For those of you who have not yet heard, Dr. Edward Weiler, NASA’s Associate
Administrator for the Office of Space Science, has asked the National
Research Council (U.S.) to organize and oversee a planetary science “decadal”
study. The study is intended to follow along the sames lines as the highly
successful astronomy and astrophysics decadal reports. For the planetary
version (under the leadership of Dr. Michael Belton), we are expected to

1). Define a “big picture” of solar system exploration — what it is, how it
fits into other scientific endeavors, and why it is a compelling goal today;

2). Conduct a broad survey of the current state of knowledge about our solar
system today; 3). Identify the top-level scientific questions that should
provide the focus for solar system exploration today (and within the next
decade, 2003-2013); and 4). Draft a prioritized list of the most promising
avenues for flight investigations and supporting ground-based activities.

The corresponding astronomy studies historically have had great political
impact with Congress and the White House, primarily because they have
enjoyed broad-based support and participation from the astronomy community.
For it to be as successful, the solar-system decadal study must receive the
same community support, through open discussions and broad-based input from
the entire planetary-science community.


Please contribute to the decadal study. Although formal panels have already
been organized along subject lines (e.g., giant planets, inner planets,
primitive bodies, etc.), you are encouraged to contact the individual panel
chairs and offer your views on their subjects. In addition, you should
consider joining an existing “community” panel or simply initiate a new
community panel on a topic of your choice. Topics that do not fall easily
into the “object” categories of the formal panels or that span several
categories (such as solar system formation and evolution, comparative
planetology, planetary atmospheres) might be particularly good subjects for
community panels and forum discussions. Note that different groups or
individuals can work on the same subjects within separate panels.

For more information on these activities, please see the Web site that is
sponsored by the DPS/AAS, AGU, GSA, and Meteoritical Society:

As Mark Sykes, DPS Chair states, “We want to cast the broadest possible net
across the planetary science community. All of your voices are needed,
individually and collectively.” A number of different outreach activities
are planned to ensure the widest-possible involvement of all interested
communities in the study. These include public forums that will be held in
conjunction with major community activities (e.g., meetings). Those
interested in hosting such an event are encouraged to contact the Survey
Committee’s Study Director, Dr. David H.Smith, at