The NASA Astrobiology Program is presently engaged in creating a 2014 Strategic Plan. To ensure that it is aspirational, inspirational, and inclusive of the diversity of the astrobiology community, the Astrobiology Program engaged the services of an innovation consulting firm, KnowInnovation. The Strategic Plan enterprise was launched on May 6, 2013 with the first in a series of five hour-long webinars, each broadly focused on a topic connected to the 2008 NASA Astrobiology Roadmap but aimed at astrobiology's future. Following each of these NASA PI-led webinars, over 500 members of the astrobiology community engaged in a spirited, week long, on-line debate that produced a rich record of controversy and critical knowledge gaps.
The second stage of Strategic Plan-making was launched the week of June 17, 2013. Under the auspices of the National Research Council, 60 scientists gathered for four days at the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, VA. The goal of the gathering was to build, by brainstorming, argument, and consensus, a collection of working documents, each focused on a broad research theme that could be easily explained and justified, then broken down into set of sub-questions, any one or combination of which would provoke further community input, or even stimulate a specific research project.
The output of the June face-to-face Strategic Plan enterprise was 21 working documents that encompassed research themes as diverse as:
How did bio-relevant elements evolve into molecules?
How can we best overcome our ignorance about microbial life on Earth?
How would we find and identify an inhabited planet?
How can we enhance the utility of biosignatures as a tool to search for life in the Solar System and beyond?
The next steps in the creation of the new Strategic Plan will move the process back online. Starting in September, 2013, the 21 working documents will be published on the astrobiologyfuture.org website and the astrobiology community will be invited to review them. One webinar will be held for each document, after which community members will be allowed to provide comments. Community members will also be able to add documents if a compelling case can be articulated for the existence of a gap in the existing documents.
In the January/February, 2014 timeframe, the authors of the working documents will gather, either physically or virtually, to incorporate the community's comments. A face-to-face integration workshop will be held in late February, 2014 to create a first draft of the Strategic Plan. This draft will be reviewed by the Planetary Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council and, possibly, an ad hoc committee of the National Research Council. Following the consideration of comments arising from these reviews, a final draft will be published in April, 2014.
In conclusion, this is your community and NASA wants your input. Be part of this exciting process and make your voice heard!
Last Updated: 30 August 2013