The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will appoint the Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences (CAPS) to operate as an ad hoc committee. The overarching purpose of the committee is to support scientific progress in astrobiology and planetary science and assist the federal government in integrating and planning programs in these fields by providing advice on the implementation of decadal survey recommendations. The CAPS provides an independent, authoritative forum for identifying and discussing issues in astrobiology and planetary science between the research community, the federal government, and the interested public.
The CAPS will issue reports that will provide guidance to federal agencies that support astrobiology and planetary science research. The CAPS scope spans space-based and supporting ground-based planetary research within our own planetary system, including, for example, geosciences, atmospheres, particles and fields of planets, moons, and small bodies, as well as astrobiology, planetary astronomy, and planetary protection. The CAPS’s scope also includes appropriate cross-disciplinary areas and consideration of budget and programmatic aspects of the implementation of the decadal survey.
The committee will build on the current decadal survey of the field, “Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022” (VVPS) and monitor the progress of its recommended priorities for the most important scientific and technical activities in that report and recommendations in the mid-decadal review report due to be issued in 2017.
The committee will carry out its charge by undertaking the following tasks:
- At each of its in-person meetings, as appropriate, the committee may prepare concise assessments of progress on the implementation of the decadal survey’s recommended scientific and technical activities. The assessments will be based on evidence gathered by the committee at its in-person and virtual meetings. The committee’s assessment reports may include findings and conclusions on key strategies being pursued by the agencies and the status of agency actions that relate to the state of implementation. The reports may also highlight scientific discoveries and engineering and technical advances relevant to progress on the science objectives identified in VVPS and in addition will focus on one or more of the following types of issues:
- The scientific impact of a change in the technical and engineering design, cost estimate, schedule, or programmatic sequencing of one or more of the survey-recommended activities;
- The impact of a scientific advance on the technical and engineering design, schedule, or programmatic sequencing of one or more survey-recommended activities;
- The scientific impact of a course of action at a decision point described in the survey report and recommended therein as being suitable for consultation with an independent decadal survey implementation committee; and
- The scientific impact of implementing recommendations from the mid-decadal review and other relevant National Academies’ reports.
- At an in-person meeting, the committee may prepare a concise report with advice on the preparation for future decadal and mid-decadal studies. These reports will be based on evidence gathered by the committee at its in-person and virtual meetings. Future decadal and mid-decadal studies will be carried out by an ad hoc committee appointed by the Academies under a separate task.
- For advisory activities assessed to require a more in-depth review than is possible through the normal operation of the CAPS, the committee will assist the Academies in formulating the task and committee membership for such studies which will be designed as separate tasks.
The CAPS will convene to conduct an independent review of the White Paper on Standards of Evidence for Life Detection and issue a short report addressing the following questions:
- Does the white paper include a clear and transparent description of the process?
- Does the report accurately reflect the scientific literature? Are there any crucial content areas detrimentally underrepresented in the report?
- Are the assumptions valid and reasonable?
- Are the conclusions valid and supported?
- Are there potential limitations or data gaps that would substantially impact the conclusions?