Author Topic: New Frontiers 4  (Read 82193 times)

Offline notsorandom

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #380 on: 12/25/2017 04:27 PM »
Even if the launch vehicle were free a New Frontiers mission is still quite expensive. The difference in cost between launch providers is something like less than ten percentage points of the total cost of the mission when all is said and done. So while it's nice that cheaper launch costs are on the way it's not a game changing thing for these missions.

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #381 on: 12/25/2017 04:51 PM »
Even if the launch vehicle were free a New Frontiers mission is still quite expensive. The difference in cost between launch providers is something like less than ten percentage points of the total cost of the mission when all is said and done. So while it's nice that cheaper launch costs are on the way it's not a game changing thing for these missions.
The PI cost limit for this competition is $850M, which includes design, build, and testing of the hardware and software as well as the analysis of the returned data.  NASA separately pays for its management costs, launch, and operations.  The latter two vary by mission (but note, both the finalists have very long prime missions; Dragonfly might operate for a decade or so in extended missions).  In looking at the actual full costs of prior New Frontiers missions, the NASA costs can be $200M or more than the PI costs.  So notsorandom is correct, even a free launch wouldn't dramatically change the economics of these missions. 

However, a $100M here, $30M saved there using less expensive launches eventually adds up to enough money for a new mission (but it might not be planetary and Congress might just reduce the budget allocation).

The long flight times of these missions is one reason that I don't think we'll see billionaires investing in them, as much as I'd like to see that (but there is that group trying to fund a private Enceladus mission).  How old would Musk or Bezos be, for example, before any of these missions returned their primary data?

Offline Zed_Noir

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #382 on: 12/25/2017 06:53 PM »
@Blackstar

What happens if the finalist in NF-4 for whatever reasons fails to be ready for launch on time?

Will they get more funding, just get cancel or something else.


Offline Nomadd

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #383 on: 12/25/2017 06:56 PM »
Even if the launch vehicle were free a New Frontiers mission is still quite expensive. The difference in cost between launch providers is something like less than ten percentage points of the total cost of the mission when all is said and done. So while it's nice that cheaper launch costs are on the way it's not a game changing thing for these missions.
The PI cost limit for this competition is $850M, which includes design, build, and testing of the hardware and software as well as the analysis of the returned data.  NASA separately pays for its management costs, launch, and operations.  The latter two vary by mission (but note, both the finalists have very long prime missions; Dragonfly might operate for a decade or so in extended missions).  In looking at the actual full costs of prior New Frontiers missions, the NASA costs can be $200M or more than the PI costs.  So notsorandom is correct, even a free launch wouldn't dramatically change the economics of these missions. 

However, a $100M here, $30M saved there using less expensive launches eventually adds up to enough money for a new mission (but it might not be planetary and Congress might just reduce the budget allocation).

The long flight times of these missions is one reason that I don't think we'll see billionaires investing in them, as much as I'd like to see that (but there is that group trying to fund a private Enceladus mission).  How old would Musk or Bezos be, for example, before any of these missions returned their primary data?
Cheaper launch costs might not be a game changer for these missions, but with a set launch budget, a different provider might not mean cheaper cost, but increased payload, which could be a game changer.

Offline hop

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #384 on: 12/25/2017 07:52 PM »
What happens if the finalist in NF-4 for whatever reasons fails to be ready for launch on time?
Dawn, Kepler and InSight provide some previous examples. Historically, NASA has gone to quite a bit of effort to fly mission that got into trouble but were basically viable, but it would clearly depend on the circumstances. Missing a once-a-decade launch window is a lot different than missing a 18 month window.

Offline Star One

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #385 on: 12/27/2017 07:30 PM »
Article somewhat countering the insinuations of certain posters about if this mission could do much useful science.

Quote
Thus the news that Dragonfly has won approval as a finalist concept for a robotic launch to Titan in the mid-2020s is encouraging. Dragonfly offers not just a useful instrument package but mobility on the surface in the form of a rotorcraft that could explore numerous sites on the moon. We have to be creative indeed in imagining life that would exist at -180 degrees Celsius in an environment that gets a tenth of one percent of the sunlight Earth’s surface receives. But as Rahm, Lunine and colleagues have reminded us, mechanisms may exist to make it happen.

https://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=39019

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #386 on: 12/28/2017 02:59 PM »
@Blackstar

What happens if the finalist in NF-4 for whatever reasons fails to be ready for launch on time?

Will they get more funding, just get cancel or something else.

There are cost-capped missions. That actually means something. One of the things it means is that the people involved work hard to stay within the cost cap, and understand that they could be replaced if it looks like they are going to miss the cost cap. Launch windows (i.e. deadlines) directly affect the cost caps. If you start falling behind schedule, the way you catch up is to burn more money, and of course that raises the risk of blowing the cost cap. So a good management team keeps one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the brake.

To sort of not answer your question: a good management team (and the people looking over their heads) are going to work really hard to not miss a launch window, especially if it has major consequences (like a multi-year delay). They're going to trade off on things, which could include spending more money, or cutting off capability (for instance sacrificing a late instrument), or making other trades. A good management team is going to have a lot of options in their toolbox, and that could include things you never even think of, like launching a lander without its landing software and then uploading the software later, while in flight.

That cost cap is going to loom over them, however. So if they think that they really need to spend more money to meet a launch window, the first thing they're going to have to do is look at other stuff that they can cut within the program so that they don't bust the cost cap, like chopping off an instrument. If they decide that is insufficient, they could go to HQ and ask for more money, but they realize that doing so might come with a cost--"Okay, we will give you an extra $50 million, but we're going to cut it out of your science crunching phase." Or: "Okay, we will give you an extra $50 million, but we're going to fire your program manager." You can see why they want to solve the problem internally rather than have to go asking for more cash.

InSight missed its launch window and did not get canceled, and it cost more money. But there have been several Earth science missions that looked like they were going to blow their cost caps and NASA canceled them. There was a mess-up with Juno where NASA selected the mission without having the funding to start development, and that ultimately resulted in a delay that cost more money (that was an HQ screwup of the kind that really should not have happened).

If you read the recent National Academies report "Powering Science," you'll see that we noted that NASA has gotten a lot better at both estimating costs and managing missions to cost. But there can always be unpredictable development that crop up and require more money or harsh management decisions:

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24857/powering-science-nasas-large-strategic-science-missions

But in the end, exceeding a budget is not the worst thing in the world. The goal of everybody involved is to do good science, and it's not easy to predict what it will cost to do things that have never been done before. In some cases getting the data is considered really important, which is why InSight missed its launch window but was not canceled.



Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #387 on: 12/28/2017 03:01 PM »
Article somewhat countering the insinuations of certain posters about if this mission could do much useful science.

Quote
Thus the news that Dragonfly has won approval as a finalist concept for a robotic launch to Titan in the mid-2020s is encouraging. Dragonfly offers not just a useful instrument package but mobility on the surface in the form of a rotorcraft that could explore numerous sites on the moon. We have to be creative indeed in imagining life that would exist at -180 degrees Celsius in an environment that gets a tenth of one percent of the sunlight Earth’s surface receives. But as Rahm, Lunine and colleagues have reminded us, mechanisms may exist to make it happen.

https://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=39019
There's a good reason that the ultimate goal for almost every type of solar system body is to return samples to Earth.  The exquisite and varied investigations that can be done on a returned sample can never be matched by instruments on a spacecraft.  Every grain can tell its own unique story. 

However, a planetary program that just returns samples without any other type of mission would be highly unbalanced.  Imagine if the only goal was to have a piece of Mars in a terrestrial laboratory -- we'd be done (I even own a tiny fragment of a Martian meteorite).  Imagine trying to understand Mars without the orbital missions to provide the planetary and regional contexts, or without landers and rovers to provide local context.  If we had rushed to a Mars sample return 20 or 30 years ago (and it's been the ultimate goal of Martian exploration for that long), we'd have picked the wrong samples and not understood their place in time or history.

Sample return missions are also usually more expensive than orbiters and landers/rovers.  So do we wait on further exploration of, for example, Ceres until we have the budget wedge for a sample return or do we return with a less expensive lander whose instruments will advance our understanding of the surface materials but nowhere near as much as could be done with returned samples?

Dragonfly takes Titan exploration to the second level (with Cassini having provided the global and regional contexts (albeit at low resolutions compared to our mapping of Mars, the moon, or even Venus)).  Depending on what it finds, getting samples back from Titan may be the absolute must do of the 2040s.

The real challenge is not designing a balanced program but of affording it.  Standard planetary budgets can pay for one Flagship mission, around 1.5 New Frontiers, and 3-4 Discovery missions per decade.  (We get two Flagship missions this coming decade because Congressman Culberson has pushed extra money into NASA's coffers earmarked for the Europa Clipper.)  And so NASA may bet either taking the exploration of Titan or returning samples from a comet as its only New Frontiers mission for the 2020s.

Offline Star One

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New Frontiers 4
« Reply #388 on: 12/28/2017 03:08 PM »
Article somewhat countering the insinuations of certain posters about if this mission could do much useful science.

Quote
Thus the news that Dragonfly has won approval as a finalist concept for a robotic launch to Titan in the mid-2020s is encouraging. Dragonfly offers not just a useful instrument package but mobility on the surface in the form of a rotorcraft that could explore numerous sites on the moon. We have to be creative indeed in imagining life that would exist at -180 degrees Celsius in an environment that gets a tenth of one percent of the sunlight Earth’s surface receives. But as Rahm, Lunine and colleagues have reminded us, mechanisms may exist to make it happen.

https://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=39019
There's a good reason that the ultimate goal for almost every type of solar system body is to return samples to Earth.  The exquisite and varied investigations that can be done on a returned sample can never be matched by instruments on a spacecraft.  Every grain can tell its own unique story. 

However, a planetary program that just returns samples without any other type of mission would be highly unbalanced.  Imagine if the only goal was to have a piece of Mars in a terrestrial laboratory -- we'd be done (I even own a tiny fragment of a Martian meteorite).  Imagine trying to understand Mars without the orbital missions to provide the planetary and regional contexts, or without landers and rovers to provide local context.  If we had rushed to a Mars sample return 20 or 30 years ago (and it's been the ultimate goal of Martian exploration for that long), we'd have picked the wrong samples and not understood their place in time or history.

Sample return missions are also usually more expensive than orbiters and landers/rovers.  So do we wait on further exploration of, for example, Ceres until we have the budget wedge for a sample return or do we return with a less expensive lander whose instruments will advance our understanding of the surface materials but nowhere near as much as could be done with returned samples?

Dragonfly takes Titan exploration to the second level (with Cassini having provided the global and regional contexts (albeit at low resolutions compared to our mapping of Mars, the moon, or even Venus)).  Depending on what it finds, getting samples back from Titan may be the absolute must do of the 2040s.

The real challenge is not designing a balanced program but of affording it.  Standard planetary budgets can pay for one Flagship mission, around 1.5 New Frontiers, and 3-4 Discovery missions per decade.  (We get two Flagship missions this coming decade because Congressman Culberson has pushed extra money into NASA's coffers earmarked for the Europa Clipper.)  And so NASA may bet either taking the exploration of Titan or returning samples from a comet as its only New Frontiers mission for the 2020s.

My annoyance throughout these recent developments is my dislike of the idea that appears to being pushed by certain posters, even if unintentionally or incidentally that sample return equates to CAESAR being the superior mission scientifically because of this aspect of it.
« Last Edit: 12/28/2017 03:10 PM by Star One »

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #389 on: 12/28/2017 03:18 PM »
If you read the recent National Academies report "Powering Science," you'll see that we noted that NASA has gotten a lot better at both estimating costs and managing missions to cost. But there can always be unpredictable development that crop up and require more money or harsh management decisions:

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24857/powering-science-nasas-large-strategic-science-missions

NASA had a near crisis of cost overruns in the 1990s and 2000s in the planetary missions (see, for example, http://futureplanets.blogspot.com/2013/05/implementing-missions-within-budget.html).  The people running its program are smart and have seemingly largely fixed the problem, although surprises still happen such as with InSight. 

With Juno's early funding problems, the team had an extended definition and design phase.  It's PI has remarked on how much that helped mature the design and avoid later cost overruns.  Clipper also had an extended definition phase -- so far, I'm not hearing of major cost problems on this very complex mission.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #390 on: 12/28/2017 03:24 PM »
The latter two vary by mission (but note, both the finalists have very long prime missions; Dragonfly might operate for a decade or so in extended missions).

The long primary mission for CAESAR is due to the fact that the primary phase ends when the sample reaches Earth, so that means going all the way out there and then coming back. I assume that Dragonfly has a long primary phase because of the long transit time to Saturn.

Trading off prime and extended phase budgets is an interesting subject. We got into it a bit with our 2016 report "Extending Science":

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23624/extending-science-nasas-space-science-mission-extensions-and-the-senior

That's a pretty good report, if I may say so myself. One of the things we heard was the complaint that NASA "games" the budgets by having shorter prime phases when they "know" that a spacecraft is likely to last a long time in extended phase, so they have simply shifted the budget out of the mission cost and are not showing the full lifetime cost of a mission. As an example, if NASA "accurately" (I'm deliberately using quotation marks here to indicate that these are allegations and not actually the truth) accounted for full lifetime costs, some of their missions would appear to cost hundreds of millions of dollars more, because they can last a decade or longer.

Turns out that's just not true. For starters, NASA science budgets already include a budget category for extended phase missions. It's a pool of money that NASA can allocate appropriately to all the missions in extended phase. So while somebody might claim that the agency has not included the full lifetime cost of a mission up front, it's not like the money is being hidden--it's right there in the overall budget, it just has not been allocated for mission operations that might not occur for 5-10+ years.

Also, a spacecraft's predicted lifetime is based upon its engineering design, but also upon how it is tested. If a spacecraft is not tested for a longer lifetime, NASA cannot claim that it will have a longer lifetime. So, imagine that you have a mission to Saturn and you design it for a 7-year lifetime. That's 5 years of transit, and then 2 years of prime mission operations. You only test it for the 7 year lifetime. But then it gets there and you discover that it lasts a lot longer and you ultimately get 10 years out of it. You never tested it to 10 years, so it would not have been legitimate to budget it up front as a 10-year mission. It was totally realistic to budget it for 7 years and then have additional money in another budget that you could allocate to mission extensions as needed. And the reality is that it could have died at 7 years and still have achieved all the Phase 1 goals. (There have been several spacecraft that have died right around their predicted lifetimes, so it happens.)

Now the really interesting aspect of this is that a lot of times the best science happens after the prime phase, when you're into extended phase. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of them is that during the prime phase the operators and scientists are still figuring out how best to use the spacecraft. They're learning what works well and how to maximize performance and so on. They might get really good at it a year or so into the prime phase, so productivity then is higher when they enter extended phase.

And finally, extended phase science operations are cheap. Our calculation was that they are about 12% of the science budget. You get a lot of science for that 12%.

All of this goes back to the issue that the overall cost of a mission can be much higher than the initial project cost (and so focusing on launch is really rather silly). But it also reminds one of the old saying about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #391 on: 12/28/2017 03:32 PM »
1-NASA had a near crisis of cost overruns in the 1990s and 2000s in the planetary missions (see, for example, http://futureplanets.blogspot.com/2013/05/implementing-missions-within-budget.html).  The people running its program are smart and have seemingly largely fixed the problem, although surprises still happen such as with InSight. 

2-With Juno's early funding problems, the team had an extended definition and design phase.  It's PI has remarked on how much that helped mature the design and avoid later cost overruns.  Clipper also had an extended definition phase -- so far, I'm not hearing of major cost problems on this very complex mission.

1-The more relevant issue was JWST in the 2000s, along with Curiosity/MSL. JWST sent such a shock through the system that it forced everybody to do things differently. See chapter 3 of the "Powering Science" report which goes into the issue in some detail. There are a lot of management techniques that were implemented to keep a better handle on costs. For instance, one issue is where the budget reserves are held. Previously most of the reserves were in the project level, meaning that when stuff started to cost more, the manager simply spent the money. But by shifting the reserves to a higher level, it meant that when stuff started to cost more, the manager now had to go to HQ and ask permission to spend money. This forces managers to try to solve problems without having to ask for cash. It reduces cost overruns.

2-Somebody could probably go into this in more detail. I think that the screw-up with Juno early on cost something like $100 million, which was a big hit (almost 20% of the budget?). Now they did have an extended definition phase that might have saved money later on, but it may not have saved them as much as it cost up front. The bottom line of the Juno experience is that NASA learned the hard way that it should not choose a mission unless it has the money to pay for that mission. (They did an even bigger screw up with an earlier Discovery selection. They definitely learned some lessons in the 2000s that they have applied later on.)


Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #392 on: 12/28/2017 03:56 PM »
1-NASA had a near crisis of cost overruns in the 1990s and 2000s in the planetary missions (see, for example, http://futureplanets.blogspot.com/2013/05/implementing-missions-within-budget.html).  The people running its program are smart and have seemingly largely fixed the problem, although surprises still happen such as with InSight. 

2-With Juno's early funding problems, the team had an extended definition and design phase.  It's PI has remarked on how much that helped mature the design and avoid later cost overruns.  Clipper also had an extended definition phase -- so far, I'm not hearing of major cost problems on this very complex mission.

1-The more relevant issue was JWST in the 2000s, along with Curiosity/MSL. JWST sent such a shock through the system that it forced everybody to do things differently. See chapter 3 of the "Powering Science" report which goes into the issue in some detail. There are a lot of management techniques that were implemented to keep a better handle on costs. For instance, one issue is where the budget reserves are held. Previously most of the reserves were in the project level, meaning that when stuff started to cost more, the manager simply spent the money. But by shifting the reserves to a higher level, it meant that when stuff started to cost more, the manager now had to go to HQ and ask permission to spend money. This forces managers to try to solve problems without having to ask for cash. It reduces cost overruns.

2-Somebody could probably go into this in more detail. I think that the screw-up with Juno early on cost something like $100 million, which was a big hit (almost 20% of the budget?). Now they did have an extended definition phase that might have saved money later on, but it may not have saved them as much as it cost up front. The bottom line of the Juno experience is that NASA learned the hard way that it should not choose a mission unless it has the money to pay for that mission. (They did an even bigger screw up with an earlier Discovery selection. They definitely learned some lessons in the 2000s that they have applied later on.)
If you click through on the link I provided, you'll see that Discovery missions regularly went over budget, too.  NASA seems much more focused on assessing costs up front and picking lower risk missions.

Juno is a special case where the cost overrun occurred because of NASA's budget planning and because of anything in the PI's control.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #393 on: 12/28/2017 04:09 PM »
If you click through on the link I provided, you'll see that Discovery missions regularly went over budget, too. 

Yeah, but it didn't really matter for the big picture--JWST is what caught Congress' attention and forced changes in law and big changes in how programs are managed across all of SMD.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #394 on: 12/28/2017 04:52 PM »
Two popular categories of proposals from the last competition may not be in this new one.  With JAXA's Phobos sample return/Deimos multiple flyby MMX mission, these two destinations would seem to be out of the running.  From an OPAG presentation this past summer, the outer planets community appears to have concluded that Discovery missions to those destinations don't fit within the budget cap.  I expect retries for Venus and more comet and asteroid proposals.  Not sure if a meaningful Ceres follow on mission can fit within the budget cap, but there are those main belt comets...  And I expect more Mars proposals.  The Next Mars Orbiter SDT identified several priority orbital studies, and the Mars community is making noise about stationary landers for sites with current water or ice (with attention to planetary protection) or small rovers to explore the diversity of ancient aqueous sites.

This discussion properly belongs in a Discovery thread, but you left out a big category: lunar missions. There were relatively few the last Discovery round, but I would expect more proposals for the next round. There are some interesting reasons for that, but it really belongs in a different thread.

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #395 on: 12/28/2017 04:53 PM »
This discussion properly belongs in a Discovery thread, but you left out a big category: lunar missions. There were relatively few the last Discovery round, but I would expect more proposals for the next round. There are some interesting reasons for that, but it really belongs in a different thread.

I hope that you'll post in the Discovery thread

Offline Star One

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New Frontiers 4
« Reply #396 on: 01/10/2018 04:49 PM »
Here’s something from Pg 453, Vol 59 December 2017 issue of Spaceflight magazine that I rather agree with. My bolding.

“NASA is locked into the Decadal Survey published every ten years by the National Research Council, which while an admirable coalition of multifarious proposals, is too inflexible to absorb discoveries made by missions recommended by the preceding survey. Findings about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, their liquid subsurface oceans, and the way they interact with each other and their parent planet, failed to factor in to the most recent survey in 2013, prepared in the preceding years.”
« Last Edit: 01/10/2018 04:50 PM by Star One »

Offline Alpha_Centauri

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #397 on: 01/10/2018 05:19 PM »
I assume that's why there's no Ocean Worlds program in New Frontiers.

Oh wait...

Offline Star One

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New Frontiers 4
« Reply #398 on: 01/10/2018 05:58 PM »
I assume that's why there's no Ocean Worlds program in New Frontiers.

Oh wait...

They went onto mention that but still pointed out that the Decadal system lacks flexibility.
« Last Edit: 01/10/2018 05:59 PM by Star One »

Offline vjkane

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Re: New Frontiers 4
« Reply #399 on: 01/11/2018 05:07 PM »
Here’s something from Pg 453, Vol 59 December 2017 issue of Spaceflight magazine that I rather agree with. My bolding.

“NASA is locked into the Decadal Survey published every ten years by the National Research Council, which while an admirable coalition of multifarious proposals, is too inflexible to absorb discoveries made by missions recommended by the preceding survey. Findings about the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, their liquid subsurface oceans, and the way they interact with each other and their parent planet, failed to factor in to the most recent survey in 2013, prepared in the preceding years.”

There are at least three ways to modify the priorities set by a Decadal Survey:

There is a mid-term assessment (one is underway now) and either NASA or the committee can bring up issues that could be resolved by modifying the priorities

The Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science is an National Academies of Science committee and it can also bring up issues or recommendations and NASA can take the same to them

NASA can make changes on its own (the Decadals are input with considerable weight and Congressional backing, but not contracts).  In the one case where NASA did this that I know of (adding ocean worlds to the New Frontiers candidate mission list) NASA reviewed their decision afterwards with CAPS at one of their meetings

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