Southwest Initiative for Mars,
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Inclusive Dates: 10/01/01-10/01/02
Background - The Southwest Initiative for Mars
(SwIM) represents a strategic initiative by the Institute to become a leading
participant in the NASA Mars Exploration Program. NASA's Mars program has
increased dramatically in size and scope during the past five years. It includes
multiple basic research and technology development programs, and has more than
seven flight missions in various stages of development or operations. The goal
of the Institute's SwIM program is for SwRI to secure a leading role in future
NASA Mars exploration missions and Mars research across multiple disciplines
within the Institute. Areas of opportunity include, but are not limited to:
basic planetary science and astrobiology, Mars mission instrument development,
robotics technology for Mars rovers, and technology development for eventual
human Mars missions. SwIM is providing the impetus to move SwRI to the forefront
of the Mars research community.
Approach - To meet its goals, SwIM will
involve a series of large and small efforts. SwIM's two largest thrusts involve
about $2M in new internal research program funding to be spent during fiscal
years 2002 through 2004. First, as a part of SwIM, the Institute's internal
research program will be allocated approximately $500,000 per year to sponsor
annual calls for Mars-related internal resarch proposals. Selected project will
be expected to be multidivisional and have a strong business plan leading to
major new capability development relevant to Mars work. The first call for Mars
proposals was released late in CY2001 and the second call was released in late
FY02. The projects to be funded under SwIM are designed to dramatically broaden
the base of SwRI expertise in Mars research and development activities. The
second major thrust of the SwIM effort will involve targeting dedicated internal
research resources toward newly recruited Mars scientists and technologists that
the Institute expects to hire in 2002-2003. Other SwIM program activities
include the development of an Intranet Mars website containing key resources and
resource links, an Institute-wide Mars science and technology seminar series,
development of an external Senior Advisory Group to provide supplemental program
guidance, and sponsorship of focused Mars science and technology workshops in
San Antonio to broaden the technical competence of the growing SwRI Mars
Accomplishments - Accomplishments to date
include the following:
- Kickoff/Background Information Dispersal to the
Technical Staff. This was initiated with a memo introducing SwIM to the
technical and management staff at the end of October 2001. A detailed set of
briefings were given to interested staff on 12 Nov 2001; approximately
90 staff members attended.
- Formation of a Senior Advisory Board (SAB). An SAB
charter was written in November, and received concurrence from Mr. Downing.
SAB invitations were made in November-December, and a five-member board has
now been constituted. The board has assisted extensively in the evaluation
of SwIM IR proposals.
- Construction of an Intranet SwIM Web Site. The
SwIM web site was initially designed and constructed in October-November
2001. The site was substantially enhanced in a design revamp during March
2002. The URL is http://i2net.swri.org/swim/.
This site is used as an information distribution channel regarding SwIM
activities, Mars information, and Mars business opportunities. Regular
updates are made as new events, activities, and information warrant. The
site also includes a place for interested technical staff to register their
e-mail addresses on a SwIM information e-mail distribution list. A second,
public access SwIM web site was launched in June 2002.
- Enhancement of the SwRI Skills Databank to Include
Mars-Related Expertise Categories. This was accomplished by mid-November
2001. Over a dozen new, Mars-related expertise categories and over 60
skill-specific name-expertise links have been entered to date. Routine
updates have been made on numerous occasions since.
- Initiation of the SwIM Seminar Series. A monthly
SwIM seminar series was initiated in December 2001 (see http://i2net.swri.org/swim/seminars2.htm).
Additionally, ad hoc SwIM science seminars have also been given.
- The First Call for SwIM IR Proposals. The SwIM IR
program was initiated with a call for proposals dated 12 Nov 2001. A SwIM IR
project guidelines document was written and placed on the main SwIM web page
in mid-November 2001 to guide staff members as to the SwIM IR proposal
format requirements and other information. Step 1 (concept) proposals
were due in early February 2002. Following review by the SwIM Team, the 24
proposals received in Step 1 were evaluated and ranked; 12 proposals were
selected to proceed to full proposal stage. Step 2 proposals were due on 11
March. Detailed evaluations and ranking of these proposals were conducted,
and following approval by Mr. Downing, a selection announcement was
made at the end of April. Six proposals totaling slightly over $0.55M were
- The First SwIM Workshop took place 7-8 August 2002
in San Antonio. This workshop, designed to focus on future Experiments and
Rover Technologies involved talks and panel discussion by experts from NASA
Headquarters, JPL, universities, and other organizations. The workshop was
promoted within SwRI in order to provide an opportunity to significantly
enhance the awareness and knowledge base of SwRI technical staff of the
state of current Mars work within NASA, and to generate viable new ideas for
both SwIM IR and external funding proposals. The secondary purpose of the
workshop was to introduce SwRI staff and the SwIM initiative to senior Mars
individuals around the United States. More than 50 SwRI employees attended
part or all of the workshop.
- SwIM First-Round IR activities. All six
first-round SwIM IR proposals are underway. Meetings between the SwIM IR
mentors and the PI-CoI team for all six proposals have been conducted to
ensure a good start to each IR's work. These projects are now approaching
their mid-term reviews. Most are expected to result in new business
proposals in 2003.
- The Second Call for SwIM IR Proposals. A second
call for SwIM IR proposals was released in August. Nine proposal abstracts
were received. An evaluation meeting took place on 30 Sep 2002 to select six
proposals to go into full development for submission on 29 October.
Selection of funded proposals is planned by 1 December 2002.
- Initiation of SwIM-Related Mars Expert Hiring.
Divisions 15 and 20 have initiated job requisitions and advertisements for
new, Mars-related positions. Divisions 10, 15, and 20 are jointly
advertising these positions in national journals to broaden the talent based
searched. To date, eight SwIM job interviews have been held, and another two
are scheduled at this time. Dr. Scot Rafkin, an expert in Martian
atmospheric dynamics modeling has been hired in Division 15; he will start
Jan 6, 2003, in Boulder.