Status Report

NASA Space Science Advisory Committee Meeting Notes 20-22 Mar 2001 (Part 2)

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

OSS Status Report

Dr. Weiler reported on the status of OSS. The Agency budget is set at $14.5 B (2% increase over FY 2001). Final details of the budget are still under review and will be released with the full budget on April 9, 2001. Hearings have been scheduled for May 3, 2001. Dr. Weiler could not provide further details at this time, although he noted the major features of the Space Science budget that were in the Budget Blueprint: it funds a more robust Mars Exploration Program; it funds key technology investments (e.g., in-space propulsion) to enable a potential future sprint to Pluto before 2020; and it provides critical technology funding to support future decisions on high-energy astrophysics missions. Funding for two missions was deleted-Pluto-Kuiper Express and Solar Probe. In response to a question, Dr. Weiler noted that the Department of Energy (DOE) is very interested in working with OSS on the propulsion/power issues. The Blueprint also called for a study to assess the pros and cons of moving the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) ground-based astronomy program to NASA/OSS. The results of the study will be input to the FY 2003 budget. Dr. Squyres noted that the SScAC had no comment at this time.

Some current “high-profile happenings” include the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) landing at Eros and the imminent launch of Mars Odyssey on April 7. Although Pluto funding was deleted from the budget, Congress has directed NASA to continue with the AO (using funds in the current fiscal year budget). OSS had a number of front-page news stories and magazine cover stories over the past year. Science News compiles the “top stories” each year, and NASA programs have accounted for almost 6% of the “most important” science stories during this time period. OSS was responsible for more than 4%. OSS had 20 of the 25 most productive single programs. NASA accounted for over 8% of worldwide discoveries in 2000, and space science accounted for 4.4%. The Education Annual Report summarizes nearly 400 OSS products and accomplishments. OSS has EPO venues in all 50 states.

Dr. Weiler discussed the streamlined OSS organization. Basically, a layer of management was eliminated. Lines of authority are clear. The Executive Director for Science and the Executive Director for Programs (staff positions to the Associate Administrator) were added to retain all of the positive aspects of the previous theme-oriented organization. The major move was to re-create the “old” organization with three science divisions: Sun-Earth Connection, Solar System Exploration, and Astronomy and Physics. Other Division level organizations include: Mars Exploration Program Office, JPL/NASA Management Office, Resources Management Division, and Policy and Business Management Division. The science themes will be retained to focus science and do strategic planning. Astrobiology will be in the Solar System Exploration Division. Dr. Weiler asked for SScAC advice on what to do with the FACA subcommittee structure. There will be three Research and Analysis (R&A) budgets; however, the uniformity of peer review and how peer reviews are done will be the responsibility of the Executive Director for Science. In response to a question, Dr. Riegler noted that the only cluster that spanned Divisions was the cross-cluster Theory Program; that will be split up. The Mars Exploration Program Office will not include Mars scientists or the Mars science budget. The science money will be in the Solar System Exploration Division; the Program Scientist reports directly to the Associate Administrator and advises the Mars Program Director. In response to a question, Dr. Weiler noted that the Mars Program Management is at NASA Headquarters; in-space propulsion management (the former Outer Planets Program) will also be at NASA Headquarters. Dr. Dressler questioned whether the SScAC could provide some input on where Astrobiology could fit better in the long term. The near-term versus long term is the issue. Dr. Drake stated that one of the aspects of the current organization that should be maintained is the collegiality and overlap among themes. Dr. Weiler added that OSS is in a much better position now to make the streamlined organization work in a collegial manner than it was 10 years ago. Each of the “line” divisions (SEC, SSE, Astronomy and Physics) will have Directors who are scientists and Associate Directors who are recognized managers/engineers.

Dr. Weiler reviewed the responses to the SScAC recommendations. With respect to Outer Planets, the intent is to show Congress and OMB that there are a lot of ideas beyond the Pluto mission. Dr. Colleen Hartman will be in charge of the in-space propulsion program. Due to the budget information embargo, Dr. Weiler could not provide further details at this time. The Astrobiology Task Force topic will be addressed at the next meeting. In response to a comment, Dr. Weiler noted that SOMO is a multi-dimensional problem. There have been some savings and OSS has benefited from those savings. His goal is to gain control of how the operations are done. Dr. Squyres raised the issue of the “red” programs in Origins. Dr. Weiler noted that HST is now yellow, if not green. NGST should be yellow after the next month. The SIM project is working on a rescope aimed at getting it within the cost target; if successful, it will be yellow. If not, there may be ideas to do SIM science more cheaply, and an AO to solicit those ideas is possible. Dr. Squyres asked if it would be useful for SScAC to examine science priorities within the Origins theme and present some findings/recommendations. NGST and SIRTF are clearly the highest priorities. TPF is the cornerstone of the Origins Program. The relative priorities of SIM, StarLight, and SOFIA are the ones that SScAC could look at. The question is: Has technology progressed to the point where NASA could solicit SIM science ideas?

Lunch Talk on the NEAR Mission

Dr. Andrew Cheng gave a lunch talk on the NEAR mission and science. The first asteroid fly-by was Mathilde in June 1997; the second asteroid fly-by was Eros in December 1998. The data acquired in the Eros fly-by helped the encounter two years later. Dr. Cheng showed several close-up images of impact craters, boulders, and ridges. NEAR discovered that Eros is a consolidated (a coherent rock) body, not a rubble pile; its composition is primitive and undifferentiated. Eros’ density is comparable to Earth’s crust and similar to other S asteroids, but less than that of likely meteorite analogs. Its density is uniform to within a few percent. There is a marked deficiency of craters <100 m diameter compared with the Moon; there are more boulders than small craters. Dr. Cheng showed some of the unusual surface features, e.g., flat "ponded" regions, rounded boulders, and unusual ridges. He noted that there is no funding for data analysis (DA) for NEAR after July 2001. Dr. Squyres deferred this programmatic discussion until later in the meeting.Science Theme Director Reports (continued)

Dr. Jay Bergstralh reported on Solar System Exploration (SSE). Most of the missions are in “yellow” status-Stardust (navigation camera problems); Cassini; Mars Odyssey (little schedule margin); Rosetta (scarce funds to complete the JPL instrument); Europa Orbiter (replanning is in process); Advanced Radioactive Propulsion System (ARPS) (development/cost risk); Genesis (delay costs exceed Discovery budget); and Deep Impact (descoping to recover cost reserves). The launch window for Genesis opens on July 30, 2001. Mars Odyssey is scheduled for launch on April 7. The U.S. has an experiment on ESA’s Mars Express. MESSENGER is still proceeding nominally. The first phase selections for the current Discovery competition were made: Kepler (an extra-solar planet search by occultation method); INSIDE Jupiter (study of interior structure of Jupiter); Dawn (an orbital mission to Vesta and Ceres); and Netlander (a Mission of Opportunity). Concept studies for the three Discovery “full-up” missions begin March 22, 2001. Downselect to one is planned for September 2001. In response to a question, Dr. Dressler indicated that Kepler is not a pathfinder for TPF because the stars are too far away to find targets for TPF.

Outer Planets

Dr. Bergstralh gave Dr. Hartman’s presentation on the status of the Outer Planets Program. Serious technical and programmatic problems (increased total mission mass, launch vehicle uncertainty, and delays in the schedule and increases in the cost of the radioactive power source) surfaced last year and came to a head in the September 2000 time frame. As a result, the budget profile for FY 2000 Ð FY 2006 far exceeded the maximum available budget. This led to the cancellation of the Pluto-Kuiper Express mission. Dr. Hartman was charged with developing a replan for Europa Orbiter (EO) and a Pluto mission. JPL presented a draft version of the proposed plan to NASA Headquarters in November 2000. By December, Dr. Weiler decided to release the Pluto AO, rebaseline Europa for a launch in 2008, and create an Outer Planets Program Directorate at NASA Headquarters. The decision to release the Pluto AO was a direct result of a recommendation from the Solar System Exploration Subcommittee (SSES); the other two actions were recommendations of the Executive Committee. The Pluto AO was released on January 19, 2001; proposals are due April 6, 2001. There is no required launch date, but the mission must arrive at Pluto by 2020. This will be a two-step selection with the first step in the June time frame (two proposals) and final downselect at the end of the summer. As noted earlier, Congress directed NASA to go forward with the AO although funding for Pluto was deleted in the FY 2002 Budget Blueprint. The EO launch was baselined for 2008 with two RTG’s. The Independent Assessment was initiated on March 4; an interim report is due May 15 with a final report on July 20. The EO baseline uses up the available Plutonium 238, although there are indications that DOE may reopen Plutonium 238 production. However, if Pluto is approved by Congress to go forward and launches first, it would use the available RTG’s. A possible solution exists for getting to both Pluto and EO, but it depends on DOE getting plutonium production going or successfully developing an ARPS. Dr. Squyres stated and Dr. Bergstralh agreed that selection of a Pluto mission would put the 2008 EO mission at some risk. Dr. Drake added that the Program expects to have a lower risk ARPS by 2006. There is an ongoing study on the RPS issue; a report will be presented to NASA and DOE on April 3. One of the features of the new Outer Planets Program was a workshop/forum on innovative approaches to outer planets exploration. There will be a report on both science and technology approaches. Dr. Hartman has instituted a zero-base review of all technologies in the Program. Each activity will be reviewed to determine its usefulness to the Program. The Budget Blueprint includes additional funds to develop key propulsion technology investments.

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

SpaceRef staff editor.