The two-day meeting of the Outer Planets Assessment Group is over and I have 30-odd pages of notes to wrestle with. Just before I left the meeting today I had a five-minute conversation with the chair of OPAG, Fran Bagenal, and I have to say that before that conversation I was feeling quite a bit drearier about the whole thing than I do now. Being inexperienced with government or indeed anything that much involves people and their institutions (look at my college transcript and you'll see nary a sociology, law, political science, economics, or philosophy class), I'm not accustomed to the wrangling and the arguing and above all the way that individual people's personalities get involved in the whole process. It's all so messy. But somehow the process does produce space missions that themselves produce so many spectacular results that I don't have time to read about them all, and in the end this meeting involved that process actually working. Fran's attitude is basically that there is a crisis at NASA right now, but that things are getting better, that the voices of the community are being heard and actually listened to. We have to keep shouting, but we can shout knowing that it's making a difference.
I hardly know where to begin, so I guess I will just go through in the order that the presentations were made at the meeting. Next up: the status of the next New Frontiers mission, the Juno mission to Jupiter.