Source: NASA.
Note: The following four prospective missions are not reflected above: LunaH-Map (Implementation), Europa Lander (Pre-Formulation), Mars
Sample Return (Pre-Formulation), Janus (Formulation), Lunar Trailblazer (Formulation), and Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission (Formulation).

NASA’s Planetary Science Division (PSD) is responsible for a portfolio of spacecraft, including orbiters, landers, rovers, and probes.

A just-released audit, performed from June 2019 through August 2020 by NASA’s Office of Audits within the space agency’s Office of Inspector General, has assessed NASA’s management of its planetary science portfolio and examined whether PSD is meeting established goals and priorities.

Life-cycle costs increasing

The audit notes that as NASA’s planetary science missions become more complex, the life-cycle costs within each of PSD’s three mission classes are increasing due to project management challenges and mission complexity.

For example, Dragonfly, the next New Frontiers mission that will explore Titan, has an estimated $2 billion life-cycle cost. Comparatively, prior New Frontiers missions such as Juno and the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) had life-cycle costs of roughly $1 billion each.

Dragonfly mission concept of entry, descent, landing, surface operations, and flight at Titan.
Credit: NASA

“These increasing costs, if not addressed, may result in a reduced cadence of future missions given budget limitations that will mean fewer opportunities to demonstrate new technologies,” the audit explains.

Higher risk than necessary

Also pointed out is that NASA’s Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program (LDEP) is accepting “higher risk than necessary” in the Commercial Launch Provider Services (CLPS) project, which provides contracts to U.S. commercial entities to develop landers to deliver NASA science instruments and other payloads to the Moon’s surface.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander will carry payloads to the Moon for NASA through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.
Credit: Astrobotics

“Specifically, LDEP has not established a common interface to integrate lunar payloads with the landers from selected CLPS contractors, as advised by the National Academies,” the audit found.

In another area spotlighted in the audit, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations (NEOO) Program resources “remain insufficient” to meet the program’s congressional mandate of cataloging near-Earth objects.

To view the entire report — NASA’s Planetary Science Portfolio — go to:

Leave a Reply