NASA SMD SARA Update 15 February 2008

Status Report From: NASA Science Mission Directorate
Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2008

Happy Birthday to Presidents past (and the SARA website which just passed its six month birthday mark). To celebrate, we give you ROSES08. A day late for Valentine's day, but here it is. We have a lot of new information all over the site this time. Please check out what's new, or just browse each page! There are so many updates this time that we have written out a short description of them on the what's new page so you can shop efficiently.

Budget highlights for R&A: The budget roll out is complete and we are sorting through the numbers to show you [in our next update] where the R&A increases are likely to go by division. Check out the FAQ page to see answers to a myriad of budget questions (not limited to R&A) that many of you have been asking.

Please see the Division Corners today to check out the latest input we have from each of them. In round numbers, though, the Space Science divisions each increased R&A at least 10% and as much as 30%. The increases are strategic, so not every program element will be increased. In Planetary, for example, look for significant repair to the Astrobiology program, and the exciting start to the lunar research line, among other changes to come. Earth Science is busy advancing the decadal survey recommendations and the many missions they are starting each have R&A components to them, so while the R&A budget stays the same for Earth, it is really getting a boost in other ways.

See the Earth Science Division Corner for more details, but here are some highlights:

Central features of the FY09 budget for Earth Science include the near-term launches of the Ocean Surface Topography Mission in June 2008 and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory in December 2008, and the initiation of a new funding wedge to accelerate the implementation of the satellite missions called for by the NRC in its first decadal survey for Earth Science ("Earth Science and Applications from Space" National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond"), which was released in January, 2007. With the FY09 budget, two new missions were announced - a soil moisture/freeze-thaw cycle measuring mission and an ice-sheet thickness and vegetation canopy measuring mission, with launches in 2012 and 2015, respectively. The budget for each mission includes funding for a competitively selected science team that will define the mission requirements, develop the retrieval algorithms, support the calibration and validation of the space-based observations, and analyze and interpret the post-launch mission data. The research conducted by the mission science teams complements that in the existing Research and Analysis program; both activities support underlying science and the integration of science using data obtained from multiple platforms.

Heliophysics has just announced the selection of long term R&A-type support from within its MMS mission. Please see the Heliophysics page for details on that, but this 10 year, 10M commitment to research can definitely be seen as both a commitment to long-term stability within their program and support of R&A work. It was a long time coming, due to the mission delays, but now that it is time, the MMS IDS (Magnetospheric MultiScale Interdisciplinary Science) team selections have been announced.

Congratulations to the selected teams:

Dr. Martin Goldman of the University of Colorado, "Simulations of Magnetic Reconnections"

Dr. Melvyn Goldstein of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, "Mission Oriented Theory and Support for MMS".

Dr. Tai-Duc Phan of the University of California at Berkeley, "Coupled Observational-Theoretical Studies of Reconnection".

Each team will be awarded $3.325M over a ten-year period to conduct independent science investigations addressing the Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission objectives. The objectives of the MMS mission are to understand the microphysics of magnetic reconnection by determining the kinetic processes occurring in the electron diffusion region that are responsible for collisionless magnetic reconnection, especially how reconnection is initiated. This selection will provide a major science extension for the MMS mission and for magnetic reconnection science in general.

It is also important to look at the run out as we go forward. Some divisions are increasing up front in FY09 and holding steady (Planetary) and some are ramping up steadily. The differences are a result of what makes the most sense in each case, given the mission queue and demands we know about now. Alan has continued to infuse his philosophy that R&A MUST be protected in order to maximize the return on the taxpayer's investment, and you can feel confident that his position on this will not change.

In Astrophysics, you can see some of the steps that they have taken to restore the health of R&A in Astrophysics. The budget released by the President this year shows an increase in the Astrophysics R&A budget for this year, and steady increases for the next five years. There is a table in the Division Corner that shows the Astrophysics R&A budget, in millions of dollars, for fiscal years 2008 - 2013 as presented a year ago and this year. The bottom line shows the percentage increase for each year.

Also, selections for the Astrophysics Strategic Mission Concept Studies were released this week. Congratulations to the winners (see below), and thank you to all who submitted the many fine proposals.

  • Scott Sandford
  • Josh Grindlay
  • Gary Melnick
  • Stephan Meyer
  • James Adams
  • Geoff Marcy
  • Mark Clampin
  • Olivier Guyon
  • John Trauger
  • Michael Shao
  • Webster Cash
  • David Spergel
  • Kenneth Sembach
  • Paul Scowen
  • Thomas Murphy
  • Roger Brissenden
  • Marc Postman
  • Jacqueline Hewitt
  • Joseph Lazio

Other news: The R&A MOWG met via telecom this week for the first time. Please contact Dr. Guenter Riegler ( if you would like the call in number to observe (listen only mode) on future telecom dates. The next one is currently scheduled for Feb. 28th. A community survey questionnaire will be developed to poll all four science communities on the health and improvements needed for SMD's R&A programs (including processes and policies which we are evaluating). Please spread the word that by signing up to this website you will have input into the questions asked and will be the first to know what is happening as a result.

The EPO MOWG also met this week, and we now have a telecom line large enough to accommodate many more listeners. Please contact Emily Cobabe-Amman if you try and cannot get in, but we believe the line should accommodate those who wish to join. The numbers and dates of future meetings are posted on the EPO MOWG page today.

LPSC news: For those going to the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, march 10-14, the following NASA workshops and Townhalls will be held.

NASA Headquarters will host four events at the 39th LPSC that may be of interest to planetary science researchers.

Proposal Writing Workshop: Sunday, March 9, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Oasis Room. The workshop is open to all interested planetary scientists from senior graduate students to senior scientists. There will be no charge for the workshop. The morning session will focus on understanding NASA's research programs and will include information on how to write a research proposal, where to apply for funding, and what kind of feedback one can expect. Other opportunities for funding, such as participating scientist programs and education/public outreach add-on awards, will also be discussed. The afternoon session will be a Mock Peer Review for participants who are ready to apply for grants and want to understand what happens to their proposal after submission. Lunch will be provided.

Informal Planetary Research and Analysis (R&A) Reception with NASA Program Officers: Tuesday, March 11, Noon to 1:30 p.m., Harbour Club. Planetary R&A program officers, the Director of the Planetary Science Division, and the Senior Advisor for R&A will be available for informal interaction with researchers to discuss research funding efforts. Light hors d'oeuvres will be served.

NASA R&A Townhall with Yvonne Pendleton, Senior Advisor for R&A: Monday, March 12, Noon to 1:30 p.m., Marina Plaza Ballroom. Yvonne Pendleton, Senior Advisor for R&A, Science Mission Directorate, will lead a discussion focusing on NASA's strategic directions in the R&A programs within the NASA Science Mission Directorate, including process changes to facilitate research activities. This discussion is also open to questions or expressions of concern regarding the education and public outreach program within NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Light hors d'oevres will be served.

Improving NASA's Announcements of Opportunity: Community Input: Thursday, March 13, Noon to 1:30 p.m., Marina Plaza Ballroom. Alan Stern, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, has initiated an effort to simplify mission Announcements of Opportunity (such as Explorer, Discovery, Mars Scout, etc.). Any simplification must still result in NASA being able to evaluate the feasibility of proposed missions and in mission teams being prepared for Phase A if they are selected. The first step of this effort is to gather information. NASA is seeking community input in all areas including the current AO, the current two-step selection process, and suggestions for improving both. This discussion will start with a brief presentation by NASA of the goals and constraints on the mission AO process, followed by an opportunity for members of the proposing community to offer their input. Paul Hertz, Senior Advisor for Science Process and Ethics, Science Mission Directorate, will lead the discussion.

Wednesday noon: Alan: "NASA HQ Briefing by Alan Stern"

Wednesday 5:30pm: "NASA HQ SMD/ESMD Briefing featuring Jim Green" with contributions from ESMD.

Best Wishes,

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