Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2001 15:13:59 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: DPS Mailing #01-26: Pluto press release, COSPAR Nominations

Greetings, DPS Members-



The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society calls 
on Congress to augment the President's budget request for NASA
and direct the agency to continue development of the Pluto-Kuiper Belt 
Mission. We are losing an opportunity which will not recur for 200 years. 
At the same time, if Congress is unable to augment the NASA budget request by 
the amount needed to ensure the timely launch of PKB, we request that no 
direction regarding PKB be made - the lost opportunity, while painful, does 
not justify the sacrifice of other NASA space science programs.

The justification for PKB's cancellation has been cost overruns that doubled the
cost of the mission. In response, NASA put the mission out to bid to the 
planetary science community, capping the final budget at $500M over the 
expected 20 year lifetime of the mission. The community responded with five 
proposals meeting those fiscal constraints, two of which have been selected for
study phase.

Just prior to the PKB proposal deadline, the Bush budget blueprint announced
its cancellation, promising to invest in "advanced propulsion technologies" to
get a mission to Pluto before 2020. Congressional members responded by 
requesting NASA to continue with the proposal process, which NASA did.

The idea that a new propulsion system might be invented and implemented in the 
short term which would enable a mission to Pluto for a lower cost than using
current effective technology has no basis in the history of space exploration. 
If anything, reliance on such a system will drive up mission costs to a point 
of impracticality.

Pluto is the last unexplored planet in our reconnaissance of the solar system, 
which began with the Pioneer program more than 30 years ago. It has the
highest contrast surface in the solar system, with dark equatorial regions and
bright nitrogen ice caps. It has seasons, during which we expect several feet 
of nitrogen snowfall each "winter". Its moon probably formed as ours did in a 
giant collision aeons ago. Its interior may contain a rocky core and convecting 
icy mantle - analogous to our planet's metallic core and convecting rocky 
mantle. Passing beyond Pluto, PKB may also give us our only opportunity to view
a primitive Kuiper Belt object out of which icy planets such as Pluto,
and the cores of the giant planets, formed. Many comets, their icy components 
roiling off as they approach the inner solar system, originate from the Kuiper 

Time is of the essence. Pluto is moving away from the Sun, and its tenuous yet
complex atmosphere may freeze out before we have a chance to study it in 
situ. The Sun is moving towards higher latitudes on both Pluto and its moon, 
plunging more and more of their northern hemispheres into darkness, decreasing 
the amount of surface visible to a passing spacecraft.

The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society is 
the world's largest professional organization dedicated to the exploration of
the solar system. PKB is the capstone of the first phase of that exploration
in which the United States has been the leader. We hope that while preserving 
our nation's other space exploration initiatives, Congress will provide the 
resources and direction NASA needs to accomplish this goal. 

Contact:  Dr. Mark V. Sykes,
          DPS Chair

          Dr. Wesley T. Huntress, 
          DPS Vice-Chair



The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) is seeking candidates to be nominated
for COSPAR Awards and Medals, which recognize the outstanding achievements of
space scientists throughout the world.  COSPAR will present the awards at its
34rd Scientific Assembly to be held with the International Astronautical
Federation (IAF) as part of the World Space Congress in Houston, Texas in
October, 2002 (See for further information on COSPAR
awards, past recipients, and on the World Space Congress 2002.)

It is important to honor the contributions of your colleagues.  Please take a
moment to consider nominees for the following awards and medals:

COSPAR Space Science Award
This award honors a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to space

COSPAR International Cooperation Medal
This medal is awarded to a scientist (or group of scientists) who has made
distinguished contributions to space science and whose work has contributed
significantly to the promotion of international scientific cooperation.

COSPAR William Nordberg Medal
This medal is awarded for distinguished contribution to the application of
space science.

COSPAR Distinguished Service Medal
This medal serves to honor extraordinary services rendered to COSPAR over many

COSPAR/Massey Award
The Massey Award is an award of the Royal Society of London and recognizes
outstanding contributions to the development of space research in which a
leadership role is of particular importance.

COSPAR/Vikram Sarabhai Award
This honor is awarded by the Indian Space Research Organization for outstanding
contributions to space research in developing countries.

COSPAR/Zeldovich Medal
Zeldovich Awards are conferred by the Russian Academy of Sciences to young
scientists for excellence and achievements.  Medals are presented to a scientist
in each of COSPAR's Scientific Commissions.

*****Nomination forms can be obtained from Pamela Whitney  (202-334-3477,
e-mail: at the National Research Council, Space Studies Board
(SSB), which is the U.S. adhering body to COSPAR.   All nominations will be
processed by the SSB and must be endorsed by the U.S. National Representative
to COSPAR, Dr. L. J. Lanzerotti.  Completed nomination packages must be 
submitted to the SSB no later than SEPTEMBER 28, 2001.*********


                      Nick Schneider, on behalf of the DPS Committee
                      (submissions to Al Harris: