Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Report identifies priority missions for planetary science in the next decade

Date:
March 9, 2011
Source:
U.S. National Academies
Summary:
A new report from the U.S. National Research Council recommends a suite of planetary science flagship missions for the decade 2013-2022 that could provide a steady stream of important new discoveries about the solar system. However, if NASA's budget over that decade cannot support all of these missions, the agency should preserve smaller scale missions in its New Frontiers and Discovery programs first and delay some or all of the recommended large-scale missions, the report says.

A new report from the National Research Council recommends a suite of planetary science flagship missions for the decade 2013-2022 that could provide a steady stream of important new discoveries about the solar system. However, if NASA's budget over that decade cannot support all of these missions, the agency should preserve smaller scale missions in its New Frontiers and Discovery programs first and delay some or all of the recommended large-scale missions, the report says.

Research priorities were selected through a rigorous review that included input from five expert panels. The committee also sought extensive input from the planetary sciences community through town hall meetings and white papers. Recommendations are informed by NASA's own FY 2011 projected budget scenarios for 2013-2022. In addition, the committee hired a contractor to provide independent cost and technical analyses of select mission proposals.

"Our recommendations are science-driven, and they offer a balanced mix of missions -- large, medium, and small -- that have the potential to greatly expand our knowledge of the solar system," said Steven W. Squyres, professor of astronomy at the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "However, in these tough economic times, some difficult choices may have to be made. With that in mind, our priority missions were carefully selected based on their potential to yield the most scientific benefit per dollar spent."

The Mars Astrobiology Explorer Cacher (MAX-C), a mission to Mars that could help determine whether the planet ever supported life and could also help answer questions about its geologic and climatic history, should be NASA's highest priority large mission, the report says. This mission will be the first step in a multipart effort to eventually return samples from the planet. The report stresses, however, that the mission should be conducted only if the cost to NASA is approximately $2.5 billion -- $1 billion less than the independent estimates provided to the committee. NASA and the European Space Agency, which would run the mission jointly, should work together to reduce the scope of the mission and ensure that both agencies still benefit.

A mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa and its subsurface ocean -- one of the most promising environments in the solar system for supporting life -- should be the second priority for NASA's large-scale planetary science missions. However, NASA should fly the Jupiter Europa Orbiter (JEO) only if NASA's budget for planetary science is increased, the report says, and JEO's mission scope is made more affordable. The independent estimate put the price tag at $4.7 billion. The committee concluded that unless costs could be brought down, conducting JEO would preclude too many other important missions.

The third priority for large missions would be the Uranus Orbiter and Probe mission to investigate that planet's interior structure, atmosphere, and composition. The report says that this mission should be initiated between 2013 and 2022, but it should be subjected to rigorous, independent cost verification throughout its development and reduced or cancelled if costs grow significantly above its assessed $2.7 billion price tag.

For medium-size missions, the report recommends that NASA select two new missions to be included in its New Frontiers program, which explores the solar system with frequent, mid-size spacecraft missions. Since its inception in 2003, the program has initiated two missions and is in the process of selecting a third. The committee recommends that NASA also select a fourth and fifth mission in the 2013-2023 time frame and identifies several candidates from which NASA could choose, but does not prioritize them. Instead, selection should be based on competitive peer review.

Although the report does not make specific recommendations for small missions, it notes that NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, highly focused planetary science investigations has made important contributions to science and should be continued at its current level of funding with adjustments for inflation. NASA should ensure a regular, balanced schedule of such missions. The committee also endorses the Mars Trace Gas Orbiter, a small mission outside of the Discovery program due to launch in 2016, as long as current plans for dividing responsibilities and costs between NASA and the European Space Agency remain.

The National Science Foundation, which supports nearly all areas of planetary science except space missions, should expand its funding for existing laboratories and establish new facilities as needed, the report says. It also urges NSF to complete the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which could provide important contributions to planetary science.

The study was sponsored by NASA and NSF and is available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13117

The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by U.S. National Academies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

U.S. National Academies. "Report identifies priority missions for planetary science in the next decade." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308094157.htm>.
U.S. National Academies. (2011, March 9). Report identifies priority missions for planetary science in the next decade. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308094157.htm
U.S. National Academies. "Report identifies priority missions for planetary science in the next decade." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110308094157.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins