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The Role and Scope of Mission-Enabling Activities in NASA's Space and Earth Science Missions

Project Scope

An ad-hoc committee will be organized under the auspices of the Space Studies Board to conduct a study of mission-enabling activities in NASA's space and Earth sciences program. The study will identify the appropriate roles for mission-enabling activities and metrics for assessing their effectiveness. It also will evaluate how, from a strategic perspective, decisions should be made about balance between mission-related and mission-enabling elements of the overall program as well as balance between various elements within the mission-enabling component.  Among the topics to be considered are the following:
  • Roles and objectives of mission-enabling activities in NASA as a mission-oriented agency;
  • Necessary characteristics of an effective program of mission-enabling activities, including metrics by which effectiveness can be evaluated;
  • Principles and metrics for determining the appropriate balance of investments between mission-enabling activities and space flight missions so as to best support the Agency's overall strategic objectives;
  • Principles and metrics for determining the appropriate allocation of effort and resources between various mission-enabling program components, including scientific infrastructure (e.g., airplanes, computing) that enables R&A activity;
  • The role and proper fraction of support that should be devoted to "innovative" (high risk, high payoff) research, and whether this might vary between science areas;
  • The extent to which current R&A programs support cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary science, especially across the divisions within SMD;
  • The role of R&A programs in training the next generation of Earth and space scientists who will contribute to NASA's programs in the future; and
  • Relevant benchmarks from industry or other public or private institutions where similar mission versus mission-enabling portfolio allocation assessments are made.
The project is sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.