Space & Planetary Science: September 2020 Archives

NASA OIG: NASA's Planetary Science Portfolio

"While PSD and the Centers are focused on meeting current mission needs, they are at risk of neglecting investments that would help ensure long-term maintenance of NASA's unique planetary science infrastructure. These include (1) sustaining technical capabilities to support future mission needs; (2) a workforce facing increasing risk from an impending wave of retirements that is exacerbated by the lack of sufficient workforce data for management to make informed decisions, challenges associated with transfer of knowledge, and limited awareness of hiring authority best practices; (3) a lack of adequate funding to repair, maintain, and modernize the Deep Space Network, which provides tracking, telemetry, and command services for deep space missions; and (4) funding mid-level technology development. Moreover, the lack of a cohesive "One NASA" approach by stakeholders, including Center management, Mission Directorate management, and NASA's technical workforce, is hindering the Agency's ability to identify, prioritize, and address longer-term risks to planetary science infrastructure."

Breakthrough Initiatives to Fund Study into Search for Primitive Life in the Clouds of Venus

"Breakthrough Initiatives, the privately-funded space science programs founded by science and technology investor and philanthropist Yuri Milner, are funding a research study into the possibility of primitive life in the clouds of Venus. The study is inspired by the discovery, announced yesterday, of the gas phosphine, considered a potential biosignature, in the planet's atmosphere. The science team undertaking the research will comprise world-class physicists, astronomers, astrobiologists, chemists and engineers, led by Dr. Sara Seager, Professor of Planetary Science, Physics and Aerospace Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The group will investigate the scientific case for life and analyze the technical challenges of an exploratory mission in the event that such evidence proves compelling."

OIG: NASA's Management of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy Program

"The lack of clear and achievable performance expectations and lack of concurrence between SMD and SOFIA management on science output goals including publication and citation metrics has reduced productivity and threatens the Program's future viability. The Program is unlikely to achieve the community's expectation of 150 publications per year by 2022, or the Program's goal of 100 annual publications, as it only produced 33 publications in 2019 and the actions proposed to meet this goal fall short of the transformational changes required to address current operational and technical challenges. Further, the proposed actions are unlikely to mitigate SOFIA's lack of competitiveness because of the Program's poor efficiency on a science-per-dollar basis when compared to other observatories."

Keith's note: A year and a half ago Jim Bridenstine directed NASA to fix its online services. he told the agency "I am calling for a full modernization of NASA's digital presence to best reflect the priorities and activities of the Agency in this new era of science, discovery, and exploration. To accomplish that we will: ..." . Have they done what he asked them to do? No. In fact, some things have just gotten worse.

Here's one example. Go to NASA Science Mission Directorate homepage and click on "news" and then "press releases". You'd expect to see a current listing, right? Guess again. The last one posted is dated 30 July 2020. No mention of NASA's Chandra Opens Treasure Trove of Cosmic Delights or Primary Mirror for NASA's Roman Space Telescope Completed or The Moon Is Rusting, and Researchers Want to Know Why issued in the past 24 hours. If you go to More science news they are not mentioned either.

But if you go to NASA.gov these things are available. Curiously when you go to NASA.gov there is no way to find the SMD homepage. If you click on Solar System and Beyond you see SMD's recent stories but no link to the SMD homepage. If you look at the SMD homepage you will notice that there is no link to NASA.gov - unless you scroll all the way down to a little link at the bottom of the page.

If you use the NASA.gov search engine and look for "astrobiology" the official NASA Astrobiology website never shows up in the search results (I stopped looking after 3 pages of results).

In summary: NASA SMD won't easily send you to NASA.gov and NASA.gov won't send you to SMD. None of these sites has a consistent and current link to the things that SMD releases - and the search engine for all of NASA can't even find the main home page of the program (Astrobiology) that drives all the science on the fancy new $2 billion rover headed to Mars.

- NASA Has Had A Year To Reorganize Their Web Presence. Did They?, earlier post
- SMD Sends A $2 billion Astrobiology Mission to Mars and Then Forgets About Astrobiology, earlier post
- NASA Just Can't Stop Doing Web Stuff Twice UPDATE: Three Times, earlier post
- NASA's Confusing ICESAT-2 Websites, earlier post
- Progress Made In Making NASA's Internet Presence Leaner, earlier post
- Dueling NASA Websites Update, earlier post


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