"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) plans to release an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the third New Frontiers (NF-3) mission no earlier than June 2008. Downselection would occur in 2009. This NF-3 AO will solicit only missions that do not require nuclear sources for power generation or propulsion."
Space & Planetary Science: February 2008 Archives
The Next Great Planet Debate, MSNBC
"Many astronomers say the definition that the IAU came up doesn't adequately reflect the diversity of worlds we see even in our own solar system - and arguably, might even exclude Jupiter as an official planet. Now a replay of the "Great Planet Debate" has been scheduled for August. Pluto may remain in the pint-size pigeonhole - but the other planets, in our solar system and beyond, would get their own pigeonholes as well."
"In round numbers, though, the Space Science divisions each increased R&A at least 10% and as much as 30%. The increases are strategic, so not every program element will be increased. In Planetary, for example, look for significant repair to the Astrobiology program, and the exciting start to the lunar research line, among other changes to come. Earth Science is busy advancing the decadal survey recommendations and the many missions they are starting each have R&A components to them, so while the R&A budget stays the same for Earth, it is really getting a boost in other ways."
"NASA has selected 19 science teams to conduct yearlong studies of new concepts for its next generation of major observatories. The studies will help NASA make decisions about how it explores the heavens in the future, following the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey."
"A month ago today I wrote you an email via NSPIRES about the work being done in NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) to invigorate the flight and research programs we're administering. Although there was good news to talk about then, I could not discuss the content of the President's FY09 budget request and what that budget portends for SMD."
Editor's note: Due to several problems with today's NASA Science Mission Directorate telecon I was unable to ask SMD Associate Alan Stern a question. However, I did manage to get in touch with him after the telecon. I asked him "This budget calls for some new Earth science missions at a time when the Bush Administration is often cited as being uninterested in Earth and/or climate related science. Can you describe the impetus for this decision - did NASA suggest these missions on their own initiative or did the White House ask that NASA propose them?"
Stern said "neither". He explained by recalling that early in his time at NASA he told Mike Griffin that he wanted to try and ramp up Earth Science. According to Stern, Mike Griffin said "I am good with that". NASA then took this idea forward to John Marburger at OSTP only to discover that Marburger had already decided on his own that he wanted to see NASA do this. As such, the idea did not meet with resistance, but rather, it was met with open arms in both locations. "And Mike was green light all the way". Stern said.
Speaking to the overall SMD budget picture Stern expressed enthusiasm for the way things have changed for SMD in the past year, noting that R&A was up and that there multiple new starts which Stern characterized as being "like a Gatling gun as opposed to the occasional pistol fire."