An Enabling Foundation for NASA’S Earth and Space Science Missions
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study is based on work supported by Contract NNH06CE15B between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-14823-8
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-14823-5
Cover: Cover design by Tim Warchocki. ATIC balloon launch (courtesy of Eun-Suk Seo, University of Maryland); Saturn (courtesy of NASA); BLAST balloon payload (courtesy of Mark Devlin, University of Pennsylvania); SeaWiFS view of phytoplankton blooms (courtesy the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and GeoEye); solar flare simulation (V. Archontis, A. W. Hood, A. Savcheva, L. Golub, and E. Deluca, On the structure and evolution of complexity in sigmoids: A flux emergence model, Astrophysical Journal 691(2):1276-1291, 2009, reproduced by permission of the AAS); solar x-ray image (courtesy of NASA TRACE team); Infrared Telescope Facility (courtesy of NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii); sounding rocket integration area (courtesy of Stephan McCandliss, Johns Hopkins University); MODIS aerosol data (courtesy of NASA); astrobiologists Stefanie Milam and Michel Nuevo (courtesy of Dominic Hart/NASA).
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OTHER REPORTS OF THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD
America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs (Space Studies Board [SSB] with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2009)
Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions (SSB, 2009)
Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report (SSB, 2009)
A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Heliophysics Program (SSB, 2009)
Radioisotope Power Systems: An Imperative for Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Space Exploration (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Ensuring the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: Elements of a Strategy to Recover Measurement Capabilities Lost in Program Restructuring (SSB, 2008)
Launching Science: Science Opportunities Provided by NASA’s Constellation System (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Opening New Frontiers in Space: Choices for the Next New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity (SSB, 2008)
Science Opportunities Enabled by NASA’s Constellation System: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Severe Space Weather Events Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report (SSB, 2008)
Space Science and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations: Summary of a Workshop (SSB, 2008)
United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Assessment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (SSB, 2007)
An Astrobiology Strategy for the Exploration of Mars (SSB with the Board on Life Sciences [BLS], 2007)
Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration (SSB with ASEB, 2007)
Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop (SSB, 2007)
Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (SSB, 2007)
Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System (SSB with the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, 2007)
Grading NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program: A Midterm Review (SSB, 2007)
The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems (SSB with BLS, 2007)
NASA’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation (SSB with the Board on Physics and Astronomy [BPA], 2007)
Options to Ensure the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: A Workshop Report (SSB, 2007)
A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Astrophysics Program (SSB with BPA, 2007)
Portals to the Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers (SSB, 2007)
The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon (SSB, 2007)
An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs (SSB, 2006)
Assessment of NASA’s Mars Architecture 2007-2016 (SSB, 2006)
Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Venus Missions: Letter Report (SSB, 2006)
Distributed Arrays of Small Instruments for Solar-Terrestrial Research: Report of a Workshop (SSB, 2006)
Issues Affecting the Future of the U.S. Space Science and Engineering Workforce: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2006)
Review of NASA’s 2006 Draft Science Plan: Letter Report (SSB, 2006)
The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon Interim Report (SSB, 2006)
Space Radiation Hazards and the Vision for Space Exploration (SSB, 2006)
Limited copies of SSB reports are available free of charge from
Space Studies Board
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COMMITTEE ON THE ROLE AND SCOPE OF MISSION-ENABLING ACTIVITIES IN NASA’S SPACE AND EARTH SCIENCE MISSIONS
LENNARD A. FISK,
University of Michigan,
BRUCE H. MARGON,
University of California, Santa Cruz,
MARK R. ABBOTT,
Oregon State University
STEVEN J. BATTEL,
YVONNE C. BRILL, Aerospace Consultant
DONALD E. BROWNLEE,
University of Washington
Battelle Eastern Science and Technology Center
MARTIN H. ISRAEL,
CONILEE G. KIRKPATRICK,
HRL Laboratories, LLC
JENNIFER A. LOGAN,
RICHARD R. PAUL,
Phantom Works, The Boeing Company (retired)
MARK V. SYKES,
Planetary Science Institute
JOSEPH K. ALEXANDER, Study Director
CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Administrative Coordinator
CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Editor
VICTORIA SWISHER, Research Associate
LINDA M. WALKER, Senior Program Assistant
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
CHARLES F. KENNEL,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego,
A. THOMAS YOUNG,
Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired),
DANIEL N. BAKER,
University of Colorado
STEVEN J. BATTEL,
CHARLES L. BENNETT,
Johns Hopkins University
YVONNE C. BRILL, Aerospace Consultant
ELIZABETH R. CANTWELL,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ANDREW B. CHRISTENSEN,
Dixie State College and Aerospace Corporation
The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution
JACK D. FELLOWS,
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
FIONA A. HARRISON,
California Institute of Technology
U.S. Naval War College
University of Hawaii
MOLLY K. MACAULEY,
Resources for the Future
BERRIEN MOORE III,
ROBERT T. PAPPALARDO,
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
Pennsylvania State University
University of California, Irvine
JOSEPH F. VEVERKA,
WARREN M. WASHINGTON,
National Center for Atmospheric Research
CHARLES E. WOODWARD,
University of Minnesota
ELLEN G. ZWEIBEL,
University of Wisconsin
RICHARD E. ROWBERG, Interim Director (from March 2, 2009)
MARCIA S. SMITH, Director (until March 1, 2009)
NASA’s space and Earth science program can be viewed as being composed of two principal components: (1) spaceflight projects, including the design, development, launch, and operations of Earth-orbiting and deep-space missions, and (2) mission-enabling activities. Most of the budget of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is applied to spaceflight missions, but NASA identifies nearly one-quarter of the SMD budget as “mission enabling.” The principal mission-enabling activities, which traditionally encompass much of NASA’s research and analysis (R&A) programs, include support for basic research, theory, modeling, and data analysis; suborbital payloads and flights and complementary ground-based programs; advanced technology development; and advanced mission and instrumentation concept studies.
While the R&A program is essential to the development and support of NASA’s diverse set of space and Earth science missions, defining and articulating an appropriate scale for mission-enabling activities have posed a challenge throughout NASA’s history. Practically all relevant external advisory reports have emphasized the importance of mission-enabling activities and have urged NASA to support a balanced program of flight missions and supporting research, data analysis, and technology development.
In the fiscal year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill for NASA and other agencies and departments (HR 2764, enacted December 27, 2007), Congress directed NASA “to enter into an agreement with the National Research Council [NRC] for an assessment of NASA’s research and analysis activities.” In subsequent discussions with NRC representatives, congressional staff members indicated that members of Congress were especially interested in advice about how to assess whether levels of support for mission-enabling activities were too high, about right, or too low.
In response to that direction, the NRC established the Committee on the Role and Scope of Mission-Enabling Activities in NASA’s Space and Earth Science Missions (member biographies are provided in Appendix E) and charged it to identify the appropriate roles for mission-enabling activities and metrics for assessing their effectiveness. The committee also was asked to evaluate how, from a strategic perspective, decisions should be made about balance between mission-related and mission-enabling elements of the overall program as well as balance among various elements within the mission-enabling component. (The full statement of task is provided in Appendix A.)
The committee was not tasked by the NRC to provide a specific assessment regarding the appropriateness of the current budget allocation between the mission-enabling and spaceflight components of SMD (or among the various elements within the mission-enabling component), nor would it have been possible to do so without having more detailed insight into how mission-enabling activities are distributed and budgeted. Accordingly, consistent
with the statement of task, the committee’s efforts included identifying the fundamental roles of mission-enabling activities in the context of the total SMD mission; defining principles and metrics for a robust and relevant portfolio of mission-enabling programs to fulfill these fundamental roles; and maximizing the effectiveness of mission-enabling programs through identification of best practices in the strategic management of complex research and development (R&D) portfolios. Collectively, these efforts will, the committee hopes, help SMD to make a good program even better.
The committee met on January 21-23, March 11-13, and May 20-22, 2009, to gather information and to develop its response to the study charge. (See Appendix B for a list of presentations to the committee.) During the study, the committee received extensive briefings and much useful, relevant information from Max Bernstein, Richard Fisher, Michael Freilich, Paul Hertz, Jack Kaye, Mary Mellott, Michael Meyer, Jon Morse, Michael New, Andrew Roberts, Wilton Sanders, and Edward Weiler (all from NASA headquarters); Yvonne Pendleton (NASA Ames Research Center); and Chris Martin (Caltech). This committee also extends its appreciation to Space Studies Board space policy interns Jordan Block, Abby Fraeman, and Angie Wolfgang for their assistance in gathering material for the committee’s use in this report.
This report provides the committee’s conclusions and recommendations. Chapter 1 presents the committee’s definition of mission-enabling activities and discusses their roles in the broader context of the responsibilities of SMD. Chapter 2 summarizes the committee’s assessment of concerns and issues that deserve NASA’s attention, and Chapter 3 discusses the committee’s recommendations for a set of principles and metrics for managing an effective mission-enabling program portfolio. Chapter 4 presents the committee’s views on best practices for actively and strategically managing mission-enabling activities and on three specific mission-enabling activities—innovative research, interdisciplinary research, and technical workforce development. Chapter 5 presents a consolidated summary of the committee’s principal findings and recommendations.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report:
Daniel N. Baker, University of Colorado,
Michael J. Drake, University of Arizona,
Inez Y. Fung, University of California, Berkeley,
John P. Huchra, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
Molly K. Macauley, Resources for the Future,
Alfred U. MacRae, MacRae Technologies,
W. Allen Marr, Jr., Geocomp Corporation, and
Franklin D. Martin, Martin Consulting.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Christopher McKee, University of California at Berkeley. Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.