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NASA Space Science Advisory Committee Meeting Notes 20-22 Mar 2001 (Part 3)

Status Report From: NASA Advisory Council
Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2001

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

Subcommittee Reports

Dr. Michael Drake reported on the SSES meeting earlier in March. There were several recommendations. The SSES endorsed raising the cost cap on Discovery missions to at least keep place with inflation. With respect to R&A, the SSES strongly urged the hiring of more civil servants and Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) staff at NASA Headquarters. Dr. Riegler is moving to address this issue. The Subcommittee recommended restoring balance to the study of Near-Earth Objects (NEO's). The SSES strongly recommended that studies of outer solar system advanced mission concepts should be tightly coupled to the immediate SSE goals. Any solution to the Huygens telemetry problem should maximize overall mission science return, even if it delays deployment of the Huygens probe. The SSES recommended that SSE find some way of balancing funding between mission operations and data analysis. The SSES had three recommendations with respect to extended missions: fund a final extended Galileo mission that will return Io data, ending with inevitable Jupiter impact; develop a plan to fund extended missions for Cassini; and plan in advance for Mission Operations and Data Analysis (MO&DA) funds for extended missions for all future missions. Dr. Squyres noted that in astrophysics, the issue of what missions are funded for extended operations is addressed by the Senior Review. The planetary program flight rate has increased markedly and is moving into a realm where a number of missions will be competing for scarce resources. SSE should find a way to deal with extended missions in a coherent fashion the way that other themes have done. Dr. Bergstralh indicated that he would like to conduct periodic Senior Reviews, but there is not a pool of MO&DA funds for extended mission operations for Galileo and Cassini. It should be budgeted into missions in the future. Two SSES subcommittees were tasked to work on the next SSE Roadmap: Exploring Organic Rich Environments (the outer solar system) and Evolution of a Habitable Planet (the inner planets).

Dr. Margon reported on the Structure and Evolution of the Universe Subcommittee (SEUS) meeting earlier in the month. He initially discussed some science results from the Chandra Observatory (the Chandra Deep Field North-a superset of the Hubble Deep Field North). The SEUS discussed several topics: the budget, the OSS reorganization, and Cosmic Journeys. Cosmic Journeys was not funded in FY 2002; however, there was explicit language in the Budget Blueprint for specially designated funds for technology development for high-energy astrophysics. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) and Constellation X are desperately starved for technology development funds, and the budget brings good news. With respect to the reorganization, the SEUS felt that a single advisory subcommittee of reasonable size for astrophysics cannot handle the diversity of astrophysics disciplines, which has increased enormously in recent years. A series of standing subgroups would break parallelism with the other subcommittees. Dr. Squyres noted that there would be a discussion of this topic later in the meeting. The SEUS was concerned with International Space Station (ISS) issues. Descoping of ISS may reduce opportunities for OSS science. ACCESS and the Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope (EXIST) both require ISS; both were ranked highly in the OSS Strategic Plan and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Decadal Survey. Efforts to enable these unique programs must continue. Dr. Squyres noted that this is the kind of issue that can be taken to the NAC-significant OSS science could be damaged by descoping ISS. Dr. Bunner agreed that this should be brought to the attention of the NAC, and the sooner the better. The only place that can accommodate ACCESS is on the long truss. Dr. Squyres indicated that he would be willing to take this issue to the NAC, but that he would like to get more up-to-date information on the status of ISS and the truss before the next NAC meeting. GLAST is the highest priority large SEU mission in development. There are new budget pressures, some specific to the program, but a substantial one caused by recent Agency-wide policy issues, e.g., a need for deorbit propulsion, requiring a larger launcher, as well as other quality control concerns. There are also new GP-B budget problems. The SEUS reiterated that its scientific priorities clearly favor GLAST.

Dr. Alan Dressler reported on the Origins Subcommittee (OS) meeting held at Pasadena earlier in the month. The OS received a detailed progress report on SIRTF and a review of the 7 Legacy programs that will use SIRTF in the first few years. The OS also heard from the new Program Manager for SOFIA, who described some of the difficulties the program has faced and his attempt to put things back on track. Although optimism was expressed, the OS remained concerned that the Program can be brought to a successful conclusion with the available resources. The OS supported Dr. Kinney's decision to attempt to accommodate the cost overruns within the SOFIA budget. The OS also received a briefing on SIM. The project has been challenged to consider alternate designs that satisfy three requirements-fit within a cost cap of $930 M, have terrestrial planet detection as a key mission goal, and identify targets for TPF. The Project advocated the "Shared Baseline SIM," which maintains most of the original science and should fit within the cost envelope. The OS was impressed by this design, which eliminates the difficult 12-m metrology boom and could be launched with the Shuttle. The OS recommended that the SIM team be given approximately two years to develop the required component technology and integrate it into a systems-level testbed that validates SIM's error budget and performance at the level necessary to detect terrestrial planets. These demonstrations should be prerequisites to initiating the Non-Advocate Review (NAR) and entering into implementation phase. If at that time (early in Phase B), they are not able to demonstrate such performance, then a significant restructuring of the program or cancellation should be considered. Dr. Beichman added that the big issue on SIM is whether the science program can be accomplished within the cost cap and the required technology can be demonstrated. This recommendation puts milestones on that decision process. With respect to NGST, the OS believes that even with all of the proposed changes, NGST will remain the immensely powerful facility given first rank by the Decadal Survey. The OS shared the concern of the Interim Science Working Group (ISWG) about the complexity of proposed instrument collaborations among U.S., Canadian, and European instrument builders. The OS strongly favored the U.S. having responsibility for the IR camera. The OS stressed the importance of mid-IR imaging and spectroscopic capability on NGST. It is needed to continue and extend the science of SIRTF. However, the OS agreed that the mid-IR instrument should not drive the development of NGST. It is premature to consider eliminating the instrument without looking at possible trade-offs. The OS felt that the integrity of the Origins theme and advisory structure should be preserved. The OS discussed the total funding shortfall in the OS program and whether the theme could afford two missions to develop interferometry. It also questioned how the theme could find the resources to develop important technologies. Discovery class missions could develop technology as well as provide important mid-decade science needed to properly design TPF. Dr. Kinney indicated that she has given a lot of thought to a major Origins re-architecture. Currently, she is waiting for the results of the SIM rescope. If the rescope effort looks good, it may not be necessary to do a major re-architecture. An appropriate route would be to convene a workshop, including members of OS, to make some evaluations.

Dr. David McComas reported on the Sun-Earth Connection Advisory Subcommittee (SECAS) meeting held in February. The SECAS recognized the excellent progress on Solar Probe and continued to endorse it in the strongest possible terms. Its cancellation will have dire consequences for some of the highest priority science in the space science program. With respect to Living With a Star (LWS), the SECAS had several recommendations. Science threads and cross-platform impacts should be mapped into each of the notional platforms. The Science Architecture Team (SAT) should identify and prioritize elements for which observations and modeling/theory can make the most progress. In particular, early resolution of this issue is important for allocation of funds. Science and Technology Definition Teams (STDT's) should be organized by platform and composed of interdisciplinary constituents. Low Cost Access to Space (LCAS) is a key component of the SEC theme. The SECAS applauded the decision to place leadership for LCAS in the SEC theme. It recommended a goal of 30 flights per year with a mix of vehicles chosen for the best possible science return. If a university initiative matures with new funds, the SECAS suggested that LCAS should be the centerpiece of that initiative. Another issue that the SECAS discussed was new, unilateral "boilerplate attachment" clauses being inserted into grants and contracts without sufficient forethought as to their potential impact, clarity, or relevance. SECAS recommended a public comment period soliciting input from all affected parties before new boilerplate attachments are inserted into grants and contracts. Dr. Smith recommended that someone check to see if there was a public comment period; he thought that OMB had gone through such a period. He noted that NASA was implementing OMB policy. Dr. Allen recommended that someone from the Chief Information Officer's (CIO's) office come to the SScAC meeting to discuss this with the Committee. Dr. McComas noted that the point was that there should be a public comment period, with input from all affected parties, before new boilerplate is inserted into grants and contracts. Dr. Squyres requested that the SScAC hear from the appropriate person whether or not NASA has a public comment period on changes to boilerplate. Dr. Margon felt that the SScAC should also question the specific issue under Security Requirements for Unclassified Information Technology Resources (fingerprinting contractors and subcontractors). Dr. Drake observed that the actual implementation of the requirement (monitoring and reporting in addition to fingerprinting) was not in any indirect cost rate and is intrusive and excessive. Dr. Squyres noted that the SScAC would return to the issue of boilerplate later in the meeting. With respect to Solar Terrestrial Probes, the SECAS reiterated that scientific return is the paramount concern. While the SECAS wanted to keep the flight rate as high as possible, it recommended that SEC leadership should have flexibility in applying the cost guidelines to ensure that the unique scientific return of each mission is not compromised. Finally, the SECAS reiterated its very strong endorsement of Space Technology (ST)-5, and urged NASA to maintain the constellation mission-enabling elements of the ST-5 program at the expense of other, more generic technologies or even the ST timeline, if necessary. Dr. McComas summarized the four topics that need engagement from SScAC: support of Solar Probe; LCAS; public comment periods on boilerplate attachments; and maintaining constellation mission-enabling elements of ST-5.

Research Program Status

Dr. Guenter Riegler commented on the findings and recommendations from the last SScAC meeting. On the R&A comparative review, all of the writing panels except astrobiology have formed. With respect to astrobiology, the burden is on Dr. Mike Meyer and he is working on it. Proposals will be due in late April and the review will take place in June. It is not too late to make recommendations for panel candidates. OSS is making good progress. With respect to the clusters and how they map into the new divisions, Dr. Riegler indicated that with the exception of the Theory Cluster, which is already separated into two sub-clusters, there is only one small item that may be moved-the search for other planet systems around nearby stars, which is currently carried in the planetary/origins research program and may go into the astrophysics program. The projections for R&A funding show an increase in future years. Many of the grants decisions in planetary, astrophysics, and astrobiology are late. There have been expressions of interest from people to come to Headquarters to work on the grants process. In addition, OSS is getting more help from the peer review contractor. There will be two additional people assigned at GSFC. Hopefully, all of this will speed up the OSS grants process. There should be a long-term solution to resolve "gaps" in grants coverage. Dr. Riegler noted that there have been problems at Headquarters, GSFC, and also the receiving institutions (e.g., failing to submit progress reports). Dr. Drake noted that the SSES recognized the issues and was pleased with Dr. Riegler's response.

Dr. Squyres highlighted the issues that had surfaced during the day:

  • Education Task Force Having an independent review is a good thing to do. There was not a thorough discussion on whether a FACA Task Force would be the best way to do that. This topic was tabled until the next meeting when Dr. Rosendhal could participate in the discussion
  • Mars Program The SScAC could provide some comments on the competed Scout class of missions.
  • Reorganization of the subcommittee structure Both the OS and SEUS felt that the present thematic structure should be retained; the SScAC needs to discuss this further.
  • Boilerplate in grants Additional information will be provided and discussed further.
  • Increases in the caps on certain classes of missions (MIDEX and Discovery) if there are going to be changes in caps, the SScAC should make recommendations. Additional factual information is needed.
  • Impact of ISS descoping on ACCESS SScAC can carry a message forward to NAC about the impact on an important element of the Space Science Strategic Plan, but further discussion is needed; in addition, the SScAC should reiterate the importance of ACCESS to space science. Additional information on the status of ISS is needed prior to the NAC meeting.
  • Outer Planets and Origins These elements are in a state of stress and are areas of extremely high science priority. Dr. Drake felt that for Outer Planets, it is premature for the SScAC to make a recommendation or take an action at this time. The SSES could bring something to the SScAC at the next meeting. With respect to Origins and the status of replanning activities underway, the SScAC did not feel that it could make a productive recommendation at this time. Dr. Dressler noted that the OS may address something specific at the next meeting.
  • Solar Probe A suggestion was made to hear about the program at the next meeting. A presentation on the science was scheduled for the next day.
  • A briefing is needed at the next meeting about radioactive power sources, perhaps from the DOE.

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

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