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Ilya
2009-Oct-16, 02:59 AM
I can't find the exact thread, but years ago someone on this forum wondered why so much time passes between (Jupiter, I think) probes, and someone else explained that with marginal exception of Mars, NASA does not really have a planetary exploration program -- instead it has a grab bag of mission proposals, whichever science team shouts the loudest, gets funded.

I know it's not quite that bad (and better than few years ago), but there is still truth to this. Here is an example how a science team -- in this case one dedicated to study of Jupiter's moon Io, -- is making its case:

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/decadal/opag/DavidAWilliams_Pt1_Final.pdf
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/decadal/opag/DavidAWilliams_Pt2_Final.pdf

I especially suggest reading part 2, which goes into specific mission proposals (part 1 is mainly about why Io is important):



3. We support the [Io Volcano Observer (http://futureplanets.blogspot.com/2008/12/io-missions-part-3-io-volcano-observer.html)] mission, currently under study, as a candidate for a Discovery-class ‘Io Observer’ mission, consistent with previous Decadal Survey and current Io science goals.
4. We advocate for New Frontiers mission concepts for a ‘Io Observer’ mission later this
decade, when RPS are again available for NF missions, consistent with previous Decadal Survey and current Io science goals.
5. We recommend that an Io orbiter be considered as a mission concept in the future, pending results from any jovi-centric ‘Io Observers’ operated during the 2013-2023 decade.
6. We recommend that in situ Io missions, perhaps penetrators, landers, or rovers, be considered as mission concepts in the future after ‘Io Observer’ missions.
7. We advocate for a space-based UV telescope with diffraction-limited capability to study Io and other planetary targets in the 2013-2023 decade.
8. We advocate for space-based missions that enable long-term (years) monitoring of Io over a range of time scales (seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years), and spatial and spectral resolutions, and we support these type of Io observations that may be obtained by the EJSM.
9. We recommend that NASA expand the time available for general planetary science on 8- to 10-meter class telescopes, by purchasing more time on existing facilities, or by constructing a dedicated large planetary telescope with nighttime AO capabilities.
10. We recommend that future NASA Io-dedicated space missions should include in their budgets support for ground-based monitoring programs that can enhance the spacecraft science return, e.g., by providing better temporal coverage of volcanic eruptions, for a small fraction of the mission cost.

That's quite a shopping list. No way any member of the Io Teams believes they will get all of it -- or even half. But they throw everything they can think of at the board, hoping something will stick. And I am sure teams studying Titan, or Europa, or main belt asteroids, or Centaurs, all have similar-size lists -- although some things surely overlap between competing teams.

It's pretty brutal competition among scientists.

ToSeek
2009-Oct-16, 04:58 AM
Well, NASA has gotten a lot more organized about its deep space missions in the last ten years or so. They now have three categories of missions:

Discovery: Cost under $425 million, development time under 3 years, launches every 2-3 years. Sample missions: NEAR Shoemaker, Kepler, Dawn, Deep Impact.

New Frontiers: Cost under $700 million, a couple of missions per decade. Sample missions: New Horizons, Juno.

Flagship: Billion-dollar-plus missions with major scientific goals that NASA can only afford about once every ten years, even in cooperation with ESA and other organizations. Sample missions: Galileo, Cassini. The next one will go to either Europa or Titan (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/84940-next-big-planetary-mission-europa-jupiter.html).

The "New Frontiers" level is quite recent, so recent that Juno is truly the first mission awarded under the program. (The New Horizons mission to Pluto was put under the New Frontiers umbrella after it was awarded.) As Ilya notes, previously getting any mission of that caliber funded required lots and lots of lobbying at lots of different levels, as seen with the Pluto mission.

Ilya
2009-Oct-16, 12:16 PM
Flagship: Billion-dollar-plus missions with major scientific goals that NASA can only afford about once every ten years, even in cooperation with ESA and other organizations. Sample missions: Galileo, Cassini. The next one will go to either Europa or Titan (http://www.bautforum.com/space-exploration/84940-next-big-planetary-mission-europa-jupiter.html).
A nit -- it's not an "or" any more. NASA decided on Europa just a few months ago.

ToSeek
2009-Oct-16, 05:12 PM
A nit -- it's not an "or" any more. NASA decided on Europa just a few months ago.

That's what I get for trying to put together a coherent post at 1 am. ;)

Glom
2009-Oct-18, 09:55 AM
So is that classification, purely on the basis of cost, or is there more to the mission profile that allows for categorisation.

ToSeek
2009-Oct-19, 04:25 AM
So is that classification, purely on the basis of cost, or is there more to the mission profile that allows for categorisation.

No, I think it's pretty much based on cost. Every couple of years, NASA says "What can you do for us for $425 million?", accepts proposals from worthy candidates, and picks the best one.

And I forgot about the Scout program, which is specifically for missions to Mars that cost less than $475 million. Phoenix was the first, and MAVEN (currently under development) is the second.