NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group: Same Old Answers or Open To New Ideas?

By Keith Cowing
April 16, 2012
Filed under
NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group: Same Old Answers or Open To New Ideas?

According to the NASA press release “NASA Planning Group Takes Key Steps for Future Mars Exploration“:
“Starting today, the scientific and technical community across the globe can submit ideas and abstracts online as part of NASA’s effort to seek out the best and the brightest ideas from researchers and engineers in planetary science. Selected abstracts will be presented during a workshop in June hosted by the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.”

Yet according to the conference’s website at “Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration

“While we hope to accommodate all possible concepts, the workshop venue is limited to roughly 185-200 participants. If the number of submitted abstracts exceeds this limit, a NASA-designated program panel will review the abstracts and develop the final workshop attendee list. In order to encourage broad participation, industry and government laboratories (including NASA Centers) will be asked to limit participation to individuals presenting ideas/concepts. University research groups are encouraged to send principal investigators as their representatives, and to recognize that the number of attendees will be limited.”

At last week’s media telecon NASA representatives stressed that this review process and this meeting were going to be “transparent and open” and that people from outside NASA would be encouraged to attend. This does not synch with the meeting description that has been posted.

It sounds like NASA is going to limit attendees and presentations. Moreover, instead of trying to encourage new ideas (younger participants) the older PIs are the ones who will attend. All too often these “independent” NASA activities are just the same old faces engaged in choir practice and Powerpoint generation.

I asked if this event would be webcast in its entirety and Doug McQuiston said “yes”. I wonder if NASA will allow remote participation – you know, like everyone in the real world can now do. Stay tuned. Will this MPPG activity be yet another slow motion exercise resulting no real change in the status quo other than lowered budget reactions or will NASA really think outside the box this time?

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.