How much international collaboration is too much? When it comes to foreign instruments provided to NASA planetary science missions, the answer is anything more than 33%.
Earlier this month, NASA unveiled a draft set of rules for its next Discovery competition, which funds planetary science missions costing no more than $450 million. Today, at a meeting of asteroid and comet scientists in Washington, D.C., NASA officials explained some of the new rules for the next mission, to be selected in 2016. Among them was a stipulation that the principal investigator would not be allowed to recruit foreign instrument contributions in excess of one-third the value of the U.S. instruments on the payload, even though those contributions don’t count against the $450 million cap.
The new rule is a response to a current Discovery-class mission with no major U.S.-made instruments. InSight, a Mars lander built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, that will launch in 2016, carries a French-made seismometer and a German-made heat probe. “The American scientific instrument community was not happy with that,” says Michael New, the lead Discovery Program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.