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“Sociological Considerations” Contributed to Planetary Science Decadal Survey
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“Sociological Considerations” Contributed to Planetary Science Decadal Survey

In September 2009, Bill Clancey and Charlotte Linde submitted a white paper “Sociological Considerations for the Success of Planetary Exploration Missions” as a contribution to the Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

The paper advocates that missions incorporate deeper consideration of the social science of spacecraft operations to maximize scientific, technical and fiscal success. While planetary spacecraft are unmanned, the missions are manned, and must be understood in that way. Each mission’s unique configuration of human interactions, relationships and roles lends it a different culture – a “style” or “personality”– that affects how the mission proceeds, how goals are met, and how science is done.

The paper’s first author is Janet Vertesi, University of California, Irvine, who recently completed a PhD dissertation, “Seeing Like A Rover: Images In Interaction on the Mars Exploration Rover Mission.”

BACKGROUND: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate engages the science community to look out ten or more years in identifying and prioritizing leading-edge scientific questions, the observations required to answer them, and notional missions. Operating within The National Academies, the Space Studies Board has sought “to develop a comprehensive science and mission strategy for planetary science that updates and extends the Board's 2003 solar system exploration decadal survey, ‘New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy.’” The present survey concerns 2013-2022. Solicitation for the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, chaired by Steve Squyres, was recently completed.

COLLABORATORS: Janet Vertesi, Information and Computer Sciences, UC Irvine; Robert Pappalardo, JPL; Claudia Alexander, JPL; Barbara Cohen, NASA Marshall; Paul Dourish, Information and Computer Sciences, UC Irvine; Jeffrey Johnson, US Geological Survey, Flagstaff, AZ; Barbara Larsen, JPL; Kimberly Lichtenberg, Washington Univ., St. Louis; Scott Maxwell, JPL; Zara Mirmalek, UC San Diego; Jeff Moore, NASA Ames

PROGRAM FUNDING: Science Mission Directorate

Contact: Bill Clancey, Charlotte Linde


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