NASA prepares to conduct a decadal survey for space research

WASHINGTON — NASA is preparing to release a new decadal survey of space research that the agency hopes will provide guidance on what research to pursue on the International Space Station and how to turn it into commercial successors.

The National Academies announced on Aug. 23 that It will release the Biological and Physical Sciences Research Decadal Survey in Space on September 12 At a public event in Washington. The document, titled “Thriving in Space”, will prioritize research in space biological and physical sciences over the next decade.

The primary customer for the decadal survey is NASA, and the head of the agency’s division that manages this research said in a recent interview that she hopes the decade provides clear guidance on what topics to pursue in the next decade.

“The ideal scenario coming out of his contract would be highly targeted priority focus areas,” said Lisa Carnell, director of the Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “A contract with 101 priority domains has no priority domain.”

Along with this focus, she said she would like to see “decision rules” included in the decade, similar to those included in decade surveys in other scientific fields but not in the previous BPS decade. These rules specify what should be reduced or eliminated if funding falls short of budget expectations set during the contract.

The next decade covers research through 2032, after the International Space Station’s planned retirement in 2030. NASA is supporting several efforts to develop commercial stations that could serve as successors to the International Space Station, called Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Destinations, or CLDs, by agency.

Carnell said that although she would look for guidance over the next decade on how to manage this shift, it could be challenging given the rapidly evolving business environment. “The question I have for the decade and its sustainability over 10 years is because the space has become very dynamic,” she said. “How will the recommendations be able to adapt to this evolving environment?”

Its division has already been active in planning the transition from the International Space Station to commercial platforms. This included a white paper earlier this year that outlined all current and planned research capabilities for the International Space Station, which it said was intended to ensure that commercial station developers were fully informed of the International Space Station’s research. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to see everything and find out what they’re interested in providing.”

The BPS division is also trying to prepare for a new era of commercial research with a program called Commercially Enabled Rapid Space Science, or CERISS. The initiative, announced last year, could eventually include flight scientists on a private astronaut mission to the International Space Station so that they could conduct research on the station instead of having NASA astronauts do it.

While the proposed budget increase needed for CERISS did not materialize for fiscal year 2023, delaying the effort, Carnell said it remains a long-term priority for her department. She said such researchers would be similar to payload specialists who flew on shuttle missions but were not full-time astronauts. “They are moving forward, albeit slowly,” she said of these efforts. “We’ll see what the contract comes out of.”

She said suborbital research could provide a step toward flying scientists on orbital flights. NASA’s Flight Opportunities program is now allowing researchers to fly using their experiments on commercial suborbital vehicles, and the agency’s Suborbital Crew Program, or SubC, is exploring how to enable NASA civil servants to make such flights, perhaps as soon as next year.

“Change is difficult, but it also brings a lot of opportunity and excitement,” she said generally of the new search opportunities offered by commercial platforms. “There will be some difficulties, but I think it will be of great benefit to NASA and the space industry.”

While the focus of BPS’s research has been on the International Space Station, Carnell said another topic she will look to during the decade for guidance is activities beyond low Earth orbit. The division is already planning research on the Lunar Gate and the Artemis missions, including a “close-up” of a tissue organ model experiment aboard the lunar lander Artemis.

“The future of exploration requires that we go beyond LEO, so what I’d really like to see them do is determine what portion of our portfolio should be allocated beyond LEO and how much should we continue to do in LEO,” she said. my contract.

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