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New from the Space Studies Board

March 24, 2010

The Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences has just released the results of a study of NASA’s balance of mission-enabling activities to mission activities.

In short, they studied how R&A, SR&T, MO&DA, and all those other great acronyms that mean RESEARCH GRANTS fit in to NASA’s charter to launch missions to explore the earth, solar system, and beyond.

It’s an important question — you might want to read the executive summary and the report’s recommendations if you’re interested in this on a strategic level.

The description of the full report, from the Space Studies Board, follows:

NASA’s space and Earth science program is composed of two principal components: spaceflight projects and mission-enabling activities. Most of the budget of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is applied to spaceflight missions, but NASA identifies nearly one quarter of the SMD budget as “mission enabling.” The principal mission-enabling activities, which traditionally encompass much of NASA’s research and analysis (R&A) programs, include support for basic research, theory, modeling, and data analysis; suborbital payloads and flights and complementary ground-based programs; advanced technology development; and advanced mission and instrumentation concept studies.

While the R&A program is essential to the development and support of NASA’s diverse set of space and Earth science missions, defining and articulating an appropriate scale for mission-enabling activities have posed a challenge throughout NASA’s history. This volume identifies the appropriate roles for mission-enabling activities and metrics for assessing their effectiveness. Furthermore, the book evaluates 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. Collectively, these efforts will help SMD to make a good program even better.

The executive summary contains the major findings and recommendations.  Both the summary and the full pdf — and many, many other reports — are free online at the website for the National Academy of Sciences.

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