly encourages all planetary scientists to participate in NASA programs such as mission teams, Research and Analysis (R&A), peer review and NASA advisory committees, regardless of an individual’s background, institutional affiliation, personal demographics, or career stage. A current example of SMD’s commitment to diversity is the in-progress pilot to assess dual-anonymous peer review in its R&A programs.
SBAG expresses concern over insufficient investment by NASA on facilities and personnel essential to achieve the full benefit of analysis of samples returned by planetary missions. The recent report Strategic Investments in Instrumentation and Facilities for Extraterrestrial Sample Curation and Analysis from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine underlined the need for future investments in funding analytical facilities and training the next generation of planetary sample scientists in the areas of organic materials and ice- and gas-based materials. The impending return of samples from OSIRIS-REx and Hayabusa2 underscores the urgency of the situation. Training the next generation to analyze samples returned a decade or more in the future has become difficult given the low funding levels for operating and maintaining facilities. If appropriate action from NASA is not undertaken, the scientific goals set by sample return missions will be jeopardized.
NASA Response: NASA has been working on a strategic plan that properly responds to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) 2019 report on Strategic Investments in Instrumentation and Facilities for Extraterrestrial Sample Curation and Analysis and that fulfils the needs of PSD’s missions, teams, and their respective communities. In the near term, PSD intends to make selections from the ROSES-2018 cycle of the Planetary Major Equipment and Facilities (PMEF) program following Congressional approval of the agency Operating Plan. In the longer term, PSD is considering modifying the PMEF solicitation in ROSES-2020 and subsequent cycles to better accomplish the above goals.
SBAG would like clarification of what targets will be permitted for the New Frontiers 5 call, particularly whether a comet nucleus sample return and a Trojan tour and rendezvous mission will remain options. Although the list of the most scientifically interesting targets will naturally change with time, there is confusion within the community about how the list of permitted targets was updated for the New Frontiers 4 call, and SBAG encourages NASA to establish and explain the procedure as early as possible.
NASA Response: This question was taken up by the National Academies’ Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS) at their March 31 –April 2, 2020 meeting. The statement of task for this activity was as follows: In keeping with its charge to monitor the “implementation of the decadal survey’s recommended scientific and technical activities,” and, specifically, to draft short reports addressing topics relating to the “scientific impact of a change in the .... programmatic sequencing of one or more of the survey-recommended activities.....and the scientific impact of a course of action at a decision point described in the survey report,” the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences will draft a short report that will answer the two questions below for the following four New Frontiers targets: Ocean Worlds, Trojan Tour and Rendezvous, Io Observer and Lunar Geophysics Network: (1) Has scientific understanding or external factors such as programmatic developments or technological advances, significantly changed since the release of the planetary science decadal survey or its midterm review? (2) Has scientific understanding or external factors, such as programmatic developments or technological advances, been sufficiently substantial to warrant reconsideration of the four targets for inclusion in the New Frontiers 5 announcement of opportunity, scheduled for release in early 2022.NASA looks forward to the CAPS report resulting from this activity, and plans to develop an appropriate response thereafter.
SBAG remains troubled by the overall funding profile of Arecibo Observatory and is increasingly concerned about the availability of klystron transmitters for Goldstone and Arecibo. SBAG reiterates its advocacy for planetary radar observations of small bodies and greatly appreciates NASA's continued support of the Arecibo and Goldstone planetary radar systems. However, with National Science Foundation support of Arecibo decreasing substantially over the next three years and long-term replacement of those funds from federal or non-federal sources unclear, SBAG is concerned that Arecibo faces a dire shortfall in its annual budget by 2023. Meanwhile, at Goldstone, the 70-m DSS-14 antenna currently has no klystrons. A single klystron may be available to DSS-14 by summer 2020, allowing low- or half-power observations later in the year, after a roughly two-year procurement process. At Arecibo, two klystrons are now on hand (with no spares) after a more than two-year procurement process. There is no guarantee these klystrons will last through October 2022 when the planetary radars will be indispensable to the validation of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) technology demonstration. Therefore, SBAG encourages NASA to initiate procurement of additional klystron hardware for both sites at the earliest opportunity. Return of the Arecibo and Goldstone planetary radar systems to optimal condition, or as optimal as feasible, including the planned re-alignment of the Arecibo primary surface, is paramount for participation in DART as well as providing invaluable ground-based reconnaissance of the Janus target, binary asteroid (175706) 1996 FG3, in April/May 2022.
NASA Response: NASA agrees on the value of planetary radar to planetary science research and the characterization of potentially hazardous NEOs, and considers klystron procurements along with other priorities within the Planetary Defense Program budget constraints. Prospects for working klystrons exist in part because the PDCO has been prioritizing the procurement of klystrons for Arecibo and the development of a new klystron design for Goldstone above other program priorities. While desirable, beneficial to, and synergistic with other planned DART observations, radar observations actually are not “indispensable to the validation of the...DART technology demonstration,” as the DART project has determined that the Level 1 requirements will be met using only optical observations.
SBAG supports the effort by NASA to adopt a policy enabling more than 50 civil servants and 50 contractors to attend international meetings. Travel to international meetings is essential for scientific discussions and dissemination of NASA's research within the science and technology communities. We are grateful to James Green and his office for finding a solution for the 2019 DPS meeting in Geneva and for working to resolve this issue for foreign meetings in 2020 and beyond. However, we are concerned about both ensuring adequate attendance at foreign conferences and workshops as well as the compressed timeline for approval and notification of attendees, which occurred for DPS. SBAG supports NASA's ongoing efforts to implement a permanent easing of limits on attendees to international meetings along with sufficient lead time, post-approval, to plan travel and requests an update on the status as soon as possible.
NASA Response: NASA hopes to be able to develop a long-term solution that will allow for increased attendance and timely approval; however, work on this issue has been put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
SBAG strongly supports NASA-funded Participating Scientist and Guest Investigator programs for US and non-US science and planetary defense missions to small bodies. The success of Participating Scientist programs in making science missions more accessible to early-career scientists, and in increasing the science return of those missions, is well-documented. We urge NASA to include similar, appropriate programs on US planetary defense missions such as DART, NEOSM, as well, and to reach out early to international partners for non-US small bodies missions (such as Comet Interceptor, Hera, MMX, and DESTINY+, among others) to discuss US participation. We recognize preparations for such programs are time-consuming and require funding, and so we further urge that plans for such programs be undertaken early to allow for full participation in mission planning.
NASA Response: NASA is aware and supportive of the various benefits of Participating Scientist Programs (PSP) to missions and the community. NASA’s Planetary Science Division considers it very desirable to have a PSP for every mission and intends to implement this practice to the extent that appropriated resources and other agency priorities permit.
SBAG encourages NASA and NSF to support preparatory work dedicated to maximizing small-body science from both ground-based and space-based telescopes including analysis tools and specialized workshops, and to identify the programs in which such efforts will be supported. SBAG recognizes the historic and ongoing importance of astrophysics assets to small-body science, on the ground and in space, and thanks the NASA Committee for Planetary Science with Astrophysics Assets for its work aimed at optimizing future use of such assets. There is great near-term potential for small-body science with LSST, and longer-term prospects with TMT, GMT, WFIRST, and other facilities. We note that many of the tools that will allow the planetary science community to make full use of the data from these assets have not been developed, and there are insufficient plans to do so by these astrophysics projects.
NASA Response: NASA fully agrees that major advances in planetary science have emerged, and will continue to emerge, from ground-based and space-based telescopes, and strongly encourages the planetary community to take advantage of proposal opportunities on all appropriate facilities. Many specialized workshops have been and continue to be held, especially by the Rubin Observatory Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) projects. Opportunities for community input for ground-based facility development arise intermittently; for example, the NSF-supported U.S. Extremely Large Telescope Program actively solicited community input for Key Science Programs, including “planets, satellites and small bodies throughout Solar System.” Solar System observing capabilities for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (formerly WFIRST) still are under discussion. Proposals to develop software tools for planetary science are within the scope of the Planetary Data Archiving, Restoration, and Tools (PDART) program. Proposals to hold workshops on telescope assets for planetary science are within the scope of the Topical Workshops, Symposia, and Conferences (TWSC) program.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 21, June 24–25, 2019 (pdf)
SBAG emphasizes the importance of including planetary defense priorities in the upcoming Decadal Survey. As recently highlighted in the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine report Finding Hazardous Asteroids Using Infrared and Visible Wavelength Telescopes, planetary defense missions are currently proposed in response to planetary science competed mission solicitations. However, since planetary defense priorities were not included in the last Decadal Survey, there are no criteria available to evaluate these missions' ability to achieve important, non-science, planetary defense objectives. The National Academies report recommends “missions meeting high-priority planetary defense objectives should not be required to compete against missions meeting high-priority science objectives.” As there is no current alternative mechanism for the evaluation of proposed planetary defense missions, SBAG encourages the inclusion of planetary defense priorities in the upcoming Decadal Survey, so that these missions, which draw strongly on expertise and technologies used and advanced by the planetary science community, may be evaluated on relevant criteria.
NASA response: NASA appreciates and agrees with the importance of including planetary defense priorities in the Planetary Decadal survey. Concurrence between the National Academies and the commissioning agencies on the Statement of Task is expected soon. Once the Statement of Task is finalized, it will be published on the NAS’s decadal website.
SBAG encourages NASA to increase the number of civil servants and contractors who can attend the Division of Planetary Science (DPS) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland September, 2019. DPS is the primary annual meeting for the small-body community, and is the venue for many important presentations and collaborations between members of the U.S. and international scientific communities. A tight restriction on the number of NASA civil servants and contractors would prevent a large portion of the U.S. community from attending DPS, which would be detrimental for both the scientists who could not attend and for the meeting as a whole.
NASA response: The NASA Chief Scientist obtained a one-time waiver of the 50-employee + 50 contractor rule for the 2019 DPS/EPSC, allowing more NASA civil servants and contractors to attend. The post-meeting statistics (https://www.epsc-dps2019.eu/) show that there were 618 attendees from the U.S. out of 1,730 total, suggesting that the waiver was helpful in enabling the attendance of American scientists. For FY 2020, NASA attendance at foreign conferences will be governed by new language in the latest Appropriations bill, which stipulates that the 50-employee limit does not apply to scientific conferences for which the NASA Administrator determines in advance – and delivers a justification to Congress – that attendance is in the national interest. The NASA Office of the Chief Scientist is developing the list and justifications for FY 2020 foreign conferences that will likely exceed the 50 employee rule.
SBAG reiterates its support for a space-based infrared asteroid survey to discover, detect, track, and characterize small bodies, especially those that may be potentially hazardous to Earth. The recent report of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Finding Hazardous Asteroids Using Infrared and Visible Wavelength Telescopes recommends “NASA should fund a dedicated space-based infrared survey telescope” to provide “diameter information that visible wavelength telescopes cannot.” Additionally, the report affirms that such a survey presents the best method of attaining the “completeness and size requirements given in the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act … in a timely fashion” of approximately 10 years. Furthermore, Goal 1 of the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan, a report by the Interagency Working Group for Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-Bound Near-Earth Objects of the National Science & Technology Council, is to “enhance NEO detection, tracking, and characterization capabilities” over the next 10 years. Therefore, SBAG urges NASA to heed these recommendations and elevate, to a financially feasible extent, a space-based infrared survey, e.g., NEOCam, to Phase B and beyond.
NASA response: NASA is fully supportive of the National Academies’ study findings and appreciates the value of a space-based infrared survey. Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen stated at the Planetary Science Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting in September 2019 that, if it is included in future budget requests, NASA would plan to pursue a NEO Surveillance Mission concept that is focused on Planetary Defense objectives. Preliminary plans for this NEOSM mission concept will be presented at SBAG Meeting 22.
SBAG congratulates the organizers of the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference (PDC; held in College Park, MD), including the scientific and local organizing committees and the International Academy of Astronautics. The 2019 PDC was a productive and successful meeting. The presentations, hypothetical impact scenario exercise, and accompanying media attention reflect increasing awareness in the non-specialist community of the need for near-Earth asteroid surveys, characterization, and mitigation preparation. SBAG recognizes the importance of NASA engagement to the success of the PDC and encourages their continued engagement in future PDC meetings.
NASA response: NASA is also pleased with the success of the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference, which reflects the attention and strong support provided to this important area by the Small Bodies community. Planning for the next PDC in April 2021, to be hosted by the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs at the Vienna International Center, Austria, has already begun.
SBAG supports continued Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS) processing and associated public webpage postings. This effort provides a database of near-Earth asteroid (NEA) targets and mission profiles relevant to human roundtrips from Earth, typically updated on a daily basis. In the interest of maintaining NHATS relevancy to mission planning, SBAG agrees with CNEOS suggestions that the assessed Earth departure window, currently fixed from 2015 to 2041, should (in the next year or so) be shifted 5 years later in order to assess the interval from 2020 to 2046. In addition to NHATS operations, SBAG endorses a proposed parallel CNEOS effort that would provide a list of NEAs accessible as targets for robotic missions without an Earth-return trajectory. As the list of catalogued NEAs continues to grow dramatically, SBAG recognizes that ongoing assessment of the list for practical human and robotic mission opportunities is a valuable service to mission designers and observers alike. Such missions are potentially important for both space exploration and planetary defense.
NASA response: NASA PSD agrees with continued support to the NHATS database provided by CNEOS through its tasking by the PDCO. CNEOS continues to update the NHATS database for the known NEA catalog daily and provide the results in an up-to-date online table of NHATS-compliant near-Earth asteroids. In September 2019, CNEOS implemented a 5-year shift in the Earth departure window for NHATS processing, to the period from 2020 to 2045. As expected, the new departure window resulted in a slightly different set of compliant asteroids. Future plans for continued upgrade of this capability will be presented by CNEOS at SBAG Meeting 22.
SBAG expresses its enthusiastic support for ESA’s Hera mission, which will significantly advance the goals of planetary defense. In 2022, in the first feasibility test of deflecting an asteroid, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will impact Didymos B, the 160 meter-sized binary companion of Didymos A, in an attempt to change its orbit around the larger primary. This demonstration is a key step toward planning for mitigation of an NEO approaching Earth. Hera’s follow-on survey of the Didymos system in 2026 will gather key information not available from Earth-based observations, including Didymos B’s mass, its surface properties including its surface and subsurface composition and the morphology of the impact site, as well as high-resolution information about Didymos A. This assessment of the effects of the impact will enable engineers to design more effective mitigation strategies. Hera includes U.S. team members and thus advances international cooperation in the area of planetary defense.
NASA response: NASA is delighted that the Hera mission was approved by the ESA member states in the Ministerial meetings in November. Hera will be, by way of the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) collaboration, a strong complement to NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which will carry out the first full-scale kinetic impactor deflection test on Didymos B in 2022. Arriving some four years later, Hera will characterize the Didymos system completely, allowing for refinement of the DART test results as well as opening new insights into the physical properties and origins of binary asteroids.
SBAG expresses its enthusiastic support for including a Participating Scientist Program (PSP) in current and planned mission profiles. PSPs have the potential to greatly enhance the scientific return from planetary missions, to increase mission-involvement opportunities for early-career scientists, to increase the diversity of mission teams, and to encourage more international participation in the analysis of mission datasets. It would also allow early-career participating scientists to gain key insights into planning future missions. Mission planners, principal investigators, and NASA are therefore encouraged to prioritize including PSPs in all missions.
NASA response: NASA is aware and supportive of the various benefits of Participating Scientist Programs to missions and to the community. NASA’s Planetary Science Division considers it very desirable to have a PSP for every mission and intends to implement this practice to the extent that appropriated resources and other agency priorities permit.
SBAG urges the National Academies to select a Planetary Decadal Survey Committee that reflects the demographic makeup of the planetary science community. NASA has made a concerted effort to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce in recent years, particularly in the make-up of mission teams. NASA’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Implementation Plan states “creating a diverse and inclusive NASA work environment is critical to the successful accomplishment of NASA mission objectives.” The Planetary Decadal Survey Committee will establish the planetary science priorities through 2032. A diverse and inclusive Planetary Decadal Survey Committee is essential to appropriately represent the interests and inputs of the planetary science community.
NASA response: NASA strongly supports diversity across the planetary science community and strongly encourages appropriate representation of that diversity on key committees and other bodies. However, the membership of the Decadal Survey Committee is determined by the National Academies and is not prescribed by the agencies commissioning the study. Nonetheless, NASA is working closely with the Academies’ Planetary Decadal Study Director to hold a workshop for early career scientists; to confirm the decadal committee’s inclusivity and diverse membership; and to ensure that it fully represents our planetary science community.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 20, JANUARY 29–31, 2019 (pdf)
SBAG expresses gratitude to the Lunar and Planetary Institute, NASA, NRESS, and all the individuals who helped to organize and host the SBAG meeting despite the government shutdown. We also wish to thank all of the NASA employees and contractors who worked without pay during the shutdown to keep NASA missions alive and moving forward. The most serious impact of the shutdown has been on research funding, particularly for young investigators. We have also seen proposal timelines pushed back, and cancellation, postponement, or poor attendance of conferences. SBAG implores the federal government to recognize the necessity for the planetary community to be funded properly, be allowed to work, and receive funding on time.
NASA Response: NASA is grateful to LPI for hosting, and to NRESS for organizing the SBAG meeting at a particularly challenging moment. NASA appreciates the efforts of all those connected with the agency who were affected by the partial government shutdown, especially those whose pay was not guaranteed. Many NASA contract employees took on the responsibilities of furloughed staff, making it possible to mitigate some negative effects; for instance, thanks to their efforts it was possible to keep preparations for a number of panels on track and to hold those panel meetings on schedule almost immediately after the shutdown ended. NASA also appreciates that members of the community have stepped up and volunteered for proposal reviews on short notice, or have adjusted to schedule changes. NASA is aware that delays in solicitation releases, selection decisions, and funding can adversely affect both research and careers, and is doing what is feasible to reduce the impact.
SBAG endorses the recommendations of the recent report on Strategic Investments in Instrumentation and Facilities for Extraterrestrial Sample Curation and Analysis from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. A key conclusion from the report is that “If future instrument funding decisions must be made under the constraint of flat or decreasing overall funding levels, then the several competing demands of sample return science will likely exceed available resources, necessitating a focus on a few highest priority needs.” Indeed, the trend in investment in major facilities for sample analysis has been decreasing over the past 10 years. The situation is particularly critical as several sample return missions are ongoing, several are in the planning stages, and sample return missions will likely be emphasized in future decadal plans. The small bodies community is among the interested parties for that form of exploration. Hence, SBAG endorses the recommendations of the report in full, including an increase in investments to maintain and renew planetary equipment with the introduction of new capabilities, to sustain technical staff over the long term, and to train the next generation workforce.
NASA Response: NASA is preparing its response to the National Academies’ study report on Strategic Investments in Instrumentation and Facilities for Extraterrestrial Sample Curation and Analysis, and expects to issue it soon.
SBAG reasserts the importance of including high-quality studies of potential small bodies missions as part of the pre-Decadal Survey process. These studies should include, but not be limited to, large or medium-sized missions to Ceres and the Pluto system, as recommended by the report of the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science on Getting Ready for the Next Planetary Science Decadal Survey.
NASA Response: NASA is working to enable and support a wide range of studies of potential planetary missions, as part of the pre-Decadal process, through the Planetary Mission Concept Studies (PMCS) program element appendix to the ROSES 2018 Announcement of Opportunity. The PMCS solicitation was released on February 14, 2019, and NASA is looking forward to reviewing the many interesting proposals that were received before the May 22, 2019 deadline.
SBAG congratulates NASA and its partners on the recent successes of several small body spacecraft missions, such as the completion of Dawn’s low altitude final extended mission at Ceres, Hayabusa2’s arrival and investigation at Ryugu, OSIRIS-REx’s arrival and investigation at Bennu, and New Horizons’s flyby of 2014 MU69. These missions have produced valuable datasets that will be analyzed for decades, and have demonstrated the diversity of small bodies. SBAG looks forward to continued scientific discoveries coming from these datasets, and looks forward to continuing the exploration of small bodies with the Lucy, Psyche, and DART missions.
NASA Response: NASA fully agrees, and congratulates all of the mission teams, especially our colleagues at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for the ongoing success of Hayabusa2.
SBAG encourages NASA to support preparatory work dedicated to maximizing planetary science from both ground-based and space-based assets, including analysis tools and specialized workshops, and to identify the programs in which such efforts will be supported. SBAG recognizes the historic and ongoing importance of astrophysics assets to small-body science, on the ground and in space, and thanks the NASA Committee for Planetary Science with Astrophysics Assets for their work aimed at optimizing future use of such assets. There is great near-term potential for small-body science with LSST, and longer-term prospects with TMT, GMT, WFIRST, and other facilities. We note that many of the tools that will allow the planetary community to make full use of the data from these assets have not been developed and there is no planned development by the astrophysics projects.
NASA Response: NASA has been encouraging such preparatory work for several years, starting with sponsored workshops at the 2015 and 2016 DPS meetings. NASA continues to support the development of tools for planetary science through the Planetary Data Archiving, Restoration, and Tools (PDART) program element (ROSES 2019 Appendix C.4), and accepts proposals for topical workshops through the Topical Workshops, Symposia, and Conferences (TWSC) program element (ROSES 2019 Appendix E.2). The Committee for Planetary Science with Astrophysics Assets, which is not a NASA committee but rather a community-based group organized through SBAG, solicited community input in 2018 and has since completed a white paper for the Astro2020 Decadal Survey. While this white paper discusses telescope capabilities in general terms, its implicit emphasis is on space-based assets. Future ground-based observatories are not currently in the purview of NASA, and SBAG could consider communicating its views to the agencies and organizations more directly involved in their development.
SBAG encourages NASA and the small bodies community to determine the science and planetary defense goals for the 2029 Earth flyby of (99942) Apophis, and evaluate the opportunities, both in space and on the ground, that the flyby affords. The 2029 close encounter by this potentially hazardous asteroid is a once-per-thousand year natural experiment that provides an opportunity for advancing small body knowledge for both science and planetary defense. During the Apophis flyby, observations by radar will provide a unique opportunity to understand potentially hazardous asteroids, and spacecraft could offer further understanding. With launch for missions to rendezvous with Apophis well before Earth encounter likely to occur circa August 2026, preparation time is running short. SBAG encourages NASA to sponsor relevant workshops and to invest in possible mission concept studies.
NASA Response: NASA acknowledges the rare opportunities afforded by the 2029 close approach of Apophis, and anticipates intense interest for this on the part of the small bodies community. The PDCO intends to announce shortly start of a future roadmap study for which it is expected the Apophis encounter, and discussion of possible lower cost missions, could play a prominent part. There is also the potential to propose to the Topical Workshops, Symposia, and Conferences (TWSC) program element of ROSES 2019 (Appendix E.2) for a forum specifically focused on Apophis.
SBAG supports recent and on-going Interstellar Probe mission design studies that consider both heliosphere and planetary science products that could be generated by such a mission. We encourage collaboration between science communities, especially early in the mission design process, to maximize the science return of spacecraft missions.
NASA Response: NASA is aware of the interdisciplinary and cross-divisional scientific opportunities presented by the Interstellar Probe concept, but notes that such a mission has not been a high-priority recommendation of any Decadal Survey. Further development of this concept within the interested communities may be beneficial for identifying and refining the fundamental science questions that could be addressed uniquely and unambiguously by such a mission.
SBAG urges NASA to encourage further applications of occultation techniques, both in support of specific missions, and more generally as a complement to other ground-based observations. The striking success of stellar occultation campaigns in characterizing the size, shape, and orbital characteristics of 2014 MU69, and the planned use of such campaigns in support of the Lucy mission, underscores the scientific potential of occultations for enabling small body science.
NASA Response:: NASA enthusiastically supports occultation campaigns, as it has done in the past for New Horizons and continues to do for both New Horizons and Lucy. Occultation observations can involve personnel and equipment deployments to foreign countries, suggesting opportunities for international partnerships, some of which can be groundbreaking. NASA encourages the community to plan for such campaigns early, as international deployments can require the participation and approval of multiple agencies in multiple governments.
SBAG endorses NASA's efforts to improve diversity in mission teams and to encourage the demographics of the planetary science field to more closely resemble the demographics of the nation at large. Studies show that diverse teams lead to diversity of thought and better scientific outcomes. We believe that the small bodies community should lead by example and we urge our colleagues to be inclusive when putting together teams for science investigations at any scale, whether they are small research and analysis efforts, telescopic observation teams, impending Discovery proposals, or future New Frontiers opportunities.
NASA Response: NASA strongly encourages diversity on all NASA projects in general, and in mission teams in particular. In his recently webcast colloquium, “Writing Successful Proposals: Observations from NASA,” (see https://science.nasa.gov/researchers/new-pi-resources) SMD Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen stated, “Research shows that excellence of teams and diversity go hand-in-hand, especially in innovative activities; excellent teams require diverse opinions and perspectives, and foster a sense of community by encouraging healthy behavior through actions. While there are no specific evaluation criteria for team diversity, NASA Science cares about all dimensions of diversity across our entire portfolio... [When] diversity is ignored... we limit the number and types of ideas and implementations, and open ourselves to the risk of group-think adding weakness to proposals. Team size should match the work required and the skills needed; teams should be built with diversity in mind from the beginning, not as an afterthought.”
SBAG reiterates its support for the NEOCam asteroid survey mission, which could provide a major contribution towards the fulfillment of the George E. Brown congressional goal of discovering 90% of the near-Earth asteroid population larger than 140 meters in size, while characterizing the diameters of a significant fraction of that NEA population. SBAG remains concerned that despite the fact that NEOCam was selected for Extended Phase A funding in the 2016 Discovery round and despite a significantly increased FY19 budget for Planetary Defense, the full NEOCam mission has not yet received funding to enter Phase B with launch still many years away. SBAG notes that diameters and albedos of NEAs could be derived by a space-based infra-red survey such as NEOCam, with better accuracy than an optical survey, and would provide a dataset important for small-body science, human exploration, resource utilization, and planetary defense.
NASA Response: NASA agrees that a space-based IR NEO survey mission is the most capable system to achieve the GEB congressional goal within a “reasonable” period of 10 years. The just released NASEM study makes the benefit of this approach clear. However, the Planetary Defense Program does not currently have sufficient budget to pursue the full mission at this time.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 19, JUNE 13–14, 2018 (pdf)
SBAG supports the extensive community effort put into the recent studies for future small bodies missions and recommends assessing the feasibility of such missions prior to serious consideration and inclusion in the Decadal Survey. Studies and the resulting white papers of the Pluto Follow-on Orbiter, and the KBO and/or Centaur tour in conjunction with an ice giants mission, will be important in informing the next decadal process. These will also complement the study of a mission to the dwarf planet Ceres, which is already in progress.
NASA Response: We agree and will be funding further mission studies via an R&A call.
SBAG is pleased that Planetary Defense has now been allocated a separate line in NASA’s Planetary Science Division budget, which is evidence that NASA recognizes the importance of a direct funding mechanism for missions specific to planetary defense, and SBAG urges NASA to include adequate funding for a space-based infrared NEO survey mission in the near term. SBAG is also pleased that Planetary Defense would receive a significant increase in funding in the latest budget request. SBAG recognizes that much of this budget increase is intended to fund development of the DART mission, which SBAG supports as an important test of an asteroid redirection technique. However, the budget increase was not adequate to also fully support the development of NEOCam, a well-studied and favorably reviewed Discovery-class mission for surveying and characterizing the NEO population. For many years, SBAG has strongly supported a space-based infrared NEO survey mission, which would be a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA's Asteroid Initiative and the objectives of the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act. Such a mission would also benefit robotic and human exploration, resource utilization, and asteroid science. SBAG strongly encourages NASA to fully fund NEOCam as soon as possible, so that a space-based infrared NEO survey mission can finally come to fruition.
NASA Response: Thanks for your support. PSD recognizes the value of a spaced based IR NEO survey mission and we are pursuing continued development of the NEOCam instrument so that it will be viable for a flight mission development project once funding becomes available.
SBAG encourages NASA to open New Frontiers calls to all targets, or to establish a transparent procedure for determining what targets will be allowed. The Decadal Survey process can result in a well-considered list of choices for upcoming New Frontiers missions. However, the addition of ocean worlds to the New Frontiers 4 targets, demonstrated that scientific priorities can change dramatically over the course of a full decade. SBAG suggests that NASA clarify how the evolution of scientific priorities between Decadal Surveys will be addressed, either by accepting all proposals for high-priority New Frontiers-level science, or by having a mechanism established in advance to re-evaluate the list.
NASA Response: Thanks for the suggestion. PSD has received similar suggestions from other sources, and will take these under consideration in development of the next New Frontiers call.
SBAG supports collaboration with other communities in the development of mission concepts in advance of the Decadal Survey. We welcome development of synergistic mission concepts, such as a combined ice giant and KBO mission, which would draw on the interests of both the outer planets and small bodies communities. Additionally, we see the possibility for collaboration on mission concepts including Phobos and Deimos, which are of interest to both the small bodies community and the Mars community, and sample return missions to small bodies, which are of interest to both the small bodies community and the sample science community.
NASA Response: We also think this is a good idea.
SBAG, jointly chartered by SMD and HEOMD, is disappointed that current plans for the SSERVI CAN prioritizes lunar studies, presumably at the expense of small bodies studies, and urges NASA to remove this stated preference when the final CAN is released and when proposals are selected. Lunar-focused investigations were considered to be equally meritorious to small bodies-focused investigations during prior SSERVI calls, when official NASA human spaceflight policy first worked toward a visit to an NEO and then developed the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission and Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission concepts. Similarly, we feel that SSERVI would be stronger if it included asteroidal studies at equal preference to lunar ones, especially given continued community interest in human visits to NEOs and the recent positive experiences between the science, exploration, and engineering communities as ARM development progressed. In addition, Phobos and Deimos, both covered in the SBAG charter, remain specific waypoints of interest as humankind reaches toward Mars.
NASA Response: It is too late to change this SSERVI CAN. However, note that while the community is being encouraged to submit lunar proposals, they are NOT being discouraged to submit small body proposals. The SSERVI proposals will all be evaluated on their merit.
SBAG cautions ISECG on the absence of small body themes from its Global Exploration Roadmap (GER). The importance of primitive near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) to planetary science and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) associated with human space flight (HSF) is addressed in narrative from the ISECG's third GER published early in 2018. But the strategic importance of NEAs and martian moons to HSF is neglected. These small bodies serve as incremental HSF stepping-stones into interplanetary space and as cis-Mars logistics nodes doubling as observing platforms. Furthermore, graphic roadmap overviews appearing in the GER and in presentation slides from ISECG representatives completely ignore small bodies. These graphics give mistaken impressions that Mars is barely more distant from Earth than the Moon and that space between the Moon and Mars is empty. Such impressions convey false expectations among the general public and space exploration policy-makers worldwide that humans can easily reach the surface of Mars immediately after exploring the Moon. Mars’ distance from Earth actually ranges from 150 to over 1000 times that of the Moon as the two planets independently orbit the Sun. Roundtrips to over 2400 NEAs are known to require less propellant than a roundtrip to orbit about Mars. Of these NEA destinations, over 2200 can be associated with at least one roundtrip whose duration is less than a year, while Mars roundtrips typically last 2.5 years. Because NEAs exert virtually no gravity, roundtrips to over 1000 of them are known to require less propulsion than a roundtrip to the lunar surface.
NASA Response: While PSD doesn’t control what ISECG says and does, we will continue to look for and provide data on opportunities for both robotic and human exploration of NEAs and encourage the ISECG community to incorporate these type of missions in future versions of their roadmap.
SBAG encourages NASA to delineate how planetary defense, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), and human exploration should fit into the next planetary science decadal survey. Due to the funding of planetary-defense initiatives through the Planetary Science Division (PSD), SBAG suggests that planetary defense be included explicitly, but that only the scientific contributions of research funded through PSD to ISRU and human exploration, e.g., physical characterization of small bodies, should be included.
NASA Response: Thanks for the input and we will take this into consideration as the tasking for the next Decadal is drafted.
SBAG remains concerned regarding Arecibo Observatory's (AO's) continuing operations. The AO is one of only two planetary radar facilities regularly contributing to knowledge of physical characteristics and refined orbits for small bodies passing near Earth. In this capacity, AO data are of critical importance to planetary science and planetary defense. Management for AO transitioned to a team led by the University of Central Florida in April 2018, and SBAG appreciates this team's dedication to maintaining AO viability. Both management and staff face challenges from employee attrition, policy changes, ongoing observations, and continued recovery from Hurricane Maria damage, which may not be completed before 2020. A transition constraint is the reduction of NSF funding from over $7 million in FY'18/19 to $2 million four years later. How this reduction will be backfilled is not yet certain, but SBAG is hopeful stakeholders can together address any future AO funding shortfall without curtailing high-quality radar operations.
NASA Response: PSD continues to work with NSF/AST to smooth the transition. However, funding of Arecibo radar operations by the Planetary Defense Program cannot substantially increase, certainly not enough to fill the anticipated shortfall.
SBAG is pleased to see the creation of the NASA common themes in planetary small bodies research document. SBAG supports the adoption of this document, which aligns well with SBAG’s goals, and is grateful that NASA has incorporated suggestions and changes by the small body community throughout the creation of the document.
NASA Response: Thanks for your support.
SBAG enthusiastically supports NASA’s decision to include the use of radioisotope power systems for the 2019 Discovery mission opportunity, and appreciates the information provided by NASA on its plan to ramp up the production of plutonium-238. A ready supply of radioisotope material enables missions of interest to the small bodies community, such as those to Kuiper Belt Objects and Centaurs.
NASA Response: OK, thanks. You’re welcome.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 18, JANUARY 17–18, 2018 (pdf)
SBAG is pleased to see that NASA is continuing to strive to meet the recommended launch cadence for Discovery-class missions laid out in the Decadal Study of one mission every 24 months or less, providing a healthy PI-led Discovery program. Allowing Psyche to launch during an earlier launch window and announcing that the next draft Discovery AO is targeted for release in September 2018, with the final AO and proposals due in the first half of 2019, are all positive steps. If the budget allows, SBAG encourages selection of more than one mission to fly from the upcoming AO round, which would be beneficial to both mission proposal teams and review panelists, reducing the incredible amount of effort and considerable investment of time and resources necessary to reply to single opportunities and selections in rapid succession.
NASA Response: NASA is pleased with the progress of the Discovery 2014 selections and to be on track toward release of the next Discovery AO. The number of missions that may eventually be selected as a result of this AO will depend on several factors, including the nature of the submitted proposals and budgetary constraints, that cannot be predicted at this time.
New Frontiers Call:
SBAG is pleased that the New Frontiers selection continues to be on schedule, and encourages NASA to try to adhere to the Decadal Survey recommendation of selections approximately 5 years apart. SBAG believes that frequent competition for PI-led missions is essential for a healthy exploration program.
NASA Response: NASA is looking forward to selection of the fourth New Frontiers mission. Recommendations of the Decadal Surveys are taken very seriously, and NASA makes every effort to implement those recommendations in a way that is consistent with its mission, with Federal law, and with available resources.
Moving-object Tracking for WFIRST:
SBAG encourages NASA to pursue means of preserving support for moving-object tracking on the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). In the tradition of conducting cutting-edge solar system science with NASA astrophysics assets, moving-object tracking will enhance the overall scientific return of the WFIRST mission and enable potential groundbreaking investigations of the Inner Oort Cloud, (non-Jupiter) Trojan asteroids, and binary asteroids with highly disparate size ratios similar to Ida and Dactyl. Without support for moving-object tracking, investigations of binary asteroids, asteroid families, active asteroids, Trojan asteroids (including providing context for the NASA Discovery mission Lucy), Centaurs and Kuiper Belt objects, and comets, all of which were called out by the WFIRST Solar System Working Group as important potential science targets, would be difficult or impossible.
NASA Response: The status of the project at this time requires that we defer a response for now.
Transparency about Major Changes to ROSES and Announcements of Opportunity:
SBAG recommends that NASA clearly communicate the reasons behind changes to ROSES proposal calls and major changes between announcements of opportunity. Recent changes to ROSES-17 such as amendment 44 (not calling Early Career Fellowships in ROSES-17) and the lack of a New Frontiers Data Analysis Program were met by confusion in the community. Additionally, the lack of radioisotope power systems (RPS) in the new Discovery announcement created many questions in the community. Abrupt changes without clear explanations in the call or announcement of opportunity can result in confusion and stress in the community. While clarification is often given in community town halls or during assessment group meetings, these only target a limited audience. SBAG recommends that, when possible, clear explanations be given in the call or announcement of opportunity so the community as a whole can understand NASA’s rationale behind the changes made.
NASA Response: PSD will make additional effort to provide appropriate context and explanation for significant changes in solicitations when doing so can provide better understanding by the community and would not conflict with NASA’s internal decision-making process.
USGS Studies of Asteroid Resources:
SBAG encourages NASA to consider collaborating with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) on matters of shared interest regarding asteroid resources, and to explore the possibility of supporting small bodies experts as appropriate, perhaps via establishing new dedicated research and analysis programs, for collaborations with USGS on this topic. USGS has taken increased interest in asteroids as part of their role in assessing resources, including those “beyond the borders of the United States”. They have recently completed the “Feasibility Study for the Quantitative Assessment of Mineral Resources in Asteroids” (Open-File Report 2017-1041) with input from several planetary scientists. The SBAG community welcomes the USGS interest in small bodies, and has expertise that can be consulted for follow-up studies.
NASA Response: NASA does collaborate with USGS on matters of shared interest; in particular, PSD collaborates with and supports the USGS in astrogeology and planetary mapping. ROSES PIs are encouraged to pursue their own research interests and assemble collaborative teams to work on fundamental research projects having, in addition to potential science impact, implications for asteroid resources. Also, in ROSES 2018, the new Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation (DALI) Program specifically seeks to support lunar resource utilization.
SBAG would like to express its appreciation to NSF and NASA for their continued support of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, particularly in light of the damage incurred from Hurricane Maria. Arecibo Observatory is one of only two planetary radar facilities regularly contributing to knowledge of physical characteristics and refined orbits for small bodies passing near Earth. In this capacity, Arecibo data are of critical importance to planetary science and planetary defense. Unfortunately, damage incurred from Hurricane Maria in September 2017 has reduced Arecibo’s observing capabilities. Repair of the reflecting surface is in progress, but is not yet complete. SBAG is encouraged by the NSF Record of Decision for Arecibo Observatory that states, if feasible, NSF intends to repair the site to its pre-hurricane condition. SBAG also appreciates NASA’s continued support of the planetary radar program through the upcoming management transition and support for procuring additional klystrons, that will, coupled with the reflector repair efforts, bring the observatory back to full strength.
NASA Response: The management of Arecibo has transitioned to the new managing consortium, led by the University of Central Florida (UCF). PSD is pleased that radar operations have now been restarted, following the recovery from Hurricane Maria. PSD is in close coordination with NSF AST as repairs to Arecibo continue, and maintains its willingness to continue support for planetary radar, as described previously in public documents.
Radioisotope Power Systems:
SBAG is disappointed that radioisotope power systems (RPS) will not be available for the 2019 Discovery mission opportunity but applauds NASA’s efforts to sponsor the production of plutonium-238 and RPS technologies. SBAG encourages NASA to continue on that path as RPS can enable missions to targets of particular interest to the small bodies community, such as Kuiper Belt Objects and Centaurs. SBAG also encourages the Planetary Science Division to include updates on the status of RPS technology developments and availability in future status reports.
NASA Response: PSD continues in its efforts to make RPS power available for PI-led missions. As announced by Jim Green at the March 2018 LPSC meeting, PSD’s intent is to offer up to two multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generators (MMRTGs) for proposers to Discovery 2019.
Mission Studies for Ceres and KBOs:
SBAG enthusiastically supports the ongoing and upcoming pre-decadal studies about the exploration of Ceres and of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs). These studies build on the recent results of the Dawn and New Horizons missions that revealed the complexity of dwarf planets and their potential for past and possibly ongoing geological activity. Pre-decadal studies provide an avenue for following up on the results of recent missions and ensure the best science questions are identified and emphasized in the next decadal survey. These studies are also critical to ensure potential technology gaps are addressed in a relevant timeframe.
NASA Response: PSD agrees that pre-decadal studies can be extremely valuable. PSD is currently looking into various options for carrying out these studies and intends to move ahead with one or more, once the best path forward is determined.
SBAG is enthusiastic that NASA is continuing to work with the NEOCam team and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to streamline and make necessary changes to the proposed mission such that it can be fully funded and implemented, particularly if it retains multichannel imaging. With its planned multichannel imaging capability, NEOCam will become a dedicated space asset to both detect and characterize near-Earth objects. The multichannel capability is critical to enable the timely determination of each object’s size. SBAG therefore encourages NASA to find a NEOCam solution that retains multichannel imaging.
NASA Response: Working with PDCO, the NEOCam team has made significant progress to reformulate the project to focus on the needed Planetary Defense capabilities, and held a very successful SRR/MDR at the end of February which included the 2-channel IR capability. PSD continues to fund a continued extended Phase A effort to reduce project development risks as we formulate an affordable option for a space-based IR NEO survey capability.
SBAG appreciates the release of the draft of the Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) solicitation. The small bodies community is excited about opportunities to use small, low-cost platforms for a variety of applications. However, further delays to the release of the full SALMON-3 solicitation will result in missed mission opportunities. SBAG encourages NASA to release the full solicitation as soon as possible and make selections without delay.
NASA Response: The Third Stand-Alone Mission of Opportunity Notice (SALMON-3) Program Element Appendix (PEA) J for SIMPLEx was released on April 25, 2018, later than originally planned. PSD was aware of a potential loss of launch opportunities that could result from a delay in the PEA release; and, in fact, in the initial release the Lucy launch opportunity in October 2021 was not made available as an option for proposers. However, PSD has now reinstated the Lucy launch option in a May 8, 2018, amendment to PEA J, albeit with significant caveats to proposers due to the compressed schedule.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 17, June 12–14, 2017 (pdf)
Participating Scientist Programs:
SBAG applauds the effort put forth by representatives from each of the AGs to study the demographics and the value of mission Participating Scientist Programs. With over 200 respondents, including many in the small bodies community and mission leadership, SBAG finds the responses informative. Participating Scientist Programs were found to have a clear and overall positive impact on the science and career advancement of individuals but lacked uniformity in their implementation. SBAG supports the full report as presented in the white paper entitled “The Value of Participating Scientist Programs to NASA’s Planetary Science Division” and endorses all of the recommendations that report lays out, especially that a Participating Scientist Program should be included on every planetary prime and extended mission as early in the schedule as feasible and that the expectations and scope for all involved be explicitly identified in the earliest stage.
PSD Response: PSD thanks the AGs and the report authors for their efforts to engage the community in the discussion of Participating Scientist Programs (PSPs) and to inform PSD of the results and their recommendations. PSD agrees that PSPs have shown themselves to be successful and highly effective ways to enhance the science return from planetary missions. PSD fully intends to continue to support PSPs on future missions when scientifically appropriate and when resources allow, and will consider issues such as timelines and duration of PSP funding, as discussed in the recommendations, in its plans for future PSPs.
Thematic organization for Decadal Survey
SBAG recommends that, in preparation for the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey, consideration should be given to organizing the Decadal Survey by science objective, rather than solar system destination. In the previous Decadal Survey, a number of crosscutting scientific themes were identified. Subsequently, the Planetary Science Division’s Research and Analysis program was restructured, with several of the newly-defined programs aligning strongly with the themes identified in the Decadal Survey. As the community’s research is now more frequently couched in terms of broad scientific objectives, rather than investigations of a specific body, we recommend consideration of organizing the Decadal Survey in this manner as well. For example, rather than addressing “What are the highest priority science objectives at Small Bodies for the next decade?” it may be advantageous for the Decadal Survey to address “What are the highest priority investigations to improve understanding of the formation of the solar system in the next decade?”
PSD Response: The suggestion to organize the Decadal Survey by science objective rather than by Solar System object(s) is worthy of consideration. It should be understood, however, that the sponsoring agencies (NASA and NSF) generally do not specify the organization of the Decadal
Survey study to this level and do not plan, at this time, to significantly change the way the next Decadal Survey is tasked. For the previous “Vision and Voyages” study, for instance, the Statement of Task only specified an “inventory of the top-level scientific questions that should guide NASA flight mission investigations and supporting research programs and NSF’s programs that support planetary science research” [Vision and Voyages, p. 319]. It further stated that “NASA and NSF anticipate that the [Decadal Survey] Committee will utilize specialized panels, with allocation of the domain of study among them to be determined by the Committee and the [Space Studies] Board” [V&V p. 321]. SBAG members are encouraged to express their opinions by participating in the Decadal process itself, e.g., as authors of white papers or as members of the Survey Committee.
SBAG reiterates its appreciation of NASA’s expressed willingness to continue support of Arecibo’s planetary radar capabilities at the present level in partnership with NSF and of the continued support for the Arecibo Observatory by NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD). As detailed in previous findings, SBAG continues to identify Arecibo as a critical national asset that provides a highly valuable resource for scientific investigations as well as a key capability for planetary defense. Any disinvestment in Arecibo facilities and maintenance could have major negative scientific and security implications, which must be fully considered in any discussion of the future of the Arecibo facility.
PSD Response: NSF issued its Record of Decision (ROD) for Arecibo Observatory (AO) on Nov 15, 2017 (https://www.nsf.gov/mps/ast/env_impact_reviews/arecibo/arecibo_rod.jsp ). The ROD formalized NSF’s preferred path forward - to collaborate with interested parties to maintain science-focused operations at the Observatory while reducing NSF funding. NASA served as a Cooperating Agency throughout NSF’s NEPA/environmental impact analysis process that informed this decision,and, in that role, confirmed its willingness to continue to support planetary radar observations at approximately the current level. NSF is presently reviewing proposals for the management of AO, which were solicited earlier in 2017. PSD will continue to provide further information as requested to NSF during its selection process.
Funding Sources for Future Space-Based Planetary Defense Missions
The small bodies community recognizes the necessity of space-based missions for detection and mitigation of near-earth object threats, i.e missions specific to planetary defense, and encourages the establishment of a mechanism for the funding of these efforts. The George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act provides a mandate to NASA to detect 90% of all objects above the size of 140 meters, and dedicated surveys that utilized space-based platforms have consistently been identified as the best means of achieving this mandate. While detection is the first step in any progress towards planetary defense, the value is minimal without a viable strategy to mitigate impacts. Effective strategies towards the goal of planetary defense require both missions that survey and characterize asteroids, and missions that test asteroid redirection techniques under realistic analog circumstances. Yet no direct funding mechanism exists for such space-based programs, and current programs will not be adequate in their present form to accommodate comprehensive space-based survey and mitigation missions. Therefore, SBAG encourages a dedicated and specific means of funding these space-based planetary defense missions.
PSD Response: The Science Mission Directorate, as informed by the recent report of the Near Earth Object Science Definition Team, also recognizes the value of space-based systems to address the needs for planetary defense capabilities, and is investigating the potential for funding levels of effort that would allow the acquisition of such capabilities.
The Future of NEO Survey Capabilities
SBAG reiterates its previous findings in support of space-based NEO survey capabilities. Improved NEO survey capabilities will simultaneously benefit robotic and human exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science, and a space-based NEO survey telescope would be a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA's Asteroid Initiative and the objectives of the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act. The SBAG looks forward to the formal report document from NASA’s NEO Science Definition Team (SDT) following the recent completion of their study efforts. The SBAG concurs with the NEO SDT findings presented at this SBAG meeting, given the assumptions used in the study. Of particular note are the NEO SDT findings that the 2003 SDT goal of discovering >90% of NEOs >140 m to retire >90% of the NEO impact hazard uncertainty remains unchanged after the new analysis.
PSD Response: The Science Mission Directorate has received the recent formal report of the Near Earth Object Science Definition Team and understands its findings, and also recognizes the value a more comprehensive survey of NEOs will bring to areas of endeavor beyond just planetary defense. NASA is investigating the potential for funding levels of effort that would allow the acquisition of NEO capabilities similar to those described in the findings of the SDT report.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG commends the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) management for their efforts to engage the planetary science community during mission formulation. The dialogue between the ARM project and the science community was highly productive, and the mission evolved considerably from the original concept, resulting in a marked increase in the mission’s science potential. Despite its recent cancelation, many of the goals of ARM remain relevant to the planetary science community, including gaining a better understanding of asteroid properties, possible in situ resources, interacting with small bodies, and testing techniques for planetary defense. Asteroids and their potential resources are key to future HEOMD and SMD exploration and science goals, and SBAG encourages future HEOMD mission management teams to engage with the small bodies science community early and follow the precedent set by ARM. SBAG supports and encourages open communication and collaboration between SMD and HEOMD, such as that undertaken by the ARM team, to achieve mission goals and enhance value for future projects.
NASA Response: NASA greatly appreciates the efforts of the planetary science community during mission formulation for the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Feedback from SBAG over the early years of the mission lifecycle, including analyses by a Special Action Team, was critical to formulating a viable mission concept which was responsive to a number of mission objectives. Robust participation on the Formulation Assessment and Support Team also provided critical information for mission requirements and technical trades during formulation. NASA values the open communication and collaboration that developed between SMD and HEOMD during the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Continued collaboration across Mission Directorates is advocated at the highest levels of NASA and will be pursued across the organization.
Commercial Space Resources Industry
SBAG welcomes the growth of a dynamic commercial space resources industry and considers it an integral part of the SBAG community. This industry holds the promise for creating a range of new opportunities for the discovery, exploration, analysis, and understanding of small bodies. Commercial resource activities can create new venues for hosted access to space and the delivery of science instrumentation, as well as the need for focused prospecting and applied asteroid science. SBAG urges NASA to seek ways of utilizing these developing commercial resources, such as potentially including funding hosted instruments and Missions of Opportunity in partnership with the space resources industry.
PSD Response: PSD encourages the planetary science community to continue to explore the opportunities that partnership with commercial space ventures may offer. As always, PSD is open to pursuing viable partnership opportunities with commercial and private space ventures when they may offer avenues to economically accomplish planetary science objectives.
Diversity of Planetary Science Teams
SBAG urges the small bodies community to take steps to increase the diversity in our community, particularly on planetary mission science teams. Recent studies1 have shown that the planetary science community still lags behind when it comes to engaging minorities and taking advantage of the variety of backgrounds offered by our diverse community. This is reflected in particular in the make-up of planetary mission science teams2 that starkly contrasts with the United States demographics.
The text of the recent New Frontiers 4 call for proposal set an example by emphasizing the importance of developing diverse and inclusive planetary mission science teams, though the efficacy of this text in leading to increased diversity in the proposed mission teams remains to be seen. Science leads should actively evaluate the science team when forming their proposals and avoid detrimental situations such as tokenism3. A minimum of 30% non-majority population members should be considered a target to realize the true advantage of diversity. Science leaders should explore a variety of networks in order to form diverse teams.
While diverse and inclusive science teams should be considered from the start of a mission proposal, participating scientist programs4 offer an avenue for further diversifying science teams. Furthermore, leaders in professional societies, conference chairs, organizing committees, and study groups should also lead by example and ensure unbiased representation and merit-based visibility for all members of our community. Finally, extra attention to cognitive-cultural bias should be exerted in the context of proposal reviews for Research and Analysis funding and access to telescopes and other large facilities.
 Rathbun, J. (2017) Nature Astronomy 1, Article number: 0148, doi:10.1038/s41550-017-0148
 Kanter, R. M. (1993). Men and Women of the Corporation. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-04454-2.
PSD Response: PSD will continue to strongly encourage more diversity be attained on both existing and proposed future flight mission and science teams and will promote activities and programs that help increase the diversity on our teams and within our scientific community.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 16, January 11–13 30, 2017 (pdf)
SBAG enthusiastically supports the recent selection of two new missions for the Discovery Program. The Discovery Program, with its open nature, objective peer review, and competitive selections, is vital to the exploration of the Solar System. The Decadal Survey recommended a cadence of five Discovery missions in a decade. By selecting two new Discovery-class missions, NASA has made significant progress toward achieving this Decadal Survey priority, a priority that is crucial to the planetary science community as a whole. The considerable efforts made by NASA to enable the selection of two missions are highly appreciated and position the Discovery Program for an active and healthy future.
Response: You’re welcome. We look forward to the very exciting and productive science proposed by the Lucy and Psyche mission teams.
Space-based Asteroid Survey
SBAG supports NASA's decision to provide continued Phase A funding for the NEOCam mission proposal, but is concerned that no plan for fully funding NEOCam, or any other space-based NEO survey telescope, currently exists. In previous findings, SBAG has noted that NASA has asteroid-based activities across multiple directorates, serving as a cornerstone of future objectives for human exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science, and that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA's Asteroid Initiative. Specifically, simulations indicate that currently operational ground-based facilities alone cannot achieve the Congressional mandate of discovering >90% of NEOs >140 m; a space-based facility with thermal imaging capability is ideally suited to accomplish this task. SBAG urges NASA to consider a means to conduct a space-based NEO survey mission given its cross-cutting foundational importance to the agency at large.
Response: PSD agrees with SBAG’s assertion of the importance of a space-based IR survey for finding NEO’s >140 m. NEOCam is only one possible way to implement a space-based IR system and PSD is looking into options that can be accommodated with the budget limitations, such as a re-scoped NEOCam mission.
SBAG supports NASA’s plan to fly CubeSats on future large missions and to consider future science missions that could be accomplished with smallsats. The process to develop viable platforms under reasonable cost and risk assumptions and accommodate them on large missions is new and remains to be fully defined, and SBAG supports the programs recently introduced, Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) and Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3), to support this needed development. The SBAG community has a strong interest in using small, low-cost, and flexible platforms for a variety of applications, including: the reconnaissance of near Earth asteroids that may be suitable for human exploration and resource utilization; closing knowledge gaps on the physical properties of asteroids with the purpose of informing planetary defense strategies; characterization of targets of scientific interest to improve knowledge of their origin and evolution; and expanding the sample of visited asteroids, comets and NEOs to support future in situ and sample return missions. In addition, CubeSats have the potential to increase the science return of large missions. However, implementation needs to be carefully considered to be effective.
Response: NASA intends to fly SmallSats, including CubeSats, on future large missions to conduct compelling science, and appreciates SBAG’s support. The response to the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) solicitation has convinced us that credible missions to destinations throughout the solar system will be proposed to future SIMPLEx solicitations, and we are pleased to have awarded ten mission concept studies to more fully assess the potential costs and capabilities of these small missions. NASA expects that future planetary science SmallSat missions will be managed as Class D, Category 3 or even 7120.8 (Research and Technology Program) missions. The Planetary Science Division is learning lessons from the Earth Science Division and the Human Operations and Exploration Mission Directorate (HEOMD), both of whom are effectively managing risks associated with flying secondary SmallSat payloads on primary missions. NASA welcomes further suggestions from SBAG about opportunities for SmallSats to contribute substantially to the study, reconnaissance, and tracking of small bodies.
SBAG gratefully acknowledges the continued support for the Arecibo Observatory by NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) and appreciates NASA’s expressed willingness to continue support of Arecibo’s planetary radar capabilities at the present level, in partnership with NSF. As emphasized in previous findings, SBAG believes that Arecibo is a critical national asset that provides a highly valuable resource for scientific investigations as well as a key capability for planetary defense. Any disinvestment in Arecibo facilities and maintenance could have major negative scientific and security implications. Additionally, SBAG emphasizes that, in the current discussions about the fate of the Arecibo facility, all evaluations of reduced-scale operations should accurately reflect the effect any proposed reductions would have on Arecibo’s planetary radar capabilities.
Response: NASA is a participating agency in NSF’s continuing process to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will evaluate the potential effects of possible changes in the operation of the Arecibo Observatory (AO). Completion of the EIS is required by law before NSF can reach a final decision on AO’s future. NSF solicited proposals for the management of AO earlier this year, and NASA provided an update to its statement on planetary radar which was referenced in the solicitation (https://science.nasa.gov/researchers/sara/library-and-useful-links/psd-radar ). The window for proposal submission closed on April 25, and the proposals received are under review by NSF. NASA/PSD is participating with NSF in that review.
Planetary Science Data Analysis from Astrophysics Missions
SBAG encourages NASA to consider fortifying present research and analysis programs and/or creating new data analysis programs to realize the full science potential of future data streams from Astrophysics missions that are scheduled to provide an unprecedented amount of data about small bodies and other Solar System objects. The small bodies community recognizes the potential for the large yield of data produced by astrophysics projects, including the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, that will be highly relevant to planetary science research over the next decade and a half. Large surveys and targeted observations from ground-based and space-based platforms are likely to create unprecedented volumes of imaging photometry and spectra valuable for the characterization of the various small body populations. Yet there is a concern that the traditional data analysis programs will not be adequate in their present form to accommodate the thorough analysis and research required to fully utilize these data, or even to analyze them at first-pass levels. SBAG urges PSD to develop and share with the community a plan to support planetary science research of data from large Astrophysics missions.
Response: The Planetary Science Division appreciates being made aware of this potential boon of planetary science-relevant data from upcoming astrophysics missions and ground based observatories. We have not, at this point in time, formulated an approach to modifying our Research & Analysis program elements to handle an unexpectedly large influx of data from ground based observatories such as LSST or missions such as JWST. We recognize the importance of a more comprehensive sky survey and the volume of data that the LSST will produce. To date, time allocated to planetary science on existing astrophysics assets has been relatively small and the resultant data has been straightforwardly accommodated by the existing R&A program elements. However, given the elevated status of this finding, we will charge the new Planetary Science Advisory Committee or a subordinate group thereof, with assessing the potential impact to the R&A program and ask them to craft potential solutions and make recommendations to the PSD Director.
During the restructuring of the Planetary R&A program, it was recognized that there needed to be some flexibility to accommodate unexpected events such Comet ISON. The result was to establish an “Emerging Topics in Planetary Science (ETIPS),” program element to provide accommodation for time sensitive events. ETIPS is always available should an unexpected opportunity arise that warrants PSD spending time and resources on it.
Small Bodies Science and Astrophysics Missions
SBAG appreciates the astrophysics community’s efforts to include early involvement of the small bodies scientific community’s expertise in the design and scope of future Astrophysics space- and ground-based assets. The small bodies community requires unique augmentations and specific desired capabilities for such assets in order to facilitate and enhance cutting edge science, and these requirements should be considered from the start to achieve effective implementation. To further these ends in the future, SBAG plans to form a committee, preferably including the small body science representatives already involved with envisioned assets, to compile a uniform set of basic capabilities and needs to maximize the yield of Small Body and Solar System science with future Astrophysics missions while allowing those missions to achieve their Astrophysics priorities.
Response: NASA welcomes this effort and look forward to your committee results so that we can provide them to the Astrophysics Division.
In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)
SBAG recognizes that in situ resource utilization technologies being developed for human exploration and commercial asteroid mining are relevant to those being developed for the scientific exploration of small bodies and for planetary defense against impacts. SBAG appreciates the ISRU community sharing information, and notes the synergies between the communities involved, and encourages a strategic communication strategy that can ensure that successes in one area can be infused into the others.
Response: NASA encourages efforts to enhance the interface between these two communities.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG appreciates the continuing engagement of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) management with the planetary science community. The dialogue between the ARM project and the science community has been highly productive, and the mission has evolved considerably from the original concept, resulting in a marked increase in the mission’s science potential. The possibility of additional science instruments (possibly provided as hosted payloads, as solicited in the ARM Broad Area Announcement (BAA)), could further enhance the science of the mission. In addition, many early technical concerns of the science community have been allayed. The small bodies community’s interest in this mission as now formulated is demonstrated by the large number of proposals in response to the ARM BAA Investigation Team solicitation.
Response: NASA and then entire Asteroid Redirect Mission Team appreciates the many contributions of the planetary science community to the formulation of the mission. These contributions are exemplified by the excellent response and input resulting from dialogue and assessment through SBAG meetings and Special Action Team support, Formulation Assessment and Support Team participation, and proposals to the ARM BAA Investigation Team. Due to a lack of budget for this mission in the FY18 budget blueprint and subsequent budget request, NASA is in the process of an orderly close out of the Asteroid Redirect Mission. NASA will continue the solar electric propulsion efforts benefitting from those developments initiated by ARM in support of future in-space transportation initiatives. Asteroid encounter mission concepts remain of interest due to the broad array of benefits for the human and robotic exploration, science, planetary defense, and asteroid resources communities.
DART, AIM, and NASA Planetary Defense
SBAG expresses continued support for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). Additionally, SBAG continues to support development of the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), the European portion of the joint NASA/ESA Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission (AIDA = AIM + DART). Although AIM was not funded during the recent European Ministerials, SBAG supports the AIM team’s continued efforts to acquire funding for a reduced-scope version of AIM. While DART is capable of meeting its requirements as a standalone mission, the inclusion of the AIM observer spacecraft greatly enhances the overall investigation and provides a key international component to the mission, emphasizing the global scope of planetary defense.
While DART’s progress toward flight is encouraging, there is not yet a specific funding program for planetary defense driven missions and research projects. AIM’s current funding challenges further underscore this issue, which is the need for a mechanism by which missions driven by planetary defense research, rather than science, can be proposed, selected, funded, and, in the case of missions, flown. SBAG reiterates a previous finding that there is a need for planetary defense missions, including technology development research and demonstration missions. Prudent preparation activities would provide an array of proven and reliable tools for use when an Earth-impacting asteroid or comet warranting mitigation is discovered. Finally, it is important to note that, while planetary defense demonstration missions are not science-driven, they provide useful data about the small bodies with which they interact and are, therefore, synergistic with planetary science.
Response: We’re looking into this. See earlier response above.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 15, JUNE 28–JUNE 30, 2016 (pdf)
SBAG is excited about the current and future opportunities for the exploration of small bodies across the Solar System. Investigations of the Solar System's numerous and diverse small bodies provide unique scientific insights into the formation and evolution of the Solar System, yield critical information to advance planetary defense objectives, and contribute to achieving NASA's human exploration goals. The SBAG community is encouraged to make every effort to share with the public the excitement, importance, and value gained by exploring our Solar System through a wide variety of missions, projects, and investigations.
Response: NASA continues to support small-body science and exploration as a window onto our Solar System's origin and evolution, as well for understanding hazards to our planet and resources for the future in space. We share in the community's excitement over recent discoveries and future opportunities, and endorse SBAG's encouragement to share our discoveries and vision with the public.
SBAG reiterates the importance of the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month average launch cadence for Discovery missions and urges NASA to strive to achieve this Decadal Survey priority. Given the large number of compelling and mature concepts submitted to the Discovery 2014 AO, selecting two missions would be a means of addressing the Decadal Survey recommended cadence of five missions in a decade. In addition, the selection of two missions from the 2014 AO would leverage the considerable investment of time and resources in development of the AO, preparation of proposals, and evaluation of the submissions. SBAG sees the open nature, objective peer review, and competitive selection of Discovery missions as crucial to enable the exploration of the Solar System and views an active and healthy Discovery Program, as recommended by the Decadal Survey, as a key priority.
Response: SMD has selected two Discovery missions for flight. Note that these missions are also to small bodies. PSD is committed to achieving as fast a cadence as possible for Discovery mission launches in the future, given the resources made available for the program. We are making every effort to achieve an average interval between launches not longer than 36 months.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG supports and appreciates the continued engagement of the small bodies community by the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), through mechanisms such as the recent Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST). SBAG supports the plan as presented by the ARM team to create opportunities for hosted payloads on the ARM spacecraft and to have a competitively selected Investigation Team, both of which would maximize the science return of the mission.
Response: In September 2016 NASA released the ARM Umbrella for Partnerships (ARM-UP) Broad Agency Announcement, along with two appendices: Appendix A was a call for proposals for Hosted Payloads on ARRM, and Appendix B was a call for proposals for membership on the ARM Investigation Team (Phase 1). Proposals in response to both calls were due on November 3; these proposals are currently under review.
Deep Space Network Support for Rosetta
The Rosetta mission has provided a wealth of information that is revolutionizing our understanding of comet evolution and behavior. The Deep Space Network (DSN) has played a critical role in providing the necessary communications with the spacecraft, especially at key times when the mission’s success required high-throughput data downlinks. The mission’s final approach to the comet in September of 2016 is precisely such a time, when the spacecraft will provide its highest resolution images and the navigation data will provide the best constraints on the comet’s mass distribution. Therefore, SBAG urges the DSN to consider the unique science opportunity offered by the final stage of the Rosetta mission when scheduling DSN assets to support this short duration but critical time period, to maximize the science data returned from the mission.
Response: NASA provided DSN support for Rosetta's end of mission, which occurred in a controlled descent impact on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on October 1 at Earth Received Time approximately 11:20 UTC, communicating over DSS-63 (70m antenna in Spain). Critical commanding took place over DSS-43 (70m antenna in Australia) to prepare it for end of mission. JPL Radio Science monitored for S- and X-band signals during and after landing.
Rosetta Data Analysis Program
Data Analysis Programs (DAPs) enhance the scientific return of NASA’s planetary missions by involving a larger segment, with broader expertise, of the scientific community in the analysis and interpretation of data sets designed and collected by mission teams. Now that Rosetta is nearing its end of mission and a significant amount of data from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko are publically archived and available, it is time for greater community participation in the investigation in order to maximize the science results made possible by the Rosetta comet escort mission. SBAG encourages the establishment and funding of a Rosetta Data Analysis Program to be released as soon as possible, but no later than the ROSES 2017 AO. A Rosetta DAP would be a timely and focused effort, consistent with the Focused Program category defined in the Planetary Science Division’s Research and Analysis Program, to support investigations that utilize the unique and newly available set of Rosetta observations of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Response: PSD's plan to institute a Rosetta Data Analysis Program (RDAP) was announced through an informational amendment to ROSES-2016 in September 2016. RDAP proposals will be solicited for the first time in the ROSES-2017 NRA call for proposals.
SBAG gratefully acknowledges the continued support for the Arecibo Observatory by NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) and appreciates PSD’s expressed willingness to continue support of Arecibo’s planetary radar capabilities at the present level, in partnership with NSF. As discussed in previous findings, SBAG strongly believes that Arecibo is a critical national asset that provides a highly valuable resource for scientific investigations as well as a key capability for planetary defense. Any disinvestment in Arecibo facilities and maintenance could have major scientific and security implications. SBAG urges NSF and NASA to continue to work together to preserve the capabilities of Arecibo at a level that reflects the scientific and security interests of the United States.
Response: NSF is in the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (see draft) to evaluate the potential effects of proposed changes to operations at Arecibo, as required by law to inform its decisions on the matter. NASA is a participating agency in NSF's EIS process, and has provided information to NSF concerning NASA's use of Arecibo for planetary radar. NSF issued a Dear Colleague Letter in September 2016 announcing its intent to release a solicitation for proposals involving continued operations of Arecibo and, at NSF's request, NASA has updated its statement on support for planetary radar.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 14, January 27–29, 2016 (pdf)
SBAG celebrates the recent successes of spacecraft missions focused on small bodies across the Solar System, such as New Horizons’ historic exploration of the Pluto system, Dawn’s discoveries at Ceres, NEOWISE’s characterization of thousands of Solar System objects, and Rosetta’s investigation of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These missions have proven to be not only scientifically successful but have also captured public attention in demonstrating how fascinating and diverse these worlds can be. At the same time, SBAG eagerly looks to the future, enthusiastically encouraged by a NASA budget for planetary science that enables scientific priorities in the exploration of our Solar System to be accomplished, through spacecraft missions and research and analysis programs. New discoveries by missions such as OSIRIS-REx’s asteroid sample return, partnerships with Hayabusa2, and New Horizons’ proposed 2019 Kuiper Belt Object encounter are highly anticipated, as are future small bodies missions currently under development and consideration. To support the realization of such a future, SBAG encourages the small bodies community to make every effort to engage with the public and to share the excitement of our current and future exploration of the Solar System.
Response: NASA shares in the excitement over all of these successes, and congratulates the academic, space center and industry project teams that made them happen. We enthusiastically agree with the recommendation that the small bodies community, and the entire planetary science community, should engage the public with the excitement of solar system exploration.
Planetary Defense Coordination Office
SBAG enthusiastically supports the formation of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), a top recommendation by the 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force. This new office will allow greater ease in coordinating planetary defense activities across NASA, other U.S. federal agencies, foreign space agencies, and international partners. The formation of the PDCO is a significant advancement in recognizing the importance of planetary defense activities. Now that the PDCO is established, SBAG encourages the PDCO to investigate means to: 1) complete the NEO population survey to assess the impact threat to Earth, and 2) find ways to support flight validation missions of mitigation techniques.
Response: The PDCO's mission is to lead national and international efforts to detect any potential for significant impact of planet Earth by natural objects, appraise the range of potential effects by any possible impact, and develop strategies to mitigate impact effects on human welfare. NASA appreciates the many past and ongoing efforts of the small bodies' community to carry out this mission. The PDCO continues to support a range of activities and improvements in NEO discovery, tracking, and characterization. With regard to mitigation, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) was recently approved to proceed through Formulation Phase A. As a component of the international Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission, in concert with the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM), DART is the first technology capabilities test of a kinetic impactor mitigation technique. A second mitigation technique, the enhanced gravity tractor, is to be demonstrated by the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) which will meet for KDP-B in a few weeks. Other options, particularly for short-warning impact scenarios, also continue to be explored with FEMA and the Department of Energy.
SBAG reiterates the importance of the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month average launch cadence for Discovery missions as an essential guideline. SBAG sees the open nature, objective peer review, and competitive selection of Discovery missions as crucial to enable the exploration of the Solar System and views an active and healthy Discovery Program as a key priority. Given the large number of compelling and mature concepts submitted to the Discovery 2014 AO, selecting two missions would be a means of addressing the Decadal Survey guidelines and regaining the recommended cadence, given that the previous Discovery AO was released in 2010. In addition, the selection of two missions from the 2014 AO would leverage the considerable investment of time and resources in development of the AO, preparation of proposals, and evaluation of the submissions.
Response: The NASA Planetary Sciences Division (PSD) is committed to achieving
as fast a cadence for Discovery mission launches as possible given the resources made available for the Discovery Program. Currently we are striving to achieve a launch cadence for future missions of not longer than 36 months. We are eager to see the Discovery 2014 AO concept studies and final proposals so that the selection process can be completed. Because this competitive process is ongoing, we cannot commit to any specific number of selections.
New Frontiers Program
The New Frontiers program is a critical component of achieving NASA’s Solar System exploration goals, and SBAG strongly supports the release of a New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity (AO) in January 2017, to meet the Decadal Survey recommended cadence of two New Frontiers class missions between 2013-2022. Extensive studies and thorough community-wide discussions formed the foundation for the strategy identified in the Decadal Survey to achieve a robust and balanced exploration of the Solar System, with specific priority missions identified for the upcoming New Frontiers 4 and 5 opportunities. SBAG emphasizes that the New Frontiers 4 candidate missions should be those specifically identified as priorities for the New Frontiers 4 opportunity by the Decadal Survey process. Alternatively, if additions or other changes to the candidate mission list for the New Frontiers program are necessary, SBAG supports an appropriate and transparent community-wide process by NASA to properly re-evaluate the overarching strategy and priorities, such as was done by the NOSSE (New Opportunities in Solar System Exploration) report of 2008. Such an open and transparent approach would further support the credibility and balance of the entire Decadal Survey and increase confidence in the Decadal Survey process, thereby affirming a means through which the input of the entire planetary science community is freely solicited and carefully balanced.
Response: PSD plans to release the Draft AO for New Frontiers 4 (NF-4) in July 2016. The expanded scope for NF-4 was announced in January 2016 following the enhancement in opportunity provided by Congressional direction in the FY2016 appropriation regarding Ocean Worlds. These plans were described to the Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS) in March and presented to the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS) on March 29, 2016. CAPS co-chair, Phil Christensen, briefed the Space Studies Boards on April 27, 2016 stating:1. Proposed change does not alter the scientific priorities that are laid out in the current planetary decadal survey.
2. Enceladus and Titan are significant elements of the decadal survey and their inclusion consistent with the overall scientific priorities discussed in the survey report.
3. A sound management approach should allow the program manager the flexibility to add elements as the situation changes throughout the decade.
NASA issued the Science Objectives for all the targets to the planetary science community in an announcement issued on April 24, 2016.
Arecibo Observatory as a Critical National Asset
Arecibo Observatory provides a unique capability for a range of cutting-edge science that includes astrophysics, aerometry, and planetary science as well as planetary defense and human and robotic exploration missions. Arecibo is a critical national asset whose loss would not only affect science return but also increase the nation’s risk exposure. SBAG is highly concerned about a potential disinvestment in Arecibo facilities and maintenance. SBAG encourages NASA to continue its current support of Arecibo and urges NSF to find a funding formula for Arecibo that reflects the nation’s science and security interests and provides for the stability and productivity of this critical national asset.
Response: NASA considers the capabilities of the Arecibo Planetary Radar to be extremely important to the national research infrastructure, and has supported these capabilities since 1971. The Arecibo Observatory itself is a facility of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds basic operations and use of the 300-meter telescope for astronomy and atmospheric science. PSD does not have sufficient resources on its own to fully operate the observatory, but has communicated to NSF its willingness to continue support for Arecibo's planetary radar capabilities at the present level. Currently, NSF is conducting the studies that it is legally required to complete before any decision on the future of the facility can be made. That decision lies with the NSF Director. We remain in contact with our NSF colleagues, and we will continue to work with them to determine a course of action that can meet budgetary constraints and preserve capabilities that both agencies deem essential.
Support for Dawn’s Extended Mission
The Dawn mission’s investigation of Ceres has revealed fascinating new discoveries about this previously unvisited world, providing new insights into the Solar System’s formation and evolution. Given the compelling results achieved to date and the unique potential to further advance our knowledge of Ceres, SBAG strongly supports the continued operations of the Dawn spacecraft through an extended mission that lasts through the mission’s full potential lifetime, estimated as extending to the end of January 2017. This would only extended Dawn operations by roughly seven months but is a unique opportunity to fully utilize NASA’s investment in Dawn and maximize the mission’s science return.
Response: The Dawn mission extension was part of this year's Senior Review. We are expecting to release the results of that review within the next several weeks.
Value of NEO Survey Capabilities to NASA’s Agency-Wide Goals
SBAG is pleased to hear that NASA is conducting several coordinated studies in 2016 to develop the best-integrated solution for achieving the G. E. Brown Survey Act objectives (discovering >90% of NEOs >140 m by 2020 to assess the threat of the NEOs to Earth (Public Law 109-155 Sec.321)), and SBAG looks forward to hearing the results of those studies at the 16th SBAG meeting. However, as detailed in previous findings and the forthcoming SBAG Goals Document (planned for release in March 2016; http://www.lpi.usra.edu/sbag/goals/), SBAG continues to emphasize: (1) that enhanced NEO survey systems are a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative and complete the congressionally recommended survey for NEOs in a timely manner, and (2) that NASA has asteroid-based activities across multiple directorates as a cornerstone of future objectives for human and robotic exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science, reflected in the aforementioned forthcoming SBAG Goals Document. Therefore, SBAG finds that enhanced NEO survey capabilities should be considered an agency-wide initiative, with the pursuit of a new start, and should not rely solely on support from the resources available to the Planetary Science Division (PSD) of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), the Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) program within PSD, or the newly created Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO).
Response: The agency-wide mission-enabling value of NEO survey capabilities is understood. However, the agency programmatic structure does not spread out resourcing as explicitly agency-wide in nature. Typically, one mission directorate must be designated as lead to bring capabilities that benefit the entire agency, even the entire national space endeavor, to fruition. Launch vehicle development and space communications and navigation are examples of this model.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG continues to appreciate NASA’s efforts to engage and communicate with the small bodies community on the topics of science, planetary defense, and resource utilization regarding the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). The 100 applications for the Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) show the high level of interest of the community in participating in the formulation of ARM. SBAG thanks the ARM team for creating the FAST and the community members that volunteered and were selected for the FAST, for the substantial work completed in a short timeframe. SBAG encourages the continued engagement between the ARM team and the small bodies community as the mission moves forward and supports the plan for a competed opportunity this year to establish the Investigation Team membership. Consistent with previous findings, for science-driven missions, SBAG continues to support the priorities identified in the Decadal Survey to guide use of Planetary Science Division (PSD) resources and funds.
Response: NASA greatly appreciates the contributions of the community and SBAG to the ongoing processes for the formulation of ARM. The FAST report was a key input to the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) Requirements Closure Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) and ARM strategy discussion, and informed development of the strategy for hosted payloads and the investigation team. While ARM is not a science directed mission, we are pleased to continue a close working relationship with the small bodies' science community. We anticipate further excitement and support from the community as the solicitation for the Investigation Team is released later this year.
Planetary Science Division Research and Analysis Program
Research & Analysis (R&A) funds are foundational to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and the Planetary Science Division (PSD). NASA spends a significant fraction of its PSD funds supporting the development, implementation, and operation of robotic missions. Yet the investment in these missions is not fully realized until the science community has analyzed the data to extract new discoveries and to answer the questions that drove NASA to select and fund the mission development. As has been said before, science is not just “bits on the ground”, but rather science gets done when the community at large has the resources to pose and answer questions about our Solar System. NASA’s R&A programs provide this support. Ultimately it is the R&A funding that drives the discoveries of the planetary mission portfolio. The results of current missions form the basis of knowledge that both reduce the risk for future missions and raise new questions that drive subsequent exploration and future Decadal Survey priorities. Because of this, it is essential that NASA fund a robust and reliable R&A program, and SBAG encourages PSD to explore potential means to increase funding to R&A programs to improve the selection rate of highly rated proposals. Additionally, SBAG urges PSD to avoid delays in R&A programs that result in severe gaps in funding opportunities for members of the community and to explore solutions when such gaps occur, even if on a case-by-case basis. Decreases and/or gaps in funding have serious and negative repercussions across the community, and early-career individuals can be especially vulnerable. SBAG urges PSD to engage early-career scientists to explore means to lessen any hardships, even on an individual basis.
Response:: PSD is committed to maintaining a robust R&A program, and understands that stability of funding is extremely important to the research communities. PSD strove, and was able, to maintain nearly constant or steadily increasing R&A funding through a recent period when the overall PSD budget endured a 20% cut. But budgetary limits are only partially responsible for the steady decrease in proposal selection rates over the past decade; in that period, the number of proposals submitted annually to PSD R&A programs increased by roughly 30%. The competition for resources will continue to increase as long as the growth in the budget is outpaced by the growth in the size and aspirations of the community.
We understand that there is always concern in the community when a previously regular cycle of proposal opportunities is altered. The change in the proposal deadlines for the Solar System Workings (SSW) program has been implemented over two years to try to mitigate the perturbation. But this change was essential due to crowding of the annual calendar with other program deadlines and reviews in the Fall. By shifting SSW to a single Step-2 deadline in February, we can better assure the timeliness and quality of the review. This shift will be complete with the ROSES-2016 cycle.
We are also aware of a perception that the burden of a change in the proposal opportunity cadence may fall disproportionally on NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellows, because of restrictions imposed by the program. We remind the community that NPP Fellows are fully permitted by the program to submit proposals to ROSES or other research opportunities in their second and third years, typically in the role of Science PI. They are "discouraged" from doing so in their first year, in order that they can focus effort on their NPP-supported research. The policies are explained in the NPP Policy and Procedures Handbook, at https://npp.usra.edu/policies-procedures/index.shtml#proposals, and in the NPP FAQ document, at https://npp.usra.edu/about/faq/fellow/.
Data Analysis Programs
Data Analysis Programs (DAPs) enhance the scientific value of NASA’s missions by opening up analysis of data sets to a broad segment of the scientific community, offering expertise and viewpoints beyond those of the flight teams. SBAG encourages the speedy establishment of two new programs: A New Frontiers Data Analysis Program and a Rosetta Data Analysis Program. The former will serve as a means to analyze New Horizons data and to establish a continuing DAP for forthcoming New Frontiers missions, while a Rosetta DAP will enable access to a unique set of observations of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that complement the science return of NASA’s existing small body programs.
Response: PSD intends to solicit proposals for the New Frontiers Data Analysis program as part of ROSES-2016. When this Program Element is incorporated into ROSES-2016, an amendment with the text will be released at least 90 days prior to the due date for Step-2 proposals. PSD's current plan is to work toward a Rosetta DAP opportunity in ROSES-2017. In the ROSES-2016 cycle, relevant Rosetta-related research may be proposed to Emerging Worlds or Solar System Workings.
Midterm Decadal Survey Assessment
SBAG supports a 2013-2022 Decadal Survey midterm assessment to evaluate and reinforce the decadal process. Such a process was proposed within the Decadal Survey also as a means of preparation for the next Decadal Survey. SBAG hopes that a midterm assessment does not merely confine its attention to the account of “any new discoveries”, but rather in accounting for “other changes that have taken place”, SBAG encourages a midterm Decadal Survey assessment to address the broader issue of identifying the elements of a healthy scientific community capable of supporting NASA's needs, and what should be done to maintain that community. SBAG particularly encourages the inclusion of early-career participation in the midterm assessment by reaching out to early-career individuals of the research community for membership in the assessment panels. Furthermore, SBAG hopes the midterm review may address key assets and facilities in planetary science studies, such as PI-led laboratories that are particularly vulnerable to funding fluctuations. The productivity of these assets and facilities are often disrupted as a result of the loss of key personnel during times of low grant award rates.
Response: PSD absolutely supports the Decadal Survey process, including the mid-decadal assessment. SMD expects to follow its standard procedures, in cooperation with the National Academies of Science's Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science, to draft the Statement of Task and initiate the review. A draft of the Decadal Midterm task is under development with the plan to provide this to the NAS this summer.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 13, JUNE 29–JULY 1, 2015 (pdf)
The simultaneous spacecraft exploration of Ceres, the Pluto system, and comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko is focusing public attention on small bodies science as never before and provides a spectacular opportunity to communicate the value of our work. SBAG encourages the small bodies community to make extra efforts to engage with the public over these active missions, sharing the results of decades of work to build an exciting and healthy future for small bodies exploration.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG appreciates NASA's efforts to engage and communicate with the planetary defense and small bodies science communities about the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and the extent to which modifications in mission design have been responsive to concerns from those groups. In particular, the reference target asteroid 2008 EV5 offers well-documented opportunities and has been extensively studied as the sample return target for ESA's MacroPolo-R candidate mission. SBAG encourages continued engagement between mission planners and the small bodies community as the mission moves forward and supports the plans for the competed Formulation Assessment and Support Team (FAST) and the succeeding Investigation Team (IT). However, it is important to note that for science-driven missions, SBAG continues to support the priorities identified in the Decadal Survey to guide use of Planetary Science Division (PSD) resources and funds.
Response: NASA greatly appreciates the constructive critiques provided and support shown by the small bodies science community to the Agency's efforts in formulation of ARM. For example, the level of interest shown by volunteers for the FAST (exactly 100 applications!) was fantastic, and the FAST members selected did an incredible job in a short time to respond to the issues they were presented. The FAST report will be published shortly and was a key input to the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission (ARRM) Requirements Closure Technical Interchange Meeting (TIM) and ARM strategy discussion in mid-December. While ARM is not a science directed mission, we are pleased to continue a close working relationship with the small bodies science community.
SBAG sees the continuation of an active and healthy Discovery Program as an utmost priority and as a key program to enable the exploration of small bodies in the Solar System. SBAG is therefore heartened by the Discovery 2014 AO and views this as a major step to achieving the strategy and cadence as recommended in the Decadal Survey. The response from the planetary science community to the Discovery AO has been noteworthy and indicative of the enthusiasm for the fundamental contributions to future scientific exploration of the Solar System that the Discovery Program uniquely provides. To this end, SBAG reiterates the importance of the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month average launch cadence as an essential guideline. Given the large number of compelling and mature concepts submitted to the Discovery 2014 AO, selecting two missions would be a means of addressing the Decadal Survey guidelines and regaining the recommended cadence, given that the previous Discovery AO was released in 2010. In addition, the selection of two missions for the 2014 AO would leverage the considerable investment in development of the AO, preparation of proposals, and evaluation of the submissions.
Response: The NASA Planetary Sciences Division is committed to achieving as fast a cadence for Discovery mission launches as permitted by the resources made available for the Discovery Program. Currently we are striving to achieve a no more than 36 month launch cadence for future missions.
Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program
The Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program provides opportunities for the U.S. planetary science community to participate in JAXA's Hayabusa2 sample return mission to asteroid 1999 JU3. Participation from NASA-funded scientists will include providing input for mission planning, asteroid physical characterization, sample site selection, and sample analysis. This participation is important for small body science and is vital for future cooperation between JAXA's Hayabusa2 and NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return missions. It is also important for NASA's Asteroid Initiative since 1999 JU3 is a possible ARM target and a potentially hazardous asteroid.
After accepting Step 1 proposals, NASA delayed the Step 2 proposal due date (originally May 15, 2015) for the Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program. Spacecraft instrument teams and working groups are being organized, and decisions regarding spacecraft mission operations are being formulated for the upcoming encounter. Unfortunately, it is already clear that 2015 Hayabusa2 science team meetings will occur without NASA-funded Participating Scientists as a result of the delay. SBAG is encouraged that a new due date of October 5, 2015 has been set for the Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program but remains concerned that this delay is jeopardizing the potential for NASA-funded scientists to effectively provide input into Hayabusa2 mission plans. SBAG urges NASA to expedite the selection of Hayabusa2 Participating Scientists so that they may be integrated into the Hayabusa2 team in as timely a manner as is possible (i.e., early 2016).
Response: The Step-2 proposal deadline for the Hayabusa2 Participating Scientist Program was delayed to allow clarifications to be made to the program element language. These clarifications could only be made after iterative discussions with the Hayabusa2 team leadership at JAXA. On the basis of these discussions and documents obtained from JAXA, a project information package (PIP) was then written, reviewed, revised and finally approved through NASA's internal processes before any solicitation for a program element could be released. As with all of its ROSES NRA program elements, PSD strives to announce and execute them in as timely a fashion as possible. The timing between the SBAG-13 meeting and the revised Step-2 announcement was purely coincidental. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft will not reach its target asteroid until mid-2018 and samples will not be returned to Earth until late 2020. PSD is currently on schedule to complete the review process and announce selections by mid-February 2016. This still allows sufficient time for participating scientists to be incorporated into the team for both operations planning and encounter science.
Research and Analysis Program and the Health of the Scientific Community
SBAG appreciates and encourages communication between the Planetary Science Division (PSD) Research and Analysis (R&A) program officials and the scientific community via all possible avenues. Valuable venues include town hall meetings, the Assessment Groups, and the SARA office and website. Uncertainty and misinformation can be especially prevalent and damaging during times of constrained budgets or changes of program direction, and the recent R&A reorganization coinciding with a budget crunch has been a source of considerable anxiety in the scientific community. Rumors are best crowded out by facts. Open communication of the status and evolving directions of PSD's R&A programs is vital, along with the metrics used to assess progress in meeting these objectives.
SBAG endorses the pending NRC Space Studies Board activity to assess PSD's R&A reorganization and hopes that it will address the broader issue of identifying the elements of a healthy scientific community capable of supporting NASA's needs, and what should be done to maintain that community, and does not merely confine its attention to the traceability between R&A program elements and NASA's strategic goals.
In particular, SBAG is concerned about small PI-led laboratories. These have larger capital costs for equipment compared to many R&A-funded projects, and the equipment can be expensive to maintain and operate, requiring people with highly specialized skills. Among R&A-supported research groups, laboratory groups are thus particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in funding during times of low grant award rates, with loss of key people being highly disruptive. At a time when several missions are working to return samples that will need specialized laboratory analyses to achieve their scientific goals, it is crucial to maintain within the scientific community a strong cohort of laboratory practitioners and capabilities.
Response: We appreciate that there is anxiety in the community, and remain committed to providing clear and reliable information by way of solicitations, NASA Advisory Committee and Subcommittee meetings (e.g. Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS)), NASA town halls, social media, and other occasions such as the assessment groups meetings (e.g. SBAG). But NASA cannot police the accuracy of rumors. We rely on the community to filter its own discussions, and to be proactive in obtaining the facts to counter misinformation.
The SSB study of PSD's restructured R&A programs is working from a sharply focused statement of task that is directed toward specific recommendations of previous NRC studies. Issues concerning the health of scientific communities, or the amount of support being provided to particular communities, are not included in, and will not be added to, the statement of task. However, these issues may be taken up in the Mid-Decadal review, which is expected to start up later in 2016.
The R&A restructuring was undertaken to remove redundancies that had accumulated over the decades and to realign the core programs directly to our strategic goals as laid out in the NASA 2014 Science Plan. The Planetary Science Division is acutely aware that we are the primary source of funding for planetary researchers. We also recognize that returned samples are indeed rare and invaluable and as such, require dedicated investigators and facilities, and advanced instruments to analyze them. This implies stable and consistent budgets. We believe that full and open competition is absolutely essential for a healthy research community and despite the fact that the top-line budget for the Planetary Science Division has waxed and waned over many years, we have managed to maintain a stable R&A budget. Within R&A however, we cannot guarantee absolute stability of funding for specific disciplines or types of investigations. When NASA finds a need for stable, consistent funding for certain capabilities they are facilitized, e.g. the JSC Astromaterials Curation Office, Ames Vertical Gun Range (AVGR), Planetary Aeolian Lab (PAL), etc. We are in the process of reviewing all NASA-funded planetary facilities and will be soliciting proposals for new facilities through a Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) likely in early FY17.
Near-Earth Object Survey Telescope
NASA has asteroid-based activities across multiple directorates as a cornerstone of future objectives for human exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science. SBAG reiterates its previous findings that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be a foundational asset to most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA's Asteroid Initiative. In 2005, Congress passed the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act, which set the goal of discovering >90% of NEOs >140 m by 2020 (Public Law 109-155 Sec.321). A dedicated space-based NEO survey telescope would be capable of completing the congressionally recommended survey for NEOs much more quickly than using only ground-based survey systems. As an asset critical to agency-wide objectives, the survey telescope should have cross directorate support from all three of NASA's major space exploration directorates and not just from the resources available to the Planetary Science Division (PSD) of the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), or the Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) program within PSD.
Response: While the great capability a space-based NEO survey telescope would add to the survey effort is not disputed, as also there would be great contribution to scientific understanding of the small bodies population and their relationship to solar system formation, a single observation system – space or ground-based – does not offer the complete solution to the NEO Observations Program needs. Development of the best integrated solution for achieving the G.E. Brown Survey Act objectives is the subject of several coordinated studies in 2016. Several members of the small bodies community are involved in these studies. PSD requests the continued support of the SBAG community as we complete these efforts to find the best overall path for our NEO Observations Program, targeted for before the time the 16th SBAG meeting is convened.
The Value of Open Community Forums
Collectively, the Assessment/Analysis Groups (AGs) represent an opportunity for regular, open, and broad dialogue between all members of the planetary science community. Furthermore, the AG meetings are forums unique from traditional conferences because they address a spectrum of programmatic, technical, and scientific topics, enabling an intersection of people that does not otherwise occur. This dialogue is essential to ensure a complete communications link between the stakeholders of the planetary science community. The classification of the AG meetings as conferences does not accurately capture the full extent or informational structure of the meetings, nor does it provide an accurate framework for the support logistics of the AG meetings. SBAG strongly endorses a return of the AG meetings to their previous classification or that an alternate solution is found other than treating AG meetings as scientific conferences.
Response: While NASA continues to assess the proper relationship of the AGs to the Agency, we expect that they will remain conferences for the purposes of tracking costs and NASA-funded attendance.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 12, JANUARY 6–7, 2015 (pdf)
SBAG eagerly anticipates a banner year for small bodies science in 2015. While our science will advance across diverse fronts including telescopic, laboratory, and modeling investigations, the simultaneous spacecraft exploration of Ceres, the Pluto system, and comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko will focus public attention on small bodies science as never before. The anticipated flood of discoveries in 2015 is the fruit of decades of effort. The attention it will attract gives the small body science community a spectacular opportunity to communicate the value of our work. To build a healthy future, we all must make an extra effort this year to engage with the public over these exciting missions.
Need for a Near-Earth Object Survey
NASA’s Asteroid Initiative comprises aspects of human exploration, planetary defense, resource utilization, and science related to near-Earth asteroids and comets. SBAG reiterates its previous findings that a space-based near-Earth object (NEO) survey telescope would be a foundational asset that would most efficiently achieve the goals of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative in the shortest amount of time. Construction and implementation of such an asset should be supported by all three of NASA’s major space exploration directorates and not just by the limited resources of the Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) program within the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). Cross directorate support for a space-based asteroid survey is fully consistent with the Asteroid Initiative already established as an agency-wide goal. It should be noted that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be capable of detecting human-accessible NEOs far enough in advance for their mission opportunities to be implementable.
Response: The capability of a space-based NEO survey telescope to complete the survey is not disputed. However, appropriations for the NEO Program do not support acquisition of such a space-based capability. NASA will continue to seek ways to maximize survey capabilities within the means allowed by congressionally appropriated budgets for the NEO Program.
Affirmation of the NAC Statement of Human Missions to NEOs in Their Native Orbits
The NASA Advisory Council (NAC) letter dated August 4, 2014 states that: “It must also be noted that ARM [Asteroid Redirect Mission] is not a substitute for a [human] mission to an asteroid in its native orbit, which appears to be possible at a lower launch energy than previously believed based on recent data2—4. Such a long duration deep space mission would be a logical step toward the horizon goal of humans to Mars.” SBAG strongly supports this NAC statement and finds that a human mission to an asteroid in its native orbit has unique merits and value, regardless of whether ARM is flown. SBAG maintains a summary chart of human-accessible near-Earth asteroid (NEA) data, updated every few months.
Response: The Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS) database provides a valuable analysis and resource for a quick assessment of the viability of all discovered NEOs for future robotic and human spaceflight destinations. Previous humanspaceflight studies have shown that human missions to asteroids in native orbits require substantial investments in technology for habitation systems and in-space propellant systems along with high power electrical systems, assuming the target asteroid is shown to be suitable for human systems interaction. Required current funding profiles and the required safety assessments did not allow for these missions today to be initiated in the near term. The ARM mission well supports the strategy for development of capabilities in the cislunar environment and incremental capability development in NASA's plan for preparing for humans to explore further out in to the solar system. NASA will be developing missions that help us gain the knowledge we need to send humans to Mars. These missions may include visiting asteroids in their natural orbits, and the targets discovered by the Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study (NHATS) will likely be utilized in future studies.
Asteroid Redirect Mission
SBAG appreciates NASA’s efforts to engage and communicate with the planetary science community about the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). SBAG further recognizes that NASA’s Asteroid Initiative has raised awareness and emphasized the importance of asteroids within NASA, to other U.S. Federal agencies, to the general public, and to our international partners.
Although SBAG has not endorsed either Option A (return an entire small asteroid) or Option B (capture and return a boulder from a large asteroid), the SBAG ARM Special Action Team Full Report, generated at the request of NASA, provides information and rationale for the relative benefits of the two options from science, planetary defense, and resource utilization perspectives. SBAG encourages the use of this document if such factors are considered during the selection of the ARM capture system.
However, SBAG reiterates its concerns from the 11th SBAG meeting about the limited benefits of ARM for advancing asteroid science or furthering planetary defense strategies, and that limits in the current knowledge of near-Earth asteroids contribute to schedule and cost risks. SBAG supports continued engagement with the NASA ARM team as the concept is refined.
Response: NASA greatly appreciates the work done by the SBAG ARM Special Action Team. Their findings were key in assisting the Agency in deliberations about the ARM candidate options. Now that the decision has been made, the Agency solicits greater involvement in mission development by the small bodies science community. Maximizing the science, planetary defense, and resource utilization associated with ARM is a goal of NASA leadership. NASA hopes that SBAG will play an important role in linking ARM with the small bodies community.
Cadence of Discovery Missions
SBAG is encouraged by the release of the Discovery AO within 2014, a major step to achieving the strategy outlined in the Decadal Survey. The Discovery program has made important and fundamental contributions to planetary exploration, and is of crucial importance to the future scientific exploration of the Solar System. SBAG regards the Decadal Survey recommendation of a ≤24 month cadence as an essential guideline and notes that the selection of two missions from the current AO could provide a means to regain the Decadal Survey recommended average cadence of Discovery missions.
Response: The proposals submitted to the 2014 AO are currently in evaluation so any discussion about mission selections must await the completion of that process.
Concern for the Minor Planet Center Status
The Minor Planet Center (MPC) is a unique and crucial facility for the small bodies community both within the United States and internationally. In addition to serving as the clearinghouse for all astrometric observations of asteroids and comets, the MPC also plays a central role in the chain of notification involving potential impactors. SBAG is concerned about recent changes at the MPC, including the resignation of the director and the center’s overall status and future, and urges NASA to review the situation as soon as possible. Such a review should be conducted in conjunction with the International Astronomical Union, the organization under which the MPC is chartered.
Response: Since SBAG 12 convened, the NEO Program established and conducted a review panel staffed by members of the small bodies community, including official IAU representatives, on the MPC's status and future operations. The panel's report is now in final draft and their findings will guide the future course that the Science Directorate Planetary Science Division will take with the MPC.
Support for the NEO Program Development Plan
The recent NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Audit Report, NASA's Efforts to Identify Near-Earth Objects and Mitigate Hazards, includes five recommendations intended to improve NASA’s efforts to discover, characterize, and mitigate near-Earth object threats, and NASA SMD’s response outlines a general plan to make progress on the OIG report recommendations within the year. (15 September, 2014)
SBAG supports NASA’s response to the OIG report and considers the recommended development of a strategic plan for the NEO Program a highly valuable activity. In particular, SBAG urges the strategic plan to draw heavily on community reports (i.e., 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force; 2010 NRC Report: Defending Planet Earth) that outline planetary defense priorities. SBAG strongly supports the creation of a NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office, a top recommendation of the 2010 NAC Task Force report. Furthermore, SBAG recommends that this new office (1) pursue goals specified in congressional direction, such as NEO population survey completion, (2) work towards development of NEO mitigation technologies through additional funded programs, including flight validation of the most promising mitigation system concepts, and (3) utilize cross-agency and international collaborations as warranted in accomplishing those goals. The OIG-recommended full-time equivalent analysis applied to a NEO Program strategic plan guided by planetary defense priorities will be highly informative in creating a program positioned to achieve NASA’s planetary defense objectives.
Response: Status of the NEO Program development will be presented at the next SBAG meeting.
Concern for NASA Educational Efforts
Historically, NASA has taken a leading role in communicating its discoveries to the nation and in inspiring future scientists and engineers. SBAG is concerned about the erosion of NASA’s educational efforts as evidenced by two recent response: the deletion of a $4-million education component of the OSIRIS-REx mission, and the marginalization of the small, local programs that were at the core of the supplementary Education and Public Outreach (EPO) grants to Principal Investigators.
Missions provide unprecedented educational opportunities, while securing public support for NASA programs and assuring a supply of scientifically literate students and teachers. SMD’s goals of enabling STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education; improving U.S. scientific literacy; and advancing national education goals are not served by deleting an educational component of OSIRIS-REx’s outreach plan. Programs lost from the mission include Educators’ and Students’ Workshops, Graduate Student Fellowships, activities kits, internships at partner institutions, and traveling and permanent exhibits. SBAG supports a reinstatement of these OSIRIS-REx education programs within NASA’s new educational policies and approaches.
SBAG is also concerned with the erosion of “grass roots” EPO efforts that were served by programs such as the modest EPO supplements to research and analysis grants. Science is most effectively communicated by those producing it, partnering with education specialists. Dozens of local and grassroots EPO activities, which provide unique opportunities to reach underserved communities, have been deleted, placing their future in jeopardy. SBAG is concerned that the current SMD Science Education Cooperative Agreement Notice will not engage SMD scientists and will risk losing these valuable EPO activities.
Response: SMD's restructured approach to science education is informed by recommendations from all four Decadal surveys, and the National Academy of Science's Board of Science Education. Additionally, SMD's goals are consistent with the Administration's Five-Year Strategic Plan (Co-STEM) and NASA's 2014 Strategic Plan. Most importantly, those goals lean toward an overall desired outcome for SMD Science Education of enabling scientists and engineers into the learning environment more effectively and efficiently for learners of all ages. Past efforts, while notable, are not as optimal in today's environment. Also, the small grants to PI's, while providing short-term benefits, had no overarching strategic approach and were often not sustainable beyond three years. There is a fourth goal of SMD's education restructuring: "Leveraging through Partnerships". It is precisely this goal that addresses the "grass roots" nature recognizing that all education is local and our efforts are best served by partnering with community-based organizations. We look forward to presenting results of the restructuring efforts to the future SBAG meeting in the winter time-frame.
Concern for Technology Development Efforts
While the funding for technology appears to be relatively flat, both exploration and planetary science technology development efforts are in a time of transition and significant changes have occurred that are potential causes for concern by SBAG. The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) may have objectives for technology development counter to near-term infusion opportunities commensurate with standard (e.g. TMCO) risk tolerance. While the restart of Pu-238 production has highly valuable and broad applications across planetary science, the effects of devoting approximately one-third of NASA's PSD technology funds towards Department of Energy (DoE) infrastructure and Pu-238 production efforts on other explicit NASA technology development efforts remain to be seen. The Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG) flight project and the In-Space Propulsion Technology program were both recently cancelled. The coordination and identification of needs for exploration and planetary science missions requires constant and proactive coordination between the “mission customers” and STMD, in addition to directorate-specific resources to address the gaps. The relationships are maturing and appear to be improving, but it is unclear how technology coordination is occurring and whether appropriate resources are available for both coordination and funding identified technology gaps.
Response: Technology development to close critical capability gaps remains important. Planetary Science is working directly with STMD to identify opportunities to work together to close these capability gaps. For example, SMD and STMD are now in the process of formalizing the methodology for selecting new science-focused solicitation topics for the Game Changing Development (GCD) program and we expect this methodology to be useful for other STMD programs as well. The recent Discovery AO established a new model for infusing relatively new technologies into missions while addressing the risk tolerance concerns. These technologies include the Deep Space Atomic Clock, the Heatshield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology, the Deep Space Optical Communications system, and a number of others. More recently PSD and the GCD program made commitments to partner on 6 different space technologies that are highly relevant to future PSD missions. PSD will continue to work with STMD to address Agency and Planetary technology priorities.
NASA Advisory Council References:
4. Barbee, B. W., Abell, P. A., Adamo, D. R., Alberding, C. M., Mazanek, D. D., Johnson, L. N., Yeomans, D. K., Chodas, P. W., Chamberlin, A. B., Friedensen, V. P., “The Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study: An Ongoing Effort to Identify Near-Earth Asteroid Destinations for Human Explorers,” 2013 IAA Planetary Defense Conference, Flagstaff, AZ, April 15-19, 2013.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 11, JULY 29–31, 2014 (pdf)
The Need for a Near-Earth Object Survey. The NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Section 321, cited as the “George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act” directs that “the Administrator shall plan, develop, and implement a Near-Earth Object Survey program to detect, track, catalogue, and characterize the physical characteristics of near-Earth objects equal to or greater than 140 meters in diameter in order to assess the threat of such near-Earth objects to the Earth. It shall be the goal of the Survey program to achieve 90 percent completion of its near- Earth object catalogue (based on statistically predicted populations of near-Earth objects) within 15 years after the date of enactment of this Act.” The stated goal of NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge is “to find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them,” which is well aligned with the congressional direction to identify potentially hazardous objects. However, no plan has been defined or resourced to achieve the congressional goal by 2020. A dedicated space-based survey telescope would achieve this goal in the shortest period of time. SBAG reiterates that a space-based NEO survey telescope would be a foundational asset, significantly advancing NASA’s human exploration, science, and planetary defense objectives.
Response: The capability of a space-based NEO survey telescope to achieve the goals set forth for the survey and the Agency's Grand Challenge is not disputed. However, appropriations for the NEO Program to date do not support acquisition of such a space-based capability. NASA will continue to seek ways to maximize survey capabilities within the means allowed by appropriated budgets.
The Asteroid Redirect Mission. SBAG is composed of members with knowledge and expertise in small bodies throughout the Solar System, including asteroids. As such, the group has pertinent expertise to assess the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept in its ability to address strategic objectives identified in the planetary Decadal Survey and in determining the outstanding risk factors for the execution of the concept based on current knowledge of the NEO population and their characteristics. SBAG supports the following findings as related to the ARM concept:
The portion of the ARM concept that involves a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid sample to cis-lunar space is not designed as an asteroid science mission and its benefits for advancing the knowledge of asteroids and furthering planetary defense strategies are limited and not compelling.
Limits in the current knowledge and large uncertainties in the properties of near-Earth asteroids contribute significantly to schedule and cost risk, and to the risk of mission failure, of either Option A (redirect an entire small asteroid) or Option B (capture and return a large boulder from a larger asteroid) of the robotic ARM concept. Current surveys, observing programs, and other projects are not positioned to sufficiently bridge this knowledge gap within the allotted schedule
After the SBAG 10 meeting in January 2014, at the request of NASA, the SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team (SBAG ARM SAT) was formed and tasked by NASA with providing specific input on the likely physical composition of small (<10 meter diameter) near-Earth asteroids, the likelihood and nature of boulders on asteroids, relevant information gained from meteorites, the properties of asteroid regolith, and the potential for science, planetary defense, and resource utilization. The SBAG ARM SAT responses to these tasks are available on the “Documents” section of the SBAG website and provide more detailed scientific and technical information about the current knowledge of properties of near-Earth asteroids, the limits of that knowledge, and the significant associated uncertainties.
Response: The primary objective of NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is to conduct a human exploration mission to an asteroid in the mid-2020s, providing systems and operational experience relevant for future human exploration of Mars. The NASA ARM concept development team greatly appreciates the efforts of the SBAG ARM Special Action Team and their findings have been very important input as the ARM concept continues to mature to meet a Mission Concept Review in 2nd Quarter FY2015. NASA will continue to coordinate with the Small Bodies Assessment Group on the human exploration aspects of the mission, as well as to continue to identify and develop scientific and planetary defense benefits from the mission.
The Discovery Program. SBAG strongly supports the planetary science Decadal Survey and finds that having a Discovery AO in 2014 is a major step to achieving the strategy outlined in the Decadal Survey. The Discovery Program has been highly successful and is of crucial importance to the future scientific exploration of the Solar System. SBAG supports maintaining a regular cadence of Discovery AOs and further urges achieving mission selections at the Decadal Survey recommended ≤24 month cadence.
Response: A Discovery Program AO was released on November 5, 2014. The proposal deadline is February 16, 2015. Based on current budget projections, PSD anticipates an ability to support a 36-month cadence for Discovery AOs.
The New Frontiers Program. The planetary Decadal Survey states the importance of having two New Frontiers class missions in the decade to achieve a balanced exploration portfolio of the Solar System. OSIRIS-REx was selected in May 2011 as the third mission in the New Frontiers Program, and SBAG encourages an AO for the fourth mission selection in the near future as OSIRIS-REx development work is completed.
Response: PSD remains committed to a New Frontiers AO cadence as close as possible to that recommended by the most recent planetary decadal survey, but is constrained to working within the means allowed by appropriated budgets.
The Value of Planetary Radar. Radar is a powerful technique for constraining asteroid orbits, shapes, sizes, and spin states, as well as the potential presence of small orbiting companions and boulders on an object's surface. The capability of radar for revealing the character of small near-Earth asteroids is exemplified by the recent bistatic observation of 2014 HQ124. A chirped X-band transmission from Goldstone was received by Arecibo using a new digital receiver. To enable the ability to characterize potential targets for robotic or crewed exploration and for assessing risks associated with potentially hazardous objects, it is essential to maintain the facilities able to do this work. SBAG reiterates its concern about the future stability of funding for key planetary radar facilities, especially in light of the December 2013 "Dear Colleague" letter from the National Science Foundation.
Response: The two planetary radar observatories provide a critical capability for small body characterization and NASA is committed to continued support for planetary radar, provided budgets allowing us to do so are appropriated. Continuation of support for the Arecibo Observatory depends not only on sufficient budget allocations to the PSD NEO Program, but also on continued support for the facility by the National Science Foundation (NSF), since PSD alone does not have sufficient resources to fully operate the Arecibo Observatory. The NSF is considering several alternative scenarios for the Arecibo facility beyond the present cooperative agreement, which expires in 2016. As stated in NSF's "Dear Colleague" letter of December 2013, the alternatives range from complete closure and deconstruction of the site to maintaining the status quo. NASA continues to work with our colleagues at the NSF to determine the best course of action within the budget constraints of both agencies.
The Establishment of a Planetary Defense Coordination Office. SBAG reiterates the importance of establishing a Planetary Defense Coordination Office, as recommended by the 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force, following the NASA Authorization Acts of 2005 and 2008 that affirmed the need for the establishment of policy and responsibilities with respect to a response for threats posed by near-Earth objects. While the efforts through the NEO Observation program are laudable, an office that would coordinate planetary defense activities across NASA, other U.S. federal agencies, foreign space agencies, and international partners is still needed.
Response: NASA has committed to examine the needs of the NEO Program and develop both a complete program plan and an adequately resourced program office by the end of fiscal year 2015. Study of the needs for interface across both US Government agencies and departments and internationally will be a part of this effort. Additional personnel have already been assigned to assist with the oversight and administration of the current efforts so that key personnel have the time for the more strategic planning this will require.
The B612 Sentinel Project. The B612 Foundation has been unable to meet scheduled milestones under its Space Act Agreement with NASA for the Sentinel mission. SBAG is concerned that reliance on this initiative has delayed NASA's ability to move forward on a NEO survey telescope that is competed and optimally designed to address NASA strategic objectives across planetary defense, human exploration, and science.
Response: To date NASA has found that reliance on the private sector for a space based NEO survey has not advanced our progress toward the goals of the George E. Brown. Jr. NEO Survey Act. The approach is being re-examined as part of the strategic planning for the NEO Program in 2015.
FINDINGS FROM SBAG 10, JANUARY 8-9, 2014 (pdf)
Asteroid Redirect Mission. Though SBAG acknowledges that the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is continuing to evolve as the concept development matures, the current formulation has not resolved the issues detailed in previous SBAG findings of July, 2013. The objectives, requirements, and success criteria for the ARM are not clearly defined, including the relevance to planetary defense. There are substantial issues and challenges associated with the identification and characterization of potential targets. Together these combine for considerable schedule and cost uncertainty and risk for the ARM. As requested, SBAG in the near term will provide input for key small body science areas to inform NASA and the ARM formulation team, though we note that SBAG would be willing to provide input at earlier stages in the future.
Response: The ARM concept continues to evolve and mature while it is still in the pre-formulation phase. Input from the SBAG has been valuable to this process and has significantly influenced its development. The second day of the SBAG #11 meeting has extensive briefings on the current state of the program concepts. Additional SBAG feedback is encouraged after seeing those briefings.
Support of Target NEO 2 Findings. The Target NEO 2 workshop had widespread and broad community participation and enabled open discussion and debate of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) concept. The Target NEO 2 final report finds the need for: ARM requirements and mission success criteria to be clearly defined; an independent cost estimate; competition and peer review; reconsideration of the aggressive schedule; a well-constrained understanding of the target NEA population and the distribution of their physical characteristics; improvement of ground-based observatories and remote characterization follow-up procedures; and a robust NEO survey. SBAG finds that the Target NEO 2 workshop was highly valuable and successful at bringing together experts in the fields pertinent to the ARM concept, supports the well articulated findings in the final report, and urges that the report be used to inform and evaluate further ARM efforts.
Response: We agree on the value of the NEO 2 workshop and its findings for ARM. An interchange meeting with NASA HQ leadership was held with the NEO 2 workshop organizers on 5 December, 2013. The workshop inputs are important factors being considered as we continue the formulation of ARM. Their influence will be seen as the current status of the proposed ARM program is briefed during the SBAG #11 meeting.
Cadence of Discovery Missions. SBAG strongly supports the planetary Decadal Survey, which states the importance of regular competitive mission selections in the highly successful Discovery program. The Decadal Survey recommended cadence of a Discovery AO and mission selection every ≤24 months is not being achieved, and SBAG urges NASA and the administration to develop a plan to accomplish this Decadal Survey recommendation in the near future and for the rest of the decade.
Response: The President's 2015 budget request positions the Discovery AOs to be on a 36-month cadence, starting with the AO that is to be released by the beginning of October, 2014. The anticipated Planetary Science budgets do not support launching Discovery missions every two years.
Review of the Restructuring of the Research and Analysis Program. Restructuring of the Planetary Science Division’s Research and Analysis Program should be required to pass a formal Senior Review prior to implementation to ensure it is able to provide the benefits identified by the 2011 Planetary Science Subcommittee report (Assessment of the NASA Planetary Science Division’s Mission-Enabling Activities, led by Ron Greeley). As identified in the report, this includes an assessment of the work force impact and of revenue neutrality. SBAG finds that the submission of a draft ROSES 2014 document to the Planetary Science Subcommittee does not constitute sufficient review and assessment prior to implementation.
Response: The Senior Review process has been established only for on-going activities, so any Senior Review of the Research and Analysis (R&A) program would be for the pre-restructuring R&A programs and the restructuring's goals. As those goals were derived from the Planetary Science Decadal Survey and the cited 2011 Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS) report, this Senior Review would be evaluating the strategic documents that prompted the Review. However, the Planetary Science Division (PSD) is committed to evaluating and making adjustments to the restructured R&A program as needed.
This evaluation has three primary parts: the program solicitations before ROSES release, the review process during the ROSES year, and statistics at the end of the ROSES year. Before the solicitations were released, the program overview and the individual calls were posted on the USRA website and comments were invited through the PSS and the AGs. Throughout the ROSES year, PSD is surveying participants in the review panels; this survey offers community members to assess the clarity of the restructured programs and the process and outcomes of reviews within the same. To evaluate the effect of the structured programs on proposers, PSD is monitoring proposer and proposal statistics and comparing them to previous ROSES years to determine the impact of the restructuring on the community in this first ROSES year. PSD will report these results to the PSS at the end of ROSES 2014.
Solar System Workings Opportunity. The prior announced deadline of late February 2015 for the Solar System Workings program would result in a ≥20 month gap in proposal due dates for projects formerly submitted through Cosmochemistry, Planetary Geology and Geophysics, Planetary Atmospheres, and Mars Fundamental Research programs. This would cause a serious interruption of funding, lack of opportunities for young career scientists, and damage to the small bodies and broader planetary science research communities. SBAG supports moving this due date to May/June 2014 to address this serious concern.
Response: The due dates for Solar System Workings was moved to May 23, 2014, for Step 1 proposals and July 25th for Step 2.
Dawn at Ceres Participating Scientists. SBAG strongly supports the involvement of participating scientists for Dawn at Ceres, with scientists selected before the encounter, contributing to the mission prior to orbit insertion, and participating in the orbital mission at Ceres. SBAG finds that the draft text for a “Dawn Focused Research and Analysis Program” has a fundamental issue that needs to be revised. The Program’s core requirement that "Spacecraft data that have not been obtained (i.e., future mission data), or those that have not been placed in approved archives may not be proposed for use in DFRAP investigations" will not enable any new scientists to participate prior to and during the Dawn at Ceres encounter. Additionally, opportunities for involvement in the Dawn at Ceres mission, either through a participating scientist or other such program, must be fair, competitive, and equally open to all. SBAG opposes the announcement text as presently written and urges modifications that will allow scientists to participate in the active science mission at Ceres. Given Dawn’s arrival at Ceres in April 2015, time is of the essence if the full potential of NASA’s investment in the Dawn mission is to be retained.
Response: One related result of the recent restructuring of Planetary R&A programs was the reintroduction of the Discovery Data Analysis Program (DDAP). Since the scope of the DDAP includes analysis of PDS-certified Dawn data, it was clear that much of what the initial year or so of the DFRAP would have covered could now be proposed to the DDAP. The need for the DFRAP element was thus eliminated. The Dawn at Ceres Guest Investigator Program (DAC-GIP) has been recently announced, which will embed guest investigators within the Dawn team. The guest investigators will have access to Dawn data "in real-time," and will attend Dawn team meetings. Step-1 proposals are due August 14, 2014, and Step-2 October 9, 2014.
Establishment of a Planetary Defense Coordination Office. The 2010 NASA Advisory Council Planetary Defense Task Force, following the NASA Authorization Acts of 2005 and 2008 that affirmed the need for the establishment of policy with respect to threats posed by near-Earth objects, recommended that NASA establish a Planetary Defense Coordination Office that would coordinate planetary defense activities across NASA, other U.S. federal agencies, foreign space agencies, and international partners. This has not yet been realized, and SBAG reiterates the importance of establishing such an office.
Response: The NASA Authorization Act of 2008 directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director to develop a policy for notifying federal agencies and relevant emergency response institutions of an impending NEO threat if public safety was at risk. OSTP was also directed to recommend which federal agencies to be responsible for protecting the US from NEO threats. NASAThe Science Mission and Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorates agrees on the importance of having a focus point at NASA Headquarters to coordinate planetary defense activities across the Agency, and work closely with both the US interagency and international community to advance planetary defense objectives, and to serve as the point of contact with OSTP's planetary defense activities., but efforts to establish this office have admittedly been slow. One of the biggest challenges to establishment is reallocation of workforce from an already overburden civil service quota. However, Although the NAC Planetary Defense Task Force proposed organization structure is still under discussion, personnel have been identifiedduties have been shifted and funding augmented to support this activity. sSome technical work items are in the process of being assigned to field centers, such as Goddard, Johnson, and Ames as well as JPL.
NEO Survey Telescope. NASA’s Asteroid Initiative places emphasis on the exploration of near-Earth asteroids for planetary defense, science, and resource utilization. However, the necessary knowledge concerning the distribution of these objects and their respective characteristics is inadequate in order to successfully formulate NASA’s plans for accomplishing the Asteroid Initiative. SBAG reiterates its previous findings that support the importance of a space-based survey telescope to NASA SMD and HEOMD goals and objectives. Although it is commendable that NASA is exploring alternative options for obtaining these data, a space-based NEO survey asset returns the greatest value with respect to exploration, planetary defense, science, resource utilization and does so in the most cost effective manner. Proper implementation of NASA’s Asteroid Initiative would best be served through a peer-reviewed NEO survey telescope mission that is funded as an agency asset. Such a foundational asset that provides essential data to aid the overall long-term objectives of NASA should be supported across the entire agency and not only through the SMD NEO Program.
Response: The value of a space-based NEO survey is not disputed and NASA will continue to seek ways to initiate such a project within the means allowed of the appropriated budget.
Planetary Science from Stratospheric Balloons. The development of a reusable stratospheric balloon platform has the potential to enable planetary science observations not possible from the ground and to complement space-based assets. Additionally, 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. Competed opportunities are needed for the community as a whole to realize those benefits, and a plan and timeline to transition the development program to competed opportunities should be defined and shared with the community. However, the present stratospheric balloon program has yet to demonstrate whether it is a scientifically valuable and cost-effective way to do planetary science. Planned observations need to demonstrate a priori their value/uniqueness and cost-effectiveness relative to available ground-based (not just IRTF) and space-based facilities and instrumentation.
Response: The Planetary Science Division is investigating the scientific value and cost effectiveness of a stratospheric balloon platform for planetary science objectives through a capabilities rapid prototyping project managed by the Glen Research Center and contracted to the Applied Physics Laboratory because of their ample experience with balloon-borne missions. Although the Balloon Rapid Response for comet ISON (BRRISON) flight was not scientifically successful due to a telescope stow action and latch anomaly, it did meet many engineering objectives of the project. This year an upgraded balloon platform with a redesigned stow program and latch mechanism, now called the Balloon Observation Platform for Planetary Science (BOPPS), is on track for a late September flight to observe comets Pan-STARRS and/or Siding Spring and other planetary targets to complete the balloon prototyping phase of this capabilities demonstration. After completion an assessment will be made on whether it is of sufficient value to initiate a balloon-borne planetary observation program utilizing a dedicated telescope platform with interchangeable instrumentation and competed science missions on an annual or bi-annual cadence.
Technology Budget. The technology budget has a 1/3 reduction from 2012 to 2014 ($100M from $161M) excluding the DOE infrastructure costs. The in-space propulsion technology (ISPT) program appears to be closing out completely. The electric propulsion options have been large PSD investments that have critical gaps and pose a poor risk posture for upcoming AOs. STMD is ramping up technology options that, in general, are not applicable to the evolutionary needs within PSD. Opportunities exist for STMD to leverage the past PSD investments and address critical gaps while being responsive to the science mission directorate technology needs. A clear dialogue/partnership between STMD and PSD to address these strategic PSD gaps is warranted. The remaining return on investment (ROI) appears high for both directorates. The SBIR developed Hall thruster PPU is one such example of a low remaining cost-to-go for high ROI.
Response:The Planetary Science Division is re-planning it's technology investments to respond to the change in budgets and priorities. PSD technology funds are extremely limited, and are focused on maintaining the unique capabilities to produce and fly plutonium-238 based power systems to enable exploration where solar insolation is impractical as a power source.
PSD is looking to leverage technologies being developed by STMD and HEOMD, as well as commercial technologies to provide new capabilities for planetary exploration in the future. PSD is also seeking to initiate new technology investments by developing partnerships to leverage PSD's limited technology dollars. Finally, when making technology development decisions PSD is considering the sustainment model for existing and new capabilities, and is intent that capabilities find broader use beyond PSD's needs so that the burden of sustainment can be shared, and ideally, PSD becomes a marginal buyer.
PSD has made the commitment to develop the NEXT thruster PPU to TRL 6 in partnership with industry in order to provide a thruster-PPU system for the Discovery 2014 AO. PSD remains in dialog with STMD and the ARRM mission planners as to whether the NEXT thruster system can meet their mission requirements. PSD also held a successful workshop to seek commercial interest in developing and maintaining the NEXT thruster system for commercial applications.
PSD recognizes the value of the Hall thruster PPU developed under an SBIR to Colorado Power Electronics. Such an innovative PPU architecture has the potential to serve as a PPU for the PSD developed HIVHAC thruster to provide an affordable electric propulsion system that is focused on PSD mission requirements. The same PPU architecture can also support commercial Hall thrusters, and thus can become a leveraged development with STMD with a shared sustainment model. PSD has funded the CPE PPU to mature it to TRL 6.
(1) Senior Review of the R&A Restructuring Plan. 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.
Response: This will be addressed in presentations by Jim Green and Jon Rall on Thursday.
(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.
Response: This will be addressed in detail in Jim Green's presentation Thursday. However, examination of the FY2014 Planetary Science budget will show that emphasis is being place on the competed programs of Discovery and New Frontiers, and the R&A program, at the expense of Mars and Outer Planets.
(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.
Response: The new budget deal passed by Congress should allow the restrictions placed on travel by the previous "Sequestration budget" to be reassessed and relaxed. As these budgets are passed into appropriations, we expect to see more reasonable implementation of travel policies.
(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.
Response: SMD/PSD is looking at options to pursue the establishment of a "Planetary Defense Office" within the expanded resources planned for the NEO Program. Plans are still in formulation, but expect to hear about them in the near future, certainly by the next SBAG meeting.
(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.
Response: We agree with the value a space-based NEO survey telescope would offer, but in the current fiscal environment direct pursuit of such a stand-alone mission would necessarily come at the expense of other already confirmed priorities. We continue to assess the viability of external partnerships to accomplish these objectives and evolve our NEO Program and commitments as those assessments guide us. We are also pursuing enhancement of existing assets and new concepts which have the potential for high return but still lie within the somewhat expanded fiscal boundaries planned for the NEO Program.
(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.
Response: Although a post-perihelion campaign would have been desirable, the Comet ISON Observation Campaign has been incredibly successful for the truly interplanetary comprehensive study of this comet from discovery to its solar demise. This was an historic campaign by which millions of people saw the comet through NASA's eyes.
(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.
Response: Although ISIS is an innovative and potentially cost effective concept that leverages the large space-lift margin or observational capabilities of two other confirmed planetary science missions to perform an additional science mission and asteroid deflection demonstration, PSD has determined the current fiscal environment does not allow the Agency to pursue it at this time. The concept study will be wrapped up into a comprehensive information package available to kickstart a future opportunity should it arise.
(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.
Response: The very regrettable loss of the Deep Impact (DI) spacecraft last August, traced to an overflow of a time-conversion calculation exceeding its limits in the fault protection software which in turn left DI in a configuration that allowed its batteries to drain between planned contacts, unfortunately terminated these extended mission opportunities. However, significant observations of C/Garradd (2009 P1) and limited observations of C/ISON (2012 S1) were obtained.
(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.
Response: The mission objectives of the overall Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) are evolving as concept development matures. NASA has chartered a Robotic Concept Integration Team to assess both the internal NASA study concepts and ideas from the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information released in June 2013. Below are the preliminary ARM mission objectives, which are also being used by this team for alternative robotic mission concept comparison.
- Human Exploration to an Asteroid in the mid-2020's that Prepares for Future Exploration
- Initial use of systems and components, operational experience beyond LEO, crew risk reduction
- Technology Demonstration: Advanced Solar Electric Propulsion
- High power, long lifetime
- Enables future deep-space human exploration and enables multiple applications for Nation's aerospace community
- Enhanced Detection and Observation of Near Earth Asteroids for Planetary Defense
- Asteroid Deflection Demonstration/Proof of Concept for Planetary Defense
- [Small-body planetary] Science
- Partnership Opportunities (International and Commercial)
With the exception of support for viable target identification and characterization by the Near Earth Object Observation Program, planetary science resources are not being utilized.
(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.
Response: The detection strategy for NASA's Near Earth Object Observation (NEOO) Program continues to be to search for potentially hazardous objects. The discovery of asteroids smaller than considered "hazardous" has been and is expected to continue to be a byproduct of the Program, but the campaign is to be expanded as part of NASA's Asteroid Initiative. This expanded program is planned to continue for the foreseeable budget horizon. The estimated increase in detection rate of smaller asteroids is based on the NEOO Program observation strategy for PHA's, including speed and depth of sky coverage and coordination for follow-up observations. In fact, the challenge of rapid follow-up and characterization of smaller asteroids provides for excellent testing of our techniques and response timelines should a true impact hazard be detected.
(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.
Response: The Robotic Concept Integration Team is assessing alternative mission concepts using figures of merit derived from the overall ARM mission objectives listed in response to finding 8(a), as well as programmatic feasibility. We expect completion of this analysis in April 2014. The ARM mission objectives include the primary mission objective "Enhanced Detection and Observation of Near Earth Asteroids for Planetary Defense". This has direct relevance to planetary defense. The secondary objective "Asteroid Deflection Demonstration/Proof of Concept for Planetary Defense" could be one of the distinguishing factors in this comparative assessment of mission concept options.
(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.
Response: ARM mission objectives are being clarified as part of pre-formulation. NASA leaders shared with the community their early thinking on potential descope options for the robotic mission in an emphasis of the importance of NASA's need to balance technical and cost objectives in this initiative. As part of pre-formulation, NASA has chartered a Robotic Concept Integration Team (RCIT) to assess mission concept options, including ideas provided in response to the Asteroid Initiative Request for Information released in June. Figures of merit for the RCIT assessment are derived from the preliminary overall ARM mission objectives listed in response to finding 8(a) and ground rules for programmatic feasibility. The RCIT assessment will inform the determination of robotic mission requirements and descope options. NASA is also requesting the SBAG to provide assessment in key small body science areas to inform the RCIT assessment. We look forward to the SBAG's participation in this important activity. Meanwhile, leveraging on-going activities allows NASA to progress critical areas immediately, such as asteroid identification and solar electric propulsion technology development. Risk reduction can be pursued which will have independent merit, but will also be relevant to the selected concept.
(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.
Response: The HQ ARM Steering Committee is well aware of the current deficiencies in our understanding of the very small body population, and the challenges for identification and characterization of viable targets. That is one reason why alternative concepts for accomplishing the mission are still in study. However, we disagree that we must have a scientific understanding of the entire population before such a mission can commence. Rather, we need only identification and adequate characterization of a sufficient number of viable candidate targets for the selected mission concept. Several candidates have already been identified for concept alternatives as proof of existence for such objects, although we know adequate characterization is still a challenge. We understand that we may not know everything one might like about a candidate target before launching the mission – rarely do we ever, especially for planetary missions - but these factors will be a recognized element of the mission risk strategy. And what we learn in this endeavor can only increase our understanding of this population of small objects very near the Earth.
(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.
Response: We agree it would be desirable to have multiple potential targets identified for this mission. The observation segment has already set out to do that. The potential schedule of the asteroid identification, redirection, and crewed exploration activities presented by NASA in the June timeframe showed a potential robotic redirect mission launch in 2017, with the caveat that the timeline was notional. The schedule alignment strategy has evolved to a notional timeline which shows a potential robotic mission launch in 2018. NASA has not committed to a launch date for this mission.
(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.
Response: ARM mission objectives and cost and schedule goals are being clarified as part of the current pre-formulation phase. Management approach and acceptance of risk will also be clarified. We are only at the stage now where we are looking at the specifics of concept options and how these compare to stated objectives. We are also assessing the "deltas" that would be needed in our budgets to implement this mission as compared to our on-going work elements, such as for a SEP tech demo only and early SLS and Orion flights. Meanwhile, leveraging on-going activities allows NASA to progress critical risk reduction areas immediately, such as the asteroid identification and solar electric propulsion technology development.
(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.
Additional Response: The planetary science AG chairs are reinstated as members of the PSS. Formal paperwork to make this official is in progress.
(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.
Additional Response: The goal for any program for additional scientific research on a mission is to increase the scientific return from, and the community participation in, the mission. After interview of participants in the Dawn at Vesta PSP and careful consideration, PSD has decided that the best way to achieve these goals is not through a Participating Scientist Program specific to "Dawn @ Ceres". Instead, a "Dawn Focused Research and Analysis Program" will be created to focus continued attention on the analysis of Vesta now that the data is mostly available in the PDS, and to perform preparatory research for and then during the Ceres campaign. The Dawn Focused Research and Analysis Program is expected to start in FY 2015 (begin solicitation in ROSES 2014) and run for 3-5 years with an annual budget of $1-2M.
(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 community.
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 (See http://www.lpi.usra.edu/sbag/meetings/aug2010/findings.shtml).
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 opportunities.
(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 forsmall body close approach opportunities during cruise once a mission is launchedand its trajectory known. For PI led missions, they will be encouraged to incorporate sufficient flexibility in their planning to pursue any identfiedopportunities, providing the additional risk to the prime mission is assessed as minimal.
(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 ofradaratbothArecibo and Goldstone. NASAPlanetarySciencesiscommitted toretainingplanetary radar capabilityaslong 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 body targets.
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 p hase 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 upcoming response.
(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 interpreted.
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 probe operations.
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.