Status Report

DPS Mailing #02-03: DPS Press release; prize nomination deadline, etc.

By SpaceRef Editor
February 11, 2002
Filed under , ,


Issued Friday, February 8, 2002

The Administration released its proposed FY2003 budget for NASA today.
This is the first budget developed by the Bush Administration and the
new NASA Administrator, Mr. Sean O’Keefe. The Division for Planetary
Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society commends the support
this budget provides for planetary exploration, which includes a new
initiative for nuclear power and propulsion, and a second new
initiative for a New Frontier line of competitively procured planetary
space flight missions. Funding has been increased in real dollars for
Research and Analysis programs, which provide a fundamental knowledge
base allowing for the design of focused, efficient missions.

The Administration gave high ratings to the Discovery program of
low-cost planetary missions and as a result has introduced a new line
of moderately priced missions modeled on the Discovery program. The
New Frontier missions would be about twice the cost of Discovery
missions. The budget proposal would provide for about one Frontier
mission every three years, bringing a new level of flight opportunity
to the science community with competitively procured missions of higher

The DPS is concerned about the cancellation of the outer planets
program, which included the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the
Europa Orbiter. The cost-capped New Horizons mission was recently
selected after an open competition in which scientists and their
industry partners spent millions of dollars and months of time in good
faith response to a NASA call for proposals. This precedent discourages
community participation in NASA’s efforts to produce cost-effective
missions through competition. It should not be repeated. Whether New
Horizons may be resurrected in the New Frontier program will depend on
its ultimate prioritization in the Planetary Decadal Survey.

The surprise in this budget is the proposal to revive development of
nuclear technology for in-space propulsion and power. Development of
this technology was terminated in the 1970s and planetary exploration
has been limited ever since to long, complex flight missions using
conventional propulsion and to spacecraft barely capable of powering a
single light bulb. Nuclear propulsion will increase accessibility of
Solar System objects and decrease the flight time for some missions.
On-board nuclear power will provide a power-rich environment for
science investigations at the planets and increase the lifetime of
these systems to years instead of a few weeks or months.

The planetary Research and Analysis program was given a 3% increase
above inflation, and a new program was funded at $10M to develop
planetary instruments for biological investigations on other planets.
Mars exploration will continue as planned through this decade, but the
large rover planned for 2007 is delayed until 2009 in order to
substitute nuclear for solar power and increase its lifetime from
months to years. A fully competed Discovery-class Mars Scout mission
will be flown in 2007.

The DPS calls upon Congress to support the President’s proposed FY03
NASA budget. It builds on the strengths and successes of our planetary
program. New nuclear technology for both power and propulsion will
extend our reach and capabilities to the outermost regions of our Solar
System while increasing our capabilities in the inner Solar System.
The New Frontier program offers exciting opportunities, including
restoration of missions to the outer solar system.

The DPS is the world’s largest professional organization dedicated to
the exploration of the Solar System.


Dr. Wesley T. Huntress, Jr.
DPS Chair



The DPS prize nomination deadline is JUNE 30, 2002. Note that it has
been extended considerably from past years. Information on prize
nominations can be found on the DPS web site:


This is to remind you that proposals for the NASA share of single-
aperture observing at the 10-meter W.M. Keck Telescopes are due March 1.
The NASA time is open to all U.S. astronomers for programs in the
research areas of extrasolar planet detection, origin and nature of
planetary systems, and investigation of our own solar system.

Adaptive optics is now available on Keck II with the 1-5 micron
echelle spectrograph (NIRSPEC) and the 1-5 micron camera (NIRC2).

Please see the NASA Keck website at
and the WMKO website at for full
information and application forms.

Martha Hanner, Chair

NASA Keck Telescope Allocation Committee


Web site now available:

Space Telescope Science Institute May Symposium


May 6-9, 2002


Melissa McGrath, DPS Secretary-Treasurer
submissions to:

SpaceRef staff editor.