Status Report

Call for Members of the Science Definition Team for the PACE Mission

By SpaceRef Editor
July 25, 2011
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July 25, 2011 NASA Announcement ID: NNH11ZDA015J

NASA is soliciting applications and nominations for members of the PACE (Pre-Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem) mission Science Definition Team (SDT). Response will take the form of a Letter of Application submitted to the PACE Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters.

1. Scope of the Program

The Pre-Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission is a strategic Climate Continuity mission and is included in NASA’s new plan: “Responding to the Challenge of Climate and Environmental Change: NASA’s Plan for a Climate-Centric Architecture for Earth Observations and Applications from Space” (hereafter referred to as the “Climate Initiative”) sponsored by NASA’s Earth Science Division. The Climate Initiative can be found at This plan was informed in part by the National Research Council’s (NRC) Decadal Survey of Earth Science at NASA, NOAA, and USGS, entitled “Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond” (the NRC’s Earth Science Decadal Survey, available at

The PACE mission will extend key ocean biogeochemical, biological, and aerosol climate data records whose future was in jeopardy prior to the FY2011 budget request. PACE will be a polar-orbiting mission with an ocean color sensor and an aerosol-cloud polarimeter. The mission will be capable of performing radiometric and polarimetric ocean and atmosphere surveys, returning a range of geophysical data from which properties of the ocean and atmosphere can be produced to maintain a time series of critical climate and Earth system variables. The PACE mission has multiple scientific goals, including making climate-quality global ocean color measurements that are essential for understanding the carbon cycle and global ocean ecology, and how the ocean’s role in global biogeochemical (carbon) cycling and ocean ecology both affects and is affected by climate change. Polarimetry measurements would provide extended data records on clouds and aerosols. The President’s FY2012 budget request enables the development for launch in 2019/2020 of these critical climate measurements.

The PACE Science Definition Team (SDT) will be different from historical SDTs within NASA’s Earth Science Division in that once selected, the team members will spend six to nine months developing the science and technical requirements for the PACE mission, culminating in a report. Once the SDT’s work has concluded, the science team will be disbanded prior to any solicitations for the mission or for instruments being issued by NASA.

2. Science Definition Team for the PACE Mission

2.1 PACE SDT Structure

The PACE SDT will consist of approximately 20 members with expertise in ocean biology, ecology, biogeochemistry, ocean color/optical oceanography, as well as aerosol, cloud, radiation science, and polarimetry. The PACE Program Scientist will make a recommendation to the Director of the Earth Science Division for a Chair of the PACE SDT from the selected SDT members. The Director of the Earth Science Division will select the SDT Chair. The NASA PACE Program Scientist, the NASA PACE Project Scientist, and possibly other agency representatives will be ex officio members of the SDT.

2.2 PACE SDT Responsibilities

The members of the PACE SDT will provide NASA with scientific assistance during preliminary concept definition (Pre-Phase A) activities. Near-term activities of the SDT members will focus primarily on assessing the scientific approach critical to achieving the goals of the PACE space mission as outlined in NASA’s Climate Initiative.

NASA’s charge to the SDT will be to provide science requirements, investigation approaches, key mission properties, and any other scientific inputs or threshold and baseline instrument requirements needed to support the design of an optimized space mission concept satisfying the overall goals of the PACE mission as outlined by the NASA’s Climate Initiative. This includes sensor calibration and data validation plans and instrumentation, as needed. Among the products to be produced by the SDT will be the description of a Design Reference Mission (DRM) that describes a preliminary investigation approach for the PACE prime science mission, including the expected scientific impact of a representative set of proposed strawman investigations. Justification for conducting the PACE investigations from space and an assessment of how such investigations will complement existing and planned domestic and international missions will be included in the SDT’s report.

The PACE SDT will work with NASA mission designers to help assure the maximum scientific return from PACE and, in particular, to ensure preparedness for beginning formal formulation and development of the mission. Members of the PACE SDT will work in collaboration with NASA Headquarters, NASA Program and Project management and technical personnel at the participating field centers, and the oceanographic and radiation sciences community to provide input during the pre-formulation study phase of PACE.

All meetings of the PACE SDT will be open, all reports and other output of the PACE SDT will be made publicly available, and the PACE SDT will be disbanded prior to any future Request for Proposals (RFP) or Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for participation in the PACE mission, including provision of instrumentation.

The initial meeting of the PACE SDT will be targeted for October of 2011. The SDT can be expected to meet in person three times over the six to nine months following SDT selection. Meeting duration will be for (typically) two to three days. The SDT also may have regular phone-in meetings. Meetings will be called by the SDT Chair and the agendas will be set by the Chair in coordination with NASA management to ensure that planned activities are aligned with programmatic needs and expectations. The PACE mission will be implemented through the Earth Systematic Missions Program Office at GSFC. NASA is developing a management plan for the mission studies. All travel expenses to meetings will be reimbursed. Salary and other financial support will not be provided.

2.3 PACE SDT Membership Proposal Content

Response to this Call is in the form of a Letter of Application. In the letter, the applicant should provide evidence of expertise and knowledge in areas highly relevant to the PACE primary scientific goals and related technology. For the ocean biogeochemistry/ecology/color portion of PACE, expertise could include but not be limited to: methods and an understanding of uncertainties for ocean biology and biogeochemistry as well as radiation sciences research and data products, such as spectral inversion algorithms for retrievals of phytoplankton absorption, absorption by colored dissolved organic material, and particulate backscattering; an understanding of phytoplankton physiological and functional group responses to a changing environment, including fluorescence quantum efficiency; an understanding of atmospheric correction approaches, including water vapor absorption features and aerosol corrections over turbid waters; direct lunar calibration and in situ vicarious gain adjustment approaches, protocols, and technologies; space-based UV-visible and SWIR radiometer and focal plane instrumentation design and development. For the aerosol and cloud portion of PACE, expertise could include, but not be limited to: methods and an understanding of uncertainties in climate forcing due to aerosols and clouds as well as atmospheric radiative transfer and aerosol/cloud data products, such as spectral and polarization retrieval algorithms of aerosol and cloud properties; an understanding of the processes affecting aerosol and cloud properties; instrument design; and sensor calibration and data product validation approaches.

The Letter may also contain a brief list of references to scientific or technical papers the applicant has published that establish her/him as a leader in the ocean biology, biogeochemistry, ecology, optical oceanography, aerosol, cloud or radiation sciences communities or as an expert in PACE-related technology areas. The Letter should also contain a statement of how much time the applicant will commit over the next six to nine months for activities related to the PACE SDT, particularly if there are any major constraints that may restrict full engagement in the significant amount of work that will be required to define the scientific and investigation approach to the PACE mission.

Letter applications are invited from individuals, not groups. Collaborations and teams are not solicited. Each Letter is to be limited to two pages, with 12-pt font and 1-inch margins. The subject line of a responsive application must read “NASA PACE SDT Application” Letter applications submitted by E-mail are preferred, but may also be submitted by regular mail or fax. Responses to this invitation should be received no later than September 9, 2011.

3. Selection of the PACE Science Definition Team

NASA Headquarters PACE Program Scientists will select PACE SDT members from the pool of respondents. The Program Scientists may submit letters for external peer-review as needed.

Application letters should be submitted to:

Dr. Paula Bontempi
Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program
Earth Science Division- Science Mission Directorate
Mail Suite 3B74
NASA Headquarters
300 E Street, SW
Washington, DC 20546
Tel: 202-358-1508
Fax: 202-358-2770

SpaceRef staff editor.