NRC Kicks Off Planetary Sciences Decadal

NRC Kicks Off Planetary Sciences Decadal

NASA and NSF officials told the steering committee for the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) new decadal survey on planetary sciences about their expectations for the study during the committee’s kickoff meeting on July 6. The committee is chaired by Steve Squyres, perhaps best known as the “father” of the two rovers now on the surface of Mars — Spirit and Opportunity. The meeting continues on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Keck Center (500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington. DC). See the agenda for when the meeting is open to the public.

During the open sessions on Monday, NASA and NSF officials briefed the committee about the status of their respective planetary science programs and the committee’s task. Budget numbers figured prominently in the NASA presentations. The message from Ed Weiler, NASA Associate Administrator for Science, was crystal clear — NASA’s planetary science budget has been cut in half over the past 4-5 years and there is too much program for the budget. He is seeking the committee’s advice on the top priorities with the admonition that if the committee wants to add anything it must be prepared to also recommend what should be canceled to pay for it. Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Sciences Division, urged the committee to wait for the FY2011 budget submission for budget numbers to guide their deliberations. Dr. Green believes that the FY2011 budget will better reflect Obama Administration priorities for NASA funding than the FY2010 budget now under consideration.

Dr. Weiler’s Powerpoint slides were not immediately available. Click on the presentation titles below for the slides from the other speakers.

Jim Green and Doug McCuistion, NASA Planetary Sciences Division

NASA’s Perspective on Charge to the Decadal Survey Committee

Overview of NASA Planetary Science Program

Overview of NASA’s Mars Program

Nigel Sharp, NSF Division of Astronomical Sciences

NSF’s Planetary Science Activities

Gregg Vane of JPL also gave a presentation on a JPL-proposed nomenclature for “Concept Maturity Levels” (CMLs) that could be used in parallel with the widely used Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) to designate where a particular planetary mission concept falls on a scale of maturity. His presentation is available here.

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