Science and Exploration

Newsletter #2 – Planetary Science Decadal Survey

By Marc Boucher
July 22, 2009
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This is the second newsletter to the community regarding the 2009-2011 Planetary Science Decadal Survey. A great deal has happened since my first newsletter back in April.
The key points in this newsletter are these:

1. Candidates for the chairs and members of the five decadal survey panels have been identified and under review for approval by the National Research Council.

2. The guidelines, schedule, and procedure for submitting white papers have been finalized. The deadline is September 15th. Length limits have been imposed.

3. The schedule of upcoming steering committee and panel meetings has been established.

4. We have put in place a mechanism for webcasting and archiving the webcasts of all steering committee and panel meetings.

5. Decadal survey sessions are planned for the upcoming DPS and Fall AGU meetings.

6. More information is available on the decadal survey web site:

As most of you know, the Planetary Science Decadal Survey is organized by the National Research Council at the request of NASA and NSF. Its objective is to set clear priorities for solar system exploration for the coming decade.

The decadal survey will involve the entire U.S. planetary science community, and will be led by six groups. There is a steering committee, chaired by me. The membership of the steering committee is provided on the decadal survey web site (link provided at the end of this newsletter).

There are also five panels (Inner Planets, Mars, Outer Planets, Outer Planet Satellites, and Primitive Bodies). Candidates to serve as the chairs and members of these panels have been identified, and are under review by the NRC. Once approved, their names will be provided in a subsequent newsletter.

The decadal survey process depends heavily on white papers provided by the community. White papers on all topics of relevance to the survey are strongly encouraged. A complete description of the survey’s scope is provided by the Statement of Task available at the following web site: Please note that white papers are welcome on topics specific to a single panel, and also on topics that cut across multiple panels.

To facilitate document management we have devised the following submission guidelines for white papers:

— White papers may not be more than 7 pages in length, single spaced, including all figures, tables, references and appendices. Papers can include web links to other documents among the references.

— A cover page may be included (beyond the 7-page limit) that should include the title of the white paper, the primary author’s name, phone number, institution, and email address, and a list of co-authors with their respective institutions.

— Use a 12-pt font with 1-inch margins on all sides of the document.

— Papers in Microsoft Word (.doc), Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) formats will be accepted. No other formats will be accepted.

— White paper file sizes should be as small as possible. White papers larger than 50 Mb in size cannot be accepted, and files much smaller than this are encouraged. For file management purposes, please compress your figures as much as possible. You can provide hyperlinks to higher resolution versions of illustrations if you wish.

— White papers can be submitted by navigating your browser to:

We will only accept white papers submitted by means of this web-based system. Submissions must be made before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, September 15, 2009. Questions on the process can be submitted to Any white papers submitted to that email address will be returned and you will be directed to the decadal survey web site.

As I noted in my last newsletter, multiple authorship that accurately reflects a consensus among many individuals is strongly encouraged. Everyone in the planetary science community is encouraged to author white papers; the only exception is the decadal survey panel chairs and steering committee members.

In order to help everyone in the community know what white papers are being prepared, the Lunar and Planetary Institute has developed a web site where anyone can state their intention to organize a white paper. Feel free to use this site to let your colleagues know what you are doing! The url for the site is:

All white papers received by the NRC will be posted online where they can be downloaded and viewed freely.

We have developed a schedule of upcoming meetings for the steering committee and all the panels, as follows:

Steering Group Meeting 1: 6-8 July National Academies’ Keck Center Washington, D.C.
Satellites Panel Meeting 1: 24-26 August National Academy of Sciences Washington, D.C.
Giant Planets Panel Meeting 1: 24-26 August National Academy of Sciences Washington, D.C.
Inner Planets Panel Meeting 1: 26-28 August National Academy of Sciences Washington, D.C.
Primitive Bodies Panel Meeting 1: 9-11 September National Academy of Sciences Washington, D.C.
Mars Panel Meeting 1: 9-11 September Arizona State University Tempe, AZ
Satellites Panel Meeting 2: 21-23 September National Academies’ Beckman Center Irvine, CA
Inner Planets Meeting 2: 26-28 October National Academies’ Beckman Center Irvine, CA
Giant Planets Panel Meeting 2: 26-28 October National Academies’ Beckman Center Irvine, CA
Primitive Bodies Panel Meeting 2: 28-30 October National Academies’ Beckman Center Irvine, CA
Mars Panel Meeting 2: 4-6 November California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
Steering Group Meeting 2: 16-18 November National Academies’ Beckman Center Irvine, CA
Steering Group Meeting 3: 22-24 February Location to be determined AZ or CA
Giant Planets Panel Meeting 3: 4-6 May Location to be determined Massachusetts
Steering Group Meeting 4: 25-27 May Location to be determined Washington, D.C.

The remaining panel meetings will be scheduled at a later date.

In order to keep the community fully informed about decadal survey activities, we are attempting to webcast all of these meetings, and to archive all of the webcasts online. Links to each webcast will be provided on the decadal survey web site. Links to an archive of the first steering committee meeting are available at: and a summary of the meeting, including links to presentation materials, is available at: eting_1_Summary.pdf.

I would like to thank the NASA Astrobiology Institute and for their generous help in webcasting and archiving our meetings.

Finally, we are also organizing a number of sessions at major scientific conferences where discussion of the decadal survey among the community will take place. One of these will be a “town hall” session at the upcoming DPS meeting in Puerto Rico. Another will be a session at the Fall AGU: &sessid=558. Abstract submissions for this AGU session are strongly encouraged.

As always, more details on all of this are available at the decadal survey web site:

I’ve observed over the past few months that our community is coming together with a very substantial set of inputs to the decadal survey process, and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to merge those inputs into a consensus program that has the community’s full support.

Best wishes,

Steve Squyres 2009-2011

Planetary Science Decadal Survey Chair

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.