Broadcast 1200 (Special Edition)

02 Aug 2009 Dr. Dwayne Day
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Guest: Dr. Dwayne Day. Topics: Decadal Survey, Space Studies Board, space science missions, U.S. space policy. Dr. Dwayne Day was our guest for today's Space Show program. We started Segment 1 with a definition of the Decadal Surveys and the National Research Council's Space Studies Board. You can learn more by visiting their website at www7.nationalacademies.org/ssb/. If you ever wanted to learn how space science missions were decided, budgeted, and implemented, this is the discussion and program for you. Dr. Day explained how the science missions were designed to ask and answer key solar system big questions and that such questions were at the root of the Decadal Surveys. You do not want to miss this discussion and mark this program as I'm sure it will serve as a reference for us all in understanding space science missions and the space science side of NASA. The first segment of today's show is devoted to an in-depth discussion of this subject. In Segment 2, we continued talking about the Decadal Surveys, especially the Planetary Science Decadal Survey which was fairly new and the astronomy survey which dates back several decades. Here we talked about Europa being a top priority mission dating back from 2001 but it has not yet been undertaken. Dwayne explained the rules for missions bridging one Decadal Survey period to another. Dwayne also explained the categories of missions in that both the planned Europa and Titan missions are known as Flagship Missions, the highest possible level for a science mission and the most costly. A listener asked Dwayne if there had ever been or would be science missions planned around human spaceflight. While Dr. Day did not rule it out, he said it would probably be too costly as human missions are extremely costly and the science budget would be severely disrupted to fund such a mission. Toward the end of this segment, we talked about lunar science and the probable bias against lunar science and why such bias exists. Again, this is an important discussion you will want to hear. Segment 3 was a longer segment as this show was extended to a full two hours. We started off this segment by asking Dwayne if the space science budget was stable or if it had to be fought for every step of the way. We learned that it is fairly stable, around one-third of the total NASA budget. We also learned that science missions are competitive but as much as possible, the system used in the United States removes the political process from mission selection. For example, NASA is given a fixed sum of money for science missions, the one-third of its budget. No mission is ordered or championed by anyone to the extent that it is selected as a favor or special interest. Instead, missions are presented and they compete with each other for a share of the fixed science budget. Dwayne was asked how science missions were done in other countries and he said many were trying to model the United States way of doing it to remove the politics from mission selection. During this segment, the question was asked about the influence and necessity of support in space policy, specifically civilian space policy by the general population. Dwayne did not think it was that important. A listener asked another question about the influence of powerful members of congress and Dwayne suggested that influence was more regional and that space states do focus on getting and keeping space jobs in their state. He was then asked if the space advocacy groups along with the space enthusiasts have a significant impact on space policy and again the answer was no. That said, there were niches or pockets of influence such as the personal spaceflight groups and the AST regulations and policies. In general, the public is not so enthusiastic about space in terms of it being relevant and in continuing the discussion about the space advocacy groups, Dr. Day suggested that the space enthusiast/advocacy vision might not even resonate with the public and it could be an outdated vision. Several listeners sent in comments about people they know in the public not that interested in space, certainly not that interested in going to space. Dwayne mentioned an earlier article he had written suggesting that the space enthusiasts look inward to see why they do not appeal to others. This is certainly a discussion you will want to hear! Toward the end of the program, Dwayne was asked if NASA Administrators take an active role in promoting and championing space science. Some do and he cited examples with Dan Golden and O'Keefe. He also cited the opposite example of Dr. Griffin. The last topic we touched upon dealt with suborbital research and the use of the developing suborbital space planes for some of this research. Dwayne had some very interesting comments and observations about this given his involvement with suborbital science opportunities. If you have questions or comments for Dr. Dwayne Day, you can send them to him at zirconic1@cox.net.

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