37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 23 Planetary Sciences I
HAD Oral, Tuesday, September 6, 2005, 11:00am-12:30pm, Umney Theatre, Robinson College

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[23.01] NASA and the Search for Planetary Systems: An Historical Perspective

S. J. Dick (NASA HQ)

Historically the search for planetary systems arose in three successive but overlapping contexts at NASA: 1) the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in the 1970s; 2) the expansion of planetary science in the 1980s; and 3) studies in the 1990s that coalesced into the program known as the ``Astronomical Search for Origins." What began as workshops and ad hoc discussions in the early 1970s ended a quarter-century later in some of the most complex programs NASA had ever conceived, including detailed designs for real space missions. Under the realm of SETI, planetary detection techniques were discussed in three NASA-sponsored activities in the 1970s: the report of the workshops chaired by Philip Morrison, The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (1977), based on two smaller workshops chaired by Jesse Greenstein; David Black's 1976 Project Orion summer study to design a ground-based optical interferometer; and a 1979 workshop on planetary systems run by Black and William Brunk from NASA Headquarters. In the second area, by the mid-1980s, in the wake of the IRAS findings and the Beta Pictoris phenomenon, NASA's planetary science program was attempting to extend its reach from our solar system to other planetary systems. It did this through its own committees and the advisory capacity of the National Academy's Space Science Board (SSB). The NASA publication Planetary Exploration through the Year 2000: An Augmented Program (1986), the SSB's own study published in 1990, and the study known as Toward Other Planetary Systems (TOPS), were particularly important. By 1996 NASA's new ``Origins" program was announced, including NGST, SIM and TPF. Under the Origins program, the search for planetary systems was an integral part of the NASA space science enterprise guiding principle of cosmic evolution, an essential step in the search for life.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.