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AAS Electronic Announcement #91 -- January 2001

AAS Electronic Announcement #91 -- JAN 2001

[Mailed from aas.org at 4:15pm 23 JAN 2001]

CONTENTS

  1. AAS SEEKS DIRECTOR OF EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES
  2. FORUM ON OUTER PLANETARY EXPLORATION: 2001-2020
  3. NOAO SURVEY PROGRAM LETTERS OF INTENT DUE 31 JAN. 2001
  4. KEY RESULTS FROM MEETING OF NASA'S SScAC

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1. AAS SEEKS DIRECTOR OF EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES

The AAS is actively recruiting for the position of Director of Educational activities. Details are in the AAS Job Register at

http://www.aas.org/JobRegister/no11702.html.

Review of applications begins 1 February 2001.

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2. FORUM ON INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO OUTER PLANETARY EXPLORATION: 2001-2020
Ruth A. Netting, mailto:rnetting@hq.nasa.gov

The newly-created Outer Planets Program (OPP) Program Directorate at NASA Headquarters seeks to synthesize the best of recent thought about how planning should proceed during the next two decades for exploration of the outer planets. This two-and-a-half-day Forum will provide members of the international planetary community (including technologists, scientists, and engineers - from universities, industry, and government labs) a chance to share their best ideas.

Dates: 21-23 February 2001
Sponsor: NASA Headquarters Office of Space Science,
Outer Planets Program (OPP) Directorate
Location: The Lunar and Planetary Institute
Center for Advanced Space Studies
3600 Bay Area Blvd, Houston, TX
URL: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/outerplanets2001/
Abstracts Due: 31 January 2001
Registration Due: 14 February 2001

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3. NOAO SURVEY PROGRAM LETTERS OF INTENT DUE 31 JAN. 2001

Investigators must submit letters of intent to propose for the NOAO Survey Program to surveys@noao.edu by 31 Jan. 2001 to be eligible to propose for an NOAO Survey Program commencing in the 2001B semester. Letters should include the broad scientific goals of the program, the membership of the survey team, the telescope(s) and instrument(s) to be requested, the approximate amount of telescope time to be requested, and the duration of the proposed survey. Proposals are due March 15, 2001.

For further information on the NOAO Survey Program, see

http://www.noao.edu/gateway/surveys/

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4. KEY RESULTS FROM MEETING OF NASA'S SScAC
Steve Squyres, Chairman, SScAC

NASA's Space Science Advisory Committee (SScAC) met at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on November 1-3, 2000. This letter to the Space Science community begins a new practice of describing the key findings of each SScAC meeting in a letter that receives wide distribution. The objective of these letters will be to give the community a more complete picture of the activities of both the NASA Office of Space Science (OSS) and its advisory committees.

Mars Exploration Program Reformulation

At our meeting, we were very impressed with the new Mars program management team, as well as with the reformulated management structure. An aspect of the new Mars Exploration plan that we endorsed with particular enthusiasm was the proposed "Mars Discovery" line of missions, which would each be PI-led and openly competed. We recommended that a Science Definition Team be formed immediately for the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and in the relatively near future for the Mars '07 opportunity. We also recommended that the first Mars sample return occur as soon as possible, consistent with a prudent level of risk.

Outer Planets Program Reformulation

The Outer Planets Program is in a state of crisis. We reaffirmed the importance of the two highest priority scientific goals for the outer solar system defined in the OSS strategic plan: to investigate a possible ocean on Europa and to explore Pluto and Kuiper Belt Objects. NASA should aggressively seek ways to recover from the present crisis by reducing the costs of the Europa and Pluto/Kuiper missions, perhaps including competing one or both missions via the AO process.

Astrobiology

The Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Dr. Barry Blumberg, has recently accepted an appointment at NASA Headquarters. We agreed with Dr. Blumberg that if his assignment to NASA HQ will last more than a few months, a search for a new NAI Director should be organized.

After a careful and thorough review of the proposed NASA Astrobiology Research Laboratory, we found no clear and compelling need for such a centralized facility. Many SScAC members felt that such work could better be conducted at a number of smaller distributed facilities. Should the case for a national astrobiology laboratory ever become compelling at some point in the future, we recommended that such a facility should be openly competed and selected by peer review.

Office of Biological and Physical Research

NASA has recently formed a new, fifth Enterprise, to be called the Office of Biological and Physical Research. We agreed firmly with the expressed opinion of the NASA Chief Scientist that the Astrobiology Initiative belongs within the Office of Space Science, where it currently resides.

Research Program

All nine of the new science Clusters in the OSS Research Program are now organizing working groups that will help produce Cluster Reports. These reports will support a senior review of all the scientific research going on across OSS, aimed at determining whether any redistribution of research funding among the Clusters is warranted. We recognize that there is some apprehension in the community about this new review process, but we feel that it is important to go forward with it in order to ensure the continued vitality of the R&A Program.

We were also very pleased to hear that for the first time in many years there is a significant projected increase relative to inflation in R&A funding. We note that some themes, particularly Solar System Exploration, must work harder to expand the scope and accessibility of their Data Analysis programs so that the community benefits fully from the substantial growth in this area.

In recent years, R&A and DA award sizes have not kept pace with inflation. We encourage NASA to remind review panels and the community that in some instances science can be maximized by including a small number of grants that are significantly larger than average.

This summarizes the key results from this meeting of the SScAC. The next meeting will take place at NASA Headquarters on March 20-22. For a more complete discussion of the committee's charter, membership, findings and recommendations, see:

http://spacescience.nasa.gov/advisory.htm

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An AAS Electronic Announcement is mailed to all members around the 10th of each month. Included are important items that do not fit into the schedule of the AAS Newsletter. Because of volume, Meeting Announcements are generally not included.

Items for possible inclusion in this announcement series should be sent to mailto:johnson@aas.org. Keep announcement short and refer readers to sources of additional information.

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