NAS Report: Review of the Restructured Research and Analysis Programs of NASA's Planetary Science Division

Status Report From: National Academy of Sciences
Posted: Friday, June 23, 2017


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National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences; Space Studies Board; Committee on the Review of NASA's Planetary Science Division's Restructured Research and Analysis Program


The Research and Analysis (R&A) program managed by NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD), supports a broad range of planetary science activities, including the analysis of data from past and current spacecraft; laboratory research; theoretical, modeling, and computational studies; geological and astrobiological fieldwork in planetary analog environments on Earth; geological mapping of planetary bodies; analysis of data from Earth- and space-based telescopes; and development of flight instruments and technology needed for future planetary science missions. The primary role of the PSD R&A program is to address NASA’s strategic objective for planetary science and PSD’s science goals.

Recently, PSD reorganized the R&A program to provide better alignment with the strategic goals for planetary sciences. The major changes in the R&A program involved consolidating a number of prior program elements, many of which were organized by subdiscipline, into a smaller number of thematic core research program elements. Despite numerous efforts by PSD to communicate the rationale for the reorganization and articulate clearly the new processes, there has been significant resistance from the planetary science community and concerns in some sectors regarding the major realignment of funding priorities.

Review of NASA’s Planetary Science Division’s Restructured Research and Analysis Programs examines the new R&A program and determines if it appropriately aligns with the agency’s strategic goals, supports existing flight programs, and enables future missions. This report explores whether any specific research areas or subdisciplinary groups that are critical to NASA’s strategic objectives for planetary science and PSD’s science goals are not supported appropriately in the current program or have been inadvertently disenfranchised through the reorganization.

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