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NASA's draft science plan looks as if it “was written by a committee without the benefit of a cohesive editing effort,” raising serious concerns about the long-term health of the U.S. space-science effort.

A panel of scientists from fields NASA spends $5 billion a year to address finds that the draft strategic plan fails to tackle the agency's uncertain funding outlook in a meaningful way. This means important exploration capabilities could fall by the wayside and “a generation of scientists” may be lost in some disciplines, they say.

“One of the most fundamental challenges [facing the Science Mission Directorate (SMD)] is the uncertain and apparently decreasing level of available funding for space science in real terms, because this has dramatic and real impacts to plans and execution,” a National Research Council (NRC) panel, convened to review the draft science plan, concluded. “This fiscal reality makes it more important than ever for SMD to have a clearly articulated and consistently applied method for prioritizing why and how its scarce fiscal resources will be apportioned.”

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