Status Report

NASA Space Science Advisory Committee Meeting Notes 20-22 Mar 2001 (Part 1)

By SpaceRef Editor
March 22, 2001
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Part [1][2][3][4][5]

Tuesday, March 20

Welcome and Chair’s Remarks

Dr. Steven Squyres, Chair of the SScAC, called the meeting to order and welcomed members and attendees. After reviewing the agenda, he briefed the Committee on the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) meeting that was held on March 15-16, 2001. One of the primary topics of the meeting was the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). At its November 2000 meeting, the SScAC had been presented with 19 science objectives against which it evaluated the performance of the Office of Space Science (OSS); this was presented to the NAC at its December 2000 meeting. The NAC was very pleased and impressed with the Space Science performance, and changed some of the “greens” to “blues.” The final score approved by the NAC at the December 2000 meeting was three blues, one red, one yellow, and the rest green. However, when this went through the entire Agency process and was summarized and presented to the NAC at its March 2001 meeting, OSS was shown as the most poorly performing Enterprise with 48% of its targets scored yellow or red. The Agency explanation was that there were other technical milestones in addition to the 19 science objectives for a total of 65 targets. The 19 science scores were collapsed to two targets; therefore, the entire science accomplishment was collapsed to two grades. The other 63 flight mission milestones (many of which were minor or trivial) were graded literally by Code B and resulted in yellows and reds. This created the distorted impression that FY 2000 was a very bad year and that OSS was a poorly performing organization. The NAC was very alarmed and displeased over this distorted view. The NAC recommended that since GPRA requires an external evaluation, the NAC scores should be the prominent assessment in the Report and NASA’s assessment should be in the Appendix. A consequence of this is that an accurate picture of OSS performance will be portrayed in the final Report. Dr. Squyres observed that it is important that the questions be properly posed in the beginning, and that now is the time to pose the questions for FY 2002. A set of standards needs to be developed that will produce an outcome that is meaningful. Tying every target to a specific budget line is not a requirement. Dr. Squyres noted that the SScAC would have an opportunity to review the FY 2002 proposed goals and indicators at this meeting.

Science Theme Director Reports

Dr. George Withbroe reported on Sun-Earth Connection (SEC). All of the 14 operating missions are working very well. The Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) has a minor problem on one of the experiments that is well covered by the others. In January, there were four cover stories. Most of the missions under development are proceeding nominally. There are a few problems. The Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission has slipped to August 10, 2001, due to problems with manifesting the Jason mission. Solar B is moving into Phase C/D and is scheduled for launch in August 2005. The Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) was threatened with cost growth and the program is implementing $4 M of descopes to limit cost growth. On Solar Probe, a study by JPL found that a non-nuclear mission is technically feasible; however, mission funding was terminated in the President’s Budget Blueprint. It now goes back to the study phase. Dr. Withbroe could not discuss the details of the budget since it has not yet been released to Congress. All of the other missions are green (normal progress). Dr. Withbroe showed some videos of the solar maximum that were shown at a Space Science Update press conference on December 21, 2000.

Dr. Alan Bunner reported on Structure and Evolution of the Universe (SEU). He discussed the budget, the fate of Cosmic Journeys, and some other issues. The operating missions are going very well, and everything is working fine. Most of the missions in development are progressing normally. The only mission that is red is a non-OSS mission-the Cooperative Astrophysics and Technology Satellite (CATSAT), which is a student satellite project. When Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) reviewed the status of the mission, it became clear that the mission was only at Preliminary Design Review (PDR) level. If there is a means to correct it through NASA assistance (at less than $1M), SEU will do so; if not, the recommendation is to let it launch as is. Dr. Drake observed that this is a classic problem with student run missions-if there is no professional project management in place, a student run mission will move more slowly and different “success” criteria should be used. There are some issues (mass and cost) with the Gamma ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) that GSFC is working to resolve. Planck is yellow because of a detail in the letter agreement relating to cross-waiver of liability. This issue has brought the project to a halt. It is receiving attention at the highest levels at the European Space Agency (ESA) and at NASA. Gravity Probe (GP)-B is going well technically; however, the project office has come in with a request for additional funds (current reserves will be depleted by launch). Dr. Bunner highlighted some aspects of the budget. The Cosmic Journeys budget did not make it into the FY 2002 budget. The transition team made it clear that there would be no new initiatives this year. Cosmic Journeys is on hold for another year, but the program is well poised for FY 2003. Funds for the Advanced Cosmic-ray Composition Experiment on the Space Station (ACCESS) were needed in FY 2002; it will be held up for a year. The future of Space Station is uncertain and the budget details on that program are not available yet. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a joint program with ESA, is going well. Dr. Bunner discussed a recent management change on the program-the lead management on LISA was brought to GSFC. The scientific payload will be managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). This management change appears to be succeeding. Both GSFC and JPL have put their best people on the project. In response to a question regarding the view of the science community, Dr. Margon noted that the SEU discussion on this topic did not result in a proposed action item for the SScAC. Dr. Squyres added that the SScAC will continue to focus attention on this program. Dr. Bunner noted the upcoming scheduled SEU launches-the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP), CATSAT (this may slip), and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX). Based upon the Senior Review of operating missions, the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) operations have ended.

Dr. Anne Kinney reported on Astronomical Search for Origins (ASO). There are some real challenges in Origins. Except for Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF), all of the major missions are red, and most of these have budget issues for which there are no solutions within the theme. There are a number of financial problems on Hubble Space Telescope (HST); the Space Operations Management Office (SOMO) funding shortfall is now $69 M. However, the launch date is still holding for November 2001. The Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) has been through a rescope (discussed in detail later in the meeting), but the guideline is still short by $80 M. There is a cryostat problem on the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF); there is a budget shortfall of $42 M in FY 2002. A replan is in work. The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has experienced substantial cost growth; there has been a change in management at Ames Research Center (ARC) and the Center is working on a solution within its budget. The likely result will be a two-year delay in operations. Starlight has undergone a cost increase and is under review; requirements and rescope options are being examined. The Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) project identified a major cost growth last year. The SIM team is working on developing mission concepts for a new $930 M cap. Cost assessment is being done at the same time as the rescope. The Keck Interferometer had first light on March 14. This was a real accomplishment. Dr. Kinney discussed the issues and plans in each of the flight missions in greater detail. Dr. Squyres observed that all of the nearer term flight missions are red for cost reasons; this could indicate that Origins has too much on its plate. He noted that the red situation in Origins is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by SScAC. In response to a question, Dr. Kinney noted that SIM is on the critical path to TPF scientifically, but not technologically. She briefly described the Phase 2 TPF architecture study concepts. The NASA Research Announcement (NRA) for Keck-Keck science will be released this spring for observations to start in the fall. The outriggers for astrometry and imaging have been delayed by permitting issues.

Mars Exploration Program

Dr. Scott Hubbard provided a status update on the Mars Exploration Program. He noted that Aviation Week had a special issue on Mars in December. The Budget Blueprint included funding for a “robust Mars Program;” however, details are embargoed until April. The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) extended mission is underway. Mars Odyssey is on schedule for launch with a 4 day margin. All red team issues have been resolved. Mars Exploration Rover (MER) has been approved to proceed to development. Mass margins have improved significantly. Schedule is the project’s major risk. JPL and its contractors have put their “A” teams on the project. Dr. Squyres seconded Dr. Hubbard’s comment about the quality of the team; it is the best he has ever seen. The Science Definition Team (SDT) activities for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have been completed and the payload Announcements of Opportunity (AO’s) and spacecraft Request for Proposal (RPF) should be released in March. The international cooperation discussions are moving forward. NASA will not sign up to an international collaboration program where the risk of the partner is too high. Dr. Garvin went through the recommendations of the SScAC and reported on each one. The charter/terms of reference for the Mars Task Force was approved in January and members (about 12) have been selected from the broad community. Formal invitations will be issued following final approval by NASA. One possible near term task is reviewing the Mars Program Technology Plan. NASA has re-chartered the Mars Exploration Payload Analysis Group (MEPAG) to evolve to become the Science Working Group (SWG). In addition, there will be a Sub-surface SWG (which includes both scientists and engineers) to look at sub-surface methods. In response to a question regarding why there needed to be another group separate from MEPAG, Dr. Garvin stated that MEPAG did not have all of the expertise to look at the sub-surface. The results of the Sub-surface SWG will go back through MEPAG. Dr. Squyres indicated that any additional work by sub-groups should pass through MEPAG. He thought that the preferred approach should be to add additional members (with the necessary expertise) to MEPAG. In response to SScAC’s recommendation, NASA formed the SDT for the 2005 MRO mission in late November 2000. The recommended MRO science focus is Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO) climatology recovery and high resolution targeted reconnaissance. An AO is in process for competing prime instruments and facility teams. The SDT for the 2007 mission opportunity is currently under development. With respect to the SScAC recommendation on Mars sample return, Dr. Garvin noted that systematic validation of new technologies is required to ensure success of Mars Sample Return (MSR). Eight new technologies are being developed in the Focused Technology Program for use in MSR. Some of these technologies require flight validation at Mars before use in MSR; these will be validated on the Mars 2007 flight opportunity for use in MSR 2011. Dr. Squyres noted that in order for MSR to happen, there must be robust funding for the Mars Program. Based on the 2001 budget runout with adjustments for inflation, early retirement of risk, and technology validation, the earliest sample return mission should be 2014. Dr. Papike took issue with this strategy. Dr. Squyres indicated that the SScAC would return to a discussion of the Mars sample return strategy later in the meeting. Dr. Hubbard noted that the program has established Mars Scout missions; they will be capped at about $300 M. As an initial step, he proposed that 6 to 10 promising mission concepts be selected for funding. Dr. Hubbard showed the proposed two-step Mars Scout schedule. There are windows to accommodate two possible trajectories (north polar and south polar), one with launch in December 2006, and one with launch in September 2007. Dr. Squyres questioned whether the budget and schedule allotted are adequate for technology development and retirement of risk.

Proposed Education/Public Outreach (EPO) Task Force

Dr. Rosendhal discussed a proposal to establish an SScAC EPO Task Force. He showed some examples of significant education products that have been developed under the OSS EPO partnerships and briefly reviewed the chronology of OSS education and outreach. It is now time to have an external “sanity check” on what has been done and whether any significant changes are needed. This is not a new idea; the thought of an advisory subcommittee to provide guidance and oversight had been built into the original 1996 implementation plan. Dr. Squyres noted that the SScAC has been continually impressed and pleased with the progress of the EPO program. The SScAC agreed that the EPO program has reached a state of maturity where it is appropriate for external review. The question is: How can an external review process be formed to best serve the EPO effort? An SScAC Task Force is subject to all of the restrictions that go with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). There are other ways an external review could be done. Ms. Carrie Sorrels indicated that there could be an external group to provide a review and report to SScAC without establishing the group under FACA. Dr. Margon observed that the Astronomy Decadal Survey has been of great benefit to OSS programs, and he suggested that Dr. Squyres talk with Dr. McKee directly regarding the intent of the Decadal Survey recommendation for an external review of the OSS Educational Ecosystem program. The SScAC agreed that it would provide a recommendation to OSS as to how to best achieve the objective. Dr. Squyres tabled further discussion until later in the meeting.

Part [1][2][3][4][5]

SpaceRef staff editor.