Status Report

Assessment of NASA’s Draft 2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy

By SpaceRef Editor
June 5, 2003
Filed under ,

Dr. Edward J. Weiler

Associate Administrator for Space Science

Office of Space Science

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

300 E Street, SW

Washington, DC 20546

Dear Dr. Weiler:

In response to your request of January 7, 2003, I am pleased to transmit a review by the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board of the draft “2003 Space Science Enterprise Strategy.”
The Board concluded that the document provides a thorough, informative summary of scientific objectives, goals, and the associated missions sponsored by the Office of Space Science (OSS). The integration of technology development into the four OSS strategic themes was particularly well done, and the Board was pleased to see plans for reinvigoration of the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) program. The Board is encouraged by the prospects for new scientific capabilities afforded by advanced nuclear power and propulsion activities and looks forward to seeing plans (including comparative capabilities enabled, schedules, and cost estimates) for their possible implementation.

Notwithstanding those strengths of the draft document, there are several key areas in which the Board recommends improvement and clarification. Highlights of those recommendations follow:

  • To represent a true strategy, the document should provide explicit information about resources, criteria for decision making, priorities, mission plans, time lines, and contingency plans.
  • The OSS should resolve the substantial variance between the missions and programs included in the document’s Sun-Earth Connections section and those recommended as high priorities in the National Research Council (NRC) report The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics.
  • Because the science capabilities of the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter mission have not been presented in significant detail in the OSS draft document, the Board cannot determine whether the mission accurately reflects the Jupiter-system objectives discussed in the NRC report New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy.
  • Although the draft document does a good job of addressing the roles of research and analysis (R&A) as a part of the overall space science program, attention to theoretical studies as high-priority elements of R&A falls short of what has been recommended in the NRC reports The Sun to the Earth—and Beyond, New Frontiers in the Solar System, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, and Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos.
  • The OSS should present a comprehensive plan that addresses future needs and solutions for providing and sustaining human resources, especially women and minorities, required to accomplish its program. The four NRC surveys mentioned above outline specific training issues and make recommendations that the OSS should employ in a strategy for developing and maintaining a competent, sustainable workforce. In addition to a plan that engages the academic community, the plan should describe a mechanism for follow-up evaluations that would focus on accomplishments and outcomes rather than programs and processes.

The Board appreciates the opportunity to comment on the draft document. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or the Board’s director, Joseph Alexander, at 202-334-3477.


John H. McElroy, Chair

Space Studies Board

Enclosure (full report)

SpaceRef staff editor.