Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2005 14:03:04 -0600
Subject: DPS Mailing #05-05: Message from the Chair....
Greetings, DPS Colleagues,
1) MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR
2) 2005 DPS PRIZE NOMINATIONS SOUGHT
3) PRELIMINARY DPS 2005 INFO
4) VENUS EXPLORATION ANALYSIS GROUP (VEXAG)
Last week saw another ominous development for planetary science. On
Wednesday, NASA announced its selections from the latest (11th) round
of Discovery proposals. From 18 proposals, no stand-alone flight
missions were selected, an unprecedented occurrence.
The DPS is stunned by this decision. Discovery proposals require a
tremendous amount of unfunded work by Principal Investigators (PIs),
their Co-Investigator teams, NASA centers, other research centers
and laboratories, and their industry partners.
Are we to believe that none of the flight missions proposed merited
going to "Phase A," which is not selection for flight, but selection
for further detailed study to determine suitability for flight?
The Discovery Program is one of NASA's most innovative and
cost-effective programs. It is a major and in our judgment
irreplaceable part of planetary exploration. Incredible ideas are
conceived, and if all goes well, brought to fruition. Missions are
flown, such as Pathfinder, NEAR, Lunar Prospector, Stardust,
Genesis, Messenger, and Deep Impact, that frankly never would have
had little chance of being flown under the old way of doing business.
While the Discovery proposal PIs have yet to be debriefed on the
details of each evaluation, we do know that some submitted proposals
have heritage from earlier rounds and have in past Discovery proposal
cycles simultaneously received the highest possible scientific ranking
and the lowest possible risk ranking.
Last week, NASA also announced that the next Discovery AO would be
released soon, and officials have told us that both the cost cap
would be raised and the existing budget profile restrictions would
be relaxed. These are welcome developments, but the effect of last
week's non-selection will likely adversely affect the applicant
pool regardless of the scope of the program in the future.
As we noted above, qualified teams and their industrial partners
have invested their own resources, countless man-hours and (all
together) millions of dollars. But in the face of such seemingly
arbitrary actions by the Agency, they cannot be expected to continue
doing so. And as a result, America's space program is the loser.
In effect, the non-selection of potential mission candidates for
study means that a Discovery mission has been cancelled, and the
Discovery selection process has failed. We call upon NASA to
conduct an open selection-process failure analysis, just as it
would for a flight mission loss.
The paradigm of PI-led missions like Discovery represents American
enterprise, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship at its best. The
Discovery Program, and the nascent New Frontiers Program, and the
smaller scale Explorer programs, all PI-led, must not be allowed
to falter. The DPS strongly urges NASA to reaffirm its support
for the Discovery and other PI-led programs by making mission
selections in response to NASA Aos, and to work with Congress
to ensure the funding of these missions.
Finally, we note that last week's decision takes place against
the background of profound change in NASA's directions and
priorities, more details of which are expected in the FY06
Federal Budget to be released Monday, February 7th. The AAS and
DPS will be closely analyzing the implications of the budget for
NASA and the programs within it.
In the meantime, letters, phone calls, and faxes to NASA and the
press in support of the Discovery and other PI-led programs are
critically important. These could stress 1) your disappointment
in the recent non-selection and 2) your support for Discovery and
other PI-led programs; request that 3) NASA openly investigate
the causes of this non-selection; and most important, that
4) NASA recommit itself to making competitive selections in
We ask you, however, to also prepare for a much larger effort
that we may be calling upon you to undertake, which transcends
our serious concerns for individual programs.
On behalf of the DPS Committee,
2005 DPS PRIZE NOMINATIONS SOUGHT
As announced in Mailings #05-01 and 05-02, the DPS Prize Subcommittee
is seeking nominations for 2005 winners of the Urey, Kuiper, Masursky,
and Sagan Prizes. The deadline for submission of completed
applications is 7 March, 2005.
More information is available at
along with a nomination form. A complete nomination will be considered
by the Prize subcommittee for three years. You may wish to contact me
to see if there already is an active pending nomination for your
candidate. Because of the time it takes to accumulate materials
needed for a nomination, I encourage all of you to begin as soon
as possible. The award will be presented at the 2005 DPS meeting
in Cambridge, England.
William D. Cochran
DPS Prize Subcommittee Chair
1 University Station C1402
Austin TX 78712-0259
Ph: (512) 471-6474
Fax: (512) 471-6016
wdc at astro.as.utexas.edu
PRELIMINARY INFORMATION ABOUT DPS 2005
The preliminary meeting website is at http://www.dps2005.org/. It is
not yet possible to book accommodation, etc., via the website. Those
functions will be available soon.
VENUS EXPLORATION ANALYSIS GROUP (VEXAG)
We are working with NASA to establish a Venus Exploration Analysis
Group (VEXAG). While this group will build on a nucleus of US scientists
involved in the ESA's Venus Express mission, it is intended to represent
the full range of scientific interest in the study or our sister planet.
As NASA moves to redefine itself in light of the President's Vision for
Exploration, strategic roadmaps are being developed for exploration and
scientific investigations throughout the solar system. We feel that it
is imperative that the Venus community has a voice as these roadmapping
exercises continue to define mission priorities for the coming decades.
VEXAG is intended to fill this role of assisting NASA in its planning
and to represent the wishes of the community in much the same way as
MEPAG, LEAG and OPAG represent the Martian, Lunar and Outer Planets
If you have a wish to participate in VEXAG or simply want to stay informed
of Venus-related activities internationally, please register at out
new web site.
While this site is now just under construction, it is intended to
act as a locus for information on Venus activities, and as an
archive for and connection to Venus data.
Linda French Emmons, DPS Secretary
send submissions to lfrench at iwu.edu
Submissions should be in text format (no attachments, please).