Subject: [DPS Members] DPS Mailing #07-06: Special Election for Vice-Chair

March 16th 2007

  1)  DPS Vice-Chair Special Election


As mentioned in a previous newsletter, Alan Stern is resigning his
position as DPS Vice-Chair following his acceptance of a position at
NASA Headquarters.  We are therefore holding a special DPS election to
choose his replacement.  The new Vice-Chair will become DPS Chair at
the October 2007 DPS meeting in Orlando.  The two Vice-Chair
candidates are Richard Binzel and Michael Mumma.  Their biographical
information and candidate statements are below.

Please cast your ballot electronically at

The polls will remain open until March 31st.

John Spencer, DPS Secretary



Biographical Information:

Richard P. Binzel received his B.A. in physics at Macalester
College (1980) and his Ph. D. in astronomy at the University
of Texas (1986).  Following a one year position as a Research
Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, he
joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (1988 to present) in the Department of Earth,
Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.  Currently he is the
Chair of the Planetary Sciences program at MIT where he
also holds a MacVicar Faculty Fellowship in recognition
of outstanding dedication to teaching.

His research interests range from near-Earth and main-belt
asteroids to Pluto, applying his expertise in planetary
astronomy.  Using ground based and space based telescopes,
he has found evidence forging a strong link between the
asteroid Vesta and HED meteorites.  Among near-Earth asteroids
he is further investigating both asteroid-meteorite connections
as well as asteroid-comet connections.  He was responsible for
the first definitive detection of Pluto-Charon transit events
in the mid-1980s and used a long-term series of observations
to produce a map of Pluto.  Currently he is a member of the
New Horizons mission science team.  His research work has
been recognized by a Presidential Young Investigator award
(1990) and the Harold C. Urey Prize (1991).

In addition to these research areas, Binzel is currently the
General Editor of the Space Science Series published by the
University of Arizona Press, having succeeded Tom Gehrels
in 2000.  In this time he has co-edited or overseen the
production of titles in the fields of Asteroids, Comets,
Meteorites, Protostars and Planets, and currently Kuiper
Belt Objects.  Each of these volumes serves as a foundation
for growing the field over the next decade, and most importantly,
providing a gateway for new students to enter our field.

Summary of Previous Service to DPS:
  Member since 1981.
  Press Officer 1989-1993.
  Icarus Editorial Board 1991-1993.
  Icarus Associate Editor 1997-present.
  LOC Chair, Cambridge (MA) meeting 1997.
  DPS Vice-Chair 2001-2002.
  DPS Chair 2002-2003.
  DPS Prize Committee Chair 2003-2004.

Other community service activities include:
National Academy of Sciences COMPLEX (1997-1999),
NASA SSES (1992-1995), NASA Outer Planets SWG (1992-1995),
Chair of NASA Keck-IRTF MOWG (2007- ).

Candidate Statement:

The DPS Nominating Committee has asked whether I would be
willing to serve another term as DPS Chair.  (Yes,
this is permissible under DPS bylaws.)

Why have I agreed, if elected, to serve another term?
With the leadership of Alan Stern and Jim Green at
NASA Headquarters,  I believe that RIGHT NOW we have
an unprecedented opportunity to work together with
Headquarters to establish a more stable long-term approach
to the funding of planetary research.  The year-to-year
uncertainties we face in the funding of planetary science
research programs, the inexplicable delays in the
processing of grants, and the declining success rate
for outstanding research proposals all threaten the future
of our field.  Young planetary scientists are among those
most threatened by these difficulties -- and without the
strongest possible support and encouragement for bringing
in new researchers -- we cannot expect to create a healthy

I also believe that RIGHT NOW we have an unprecedented
opportunity to change the culture and the mindset within
NASA Headquarters with regard to the importance of basic
research.  I believe that the future of NASA flight programs
begins with fundamental research.  Fundamental research
discovers and refines the science questions that turn into
science goals for missions.  These science goals also allow
missions to be prioritized.  Quite clearly it is the
responsibility of our community to outline our priorities
for future missions and research directions.  By establishing
agreed priorities, we better insure that the limited taxpayer
resources that are available for planetary research are
directed toward the most important current science goals.

Capitalizing on the current opportunity now presented to
us will require the DPS leadership to work together in a
trusting partnership with the new NASA leadership.  "Trust"
is not a word often used to describe the DPS-NASA relationship
in the past, but it must be the chief characteristic for
moving forward in the immediate future.  If our colleagues
who have now offered their service inside NASA Headquarters
know that they have the initial trust of the DPS leadership,
they will be better able to use their energies for effecting
the structural and cultural changes inside NASA Headquarters
that are necessary for improving the long-term future for
our field. What's more, our NASA Headquarters colleagues face
substantial threats from other parts of the agency to fund
costly initiatives that have little scientific return.  Their
energies, and DPS cooperation, must be together directed
toward keeping a clear balance of science within NASA.

Having had extensive past experience in the DPS leadership,
including being a past chair, I believe I can create this
initial relationship between the DPS and NASA that can seize
upon the unprecedented opportunity now before us.  If elected,
this relationship will be the principal task upon which I will
focus the time and energy I have available for service to the
DPS community.  Ongoing trust and cooperation between the DPS
and NASA beyond this initial opportunity must be earned, but
it has to start now.



Biographical Information:

Michael J. Mumma was educated at Franklin and Marshall College
(A.B. 1963, Physics), and the University of Pittsburgh (Ph. D. 1970,
Physics) and joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center thereafter.  At
Goddard, he has mentored 30 post-docs and senior visiting scientists
and has co-directed four Ph. D. and two M. S. theses, holding Adjunct
Professorships at Penn State Univ. (1982-1989) and the Univ. of
Toledo (2002-2005) for that purpose.

At Goddard, he is founding Director of the Goddard Center for
Astrobiology (2003 - present) and Senior Scientist in the Solar System
Exploration Division (2005 - present).  Earlier, he founded the
Infrared and Radio Astronomy Branch (1975-1978), the Infrared
Astronomy Branch (1978- 1985), and the Planetary Systems Branch
(1985-1990), and he served as Chief Scientist for Planetary Research
(1990 - 2004), all in the Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics
(LEP).  He founded several research activities within LEP, including
the infrared heterodyne group, the laboratory infrared spectroscopy
group, and the cometary spectroscopy group.

He has research interests in atomic and molecular structure, planetary
and cometary physics and chemistry, and the formation, evolution, and
characterization of planetary systems.  His astronomical interests
span the electromagnetic spectrum.  Recent work has utilized
observatories on Mauna Kea (NASA - IRTF, Keck, and Subaru), in Chile
(Gemini South and ESO-VLT), and in space (FUSE and Suzaku/Astro-E2).
He currently is vigorously continuing his cometary studies, actively
searching for biomarker gases on Mars, investigating cometary
volatiles in the environment surrounding young stars, and searching
for ionospheric emission from exoplanets.

He has been a member of DPS since 1972, and he was Organizer of the
1994 Annual Meeting (Bethesda, MD).  He currently serves on the DPS
Research and Analysis Committee.  He co-organized three other major
meetings that were heavily attended by planetary astronomers: "The
Study of Comets" (Greenbelt, MD 1974), "Vibrational-Rotational
Spectroscopy for Planetary Atmospheres" (Annapolis, 1981), and
"Astrophysics from the Moon" (Annapolis, 1990).  Since 1975, he has
served on numerous NASA, NSF, and NRC advisory committees and review
panels.  He served as co-representative from NASA on the Keck Science
Steering Committee (1995-2002), and he currently serves on the
Executive Council of NASA's Astrobiology Institute.

Candidate Statement:

The principal roles of the DPS are: 1.  to provide a forum in which
planetary scientists can present results, discuss issues, and
formulate plans, and 2.  to assist its members in promoting and
achieving community objectives.

Our fundamental objective is to enhance the health and vigor of
planetary science, by which I mean our pursuit of improved
understanding of planetary systems - their origins and evolution,
their current state, and all other related topics concerning them.
Our own planetary system is the paradigm for all others - and our home
- hence it is centrally important.  The chief measures of health and
vigor include: 1.  the pace and significance of new scientific
insights, 2.  the adoption of new initiatives for extending current
knowledge, 3.  the persistence of funds to support ongoing research
and analysis and their commensurate growth to meet expanded
opportunities, and 4.  the maintenance of opportunities for
professional placement and growth - especially by early career

The times are perilous.  The present challenge is clear, and it
differs fundamentally from other serious challenges of recent decades.
First, ALL of science is under attack.  Second, the attack enjoys
support from the very top of the Executive Branch.  Until now, major
challenges took place within NASA's Science sector and often involved
choosing among a plethora of possible science missions.  Now, the
conflict is occurring between the human and robotic (i.e., Science)
exploration sectors, and its outcome is directed from the top of NASA.
The Advisory structure has been changed too, weakening the influence
of active scientists by requiring all advice to pass to the
Administrator directly, through a single committee.  This same logic
leads to reduced funds for Research and Analysis, in keeping with the
reduction in missions.  Efforts to reverse these decisions by
addressing NASA directly have been largely ineffective.

Fortunately, we have a powerful alternative.  Science has many friends
in the Legislative Branch, and they have responded to political
pressure from our community and others.  As a result of this pressure,
some announced program cancellations were rescinded (e.g., Dawn,
SOFIA), and additional funds were added during markup - restoring
significant funds to JIMO, TPF, and to R&A.  This is good, but not
good enough.  The community pushback was done in a reactive mode
rather than a proactive one.  The fundamental change mentioned above
calls for a corresponding change in the way we promote our science.

We must work harder and more consistently to strengthen support for
planetary science, because it is correct for the nation and indeed the
world.  We must avoid strict partisanship - and instead work to
strengthen a tide that lifts all science boats.  We must continue to
address members of both Legislative and Executive Branches at
appropriate levels.  And we must take every opportunity for public
outreach - paying special attention to those avenues with large
"multipliers" - educators, policy makers, and members of the media.

Last, we should not forget that NSF also supports planetary astronomy,
but at a budgetary level that is far lower than our fractional
representation (17%) among members of the American Astronomical
Society.  I believe it is important (and long overdue) to redress that
severe and glaring imbalance.

I will work towards these ends, to strengthen planetary astronomy


Send submissions to:
John Spencer, DPS Secretary (