Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 13:41:22 -0400
Subject: DPS Mailing #02-22: DPS PRESS RELEASE

Greetings DPS members -

       +------------------CONTENTS:------------------------------+
       |1) DPS 2002 MEETING REGISTRATION & ABSTRACTS             |
       |2) DPS PRESS RELEASE: KUPIER BELT/PLUTO MISSION          |
       |3) JOB ANNOUNCEMENT                                      |
       +---------------------------------------------------------+

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DPS 2002 MEETING REGISTRATION & ABSTRACTS 

Registration and abstract submission for the DPS 2002 meeting are now 
available at the meeting web site: http://csem.engin.umich.edu/dps/
Note that the ABSTRACT DEADLINE is AUGUST 5, 9 PM EDT.

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DPS PRESS RELEASE - July 20, 2002
DPS SUPPORTS PLUTO MISSION SOON, BUT NOT AT THE SACRIFICE OF OTHER 
PROGRAMS

The Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical
Society endorses the top priority of a Kuiper Belt Object/Pluto mission
in the medium-cost New Frontier mission category, given in the recently
released NRC planetary decadal report. The report states that the
recently selected New Horizons flyby mission to Pluto satisfies this
objective.  New Horizons as presently configured uses a Jupiter gravity
assist with a launch in 2006 (flyby in 2015/16). Because no funds for a
Pluto mission were in the President's 2003 budget request, Congress
must augment the NASA budget by $122 million over the President's
budget request if that launch date is to be met by the New Horizons
mission.

The DPS supports this augmentation. However, any augmentation less than
this amount, coupled with the need to meet a 2006 launch date, would
require sacrificing other important NASA programs. If the full
augmentation is not forthcoming, the DPS strongly urges Congress to
relax any specific launch date requirement and give NASA the
flexibility to evaluate and choose a development profile and launch
date that allows the scientific goals articulated by the decadal study
for a KBO/Pluto mission to be realized while preserving other Space
Science programs.

Significant effort and money has been invested in the detailed
development of a successful Pluto mission, the recent history of which
has been marked by controversy and political intervention. Originally a
JPL program, it was cancelled in 2000 because of cost overruns. This
caused an outcry by supporters in the planetary community and public.
Following the model of its successful Discovery program, NASA announced
a competition for a Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission that was to be
cost-capped at $500 million.  Before proposals were due, however, the
program was cancelled by the Bush administration. This caused members
of Congress to request that NASA proceed with the initial selection of
proposals for technical study, so that Congress could address the issue
of the mission in its FY02 budget. Congress subsequently directed NASA
to make a final mission selection and appropriated $30 million for its
conceptual development phase in FY02.  No funds were requested by the
Bush administration for the Pluto mission in FY03, with predictable
political consequences.

The Pluto mission is timely and possesses no strict deadlines to be of
value. It has been suggested in the popular press that a launch in
2006 (or 2007) is our last opportunity in 200 years to visit Pluto
before its tenuous atmosphere freezes out as it marches away from the
Sun. This is not accurate on two counts. First, future launch
opportunities are available using both chemical systems and solar
electric propulsion (demonstrated successfully on Deep Space 1), many
not requiring a Jupiter gravity assist.  A statement this week that
missing the 2006 launch window will result in a delay of "at least a
decade" overlooks these known opportunities.  Second, a recent
scientific paper on the subject ("Emissivity and the Fate of Pluto's
Atmosphere" by J. Stansberry and R. Yelle, Icarus 41, 299-306, 1999),
suggests that Pluto's atmosphere never freezes out. This is but one of
many important scientific issues that will be resolved in the course of
the mission.

A more demonstrable concern than Pluto's atmosphere is the fact that
Pluto's extreme tilt results in an increasingly large fraction of its
surface moving into shadow as the Sun climbs to higher latitudes (just
like the polar regions on the Earth that are in complete darkness
during Winter). Today, 7% of Pluto's surface is always in shadow as it
rotates. In subsequent years that fraction grows to 18% (2015), 21%
(2020), and a maximum of 23% (2029). Later launches mean later flyby
dates and a decrease in the visible fraction of Pluto's (and its moon,
Charon's) surface.

Some of these later trajectories also result in higher flyby speeds.
This means that there is less time to collect scientific measurements
and closeup imagery of Pluto's surface is more difficult to obtain.
Perhaps just as important, the inclination of Pluto is rapidly
increasing, making it ever more difficult to target other Kuiper Belt
objects after the Pluto flyby.  In short, the science return is
potentially degraded as the arrival date at Pluto is delayed.

Therefore, the DPS endorses the efforts to fully augment the NASA
budget in FY03 to allow for a 2006 launch of the New Horizons
Pluto/Kuiper Belt mission. However, should a less than full
augmentation be enacted, we consider it critical that Congress places
no launch date requirement on the mission and allows NASA to determine
the funding profile that allows for the soonest practical launch date
and the realization of the decadal survey science goals within the
resources appropriated.

The DPS is the world's largest professional organization dedicated to
the exploration of the Solar System.

Contact: 

Dr. Wesley T. Huntress, Jr. 
DPS Chair 
huntress@gl.ciw.edu
202-478-8910

Dr. Richard P. Binzel
DPS Vice-Chair
rpb@MIT.EDU

Dr. Mark V. Sykes
DPS Past Chair
sykes@as.arizona.edu
520-621-5381

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JOB ANNOUNCEMENT

Curator for Antarctic Meteorites, NASA Johnson Space Center. 
Contact carlton.c.allen1@jsc.nasa.gov

See also AAS Job Register: http://www.aas.org/JobRegister/index.html

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                               Melissa McGrath, DPS Secretary-Treasurer
                                      submissions to: mcgrath@stsci.edu