The next planetary science decadal survey is in full swing. The "decadal," as it is colloquially known, is a multi-year process by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to produce a consensus document on the most important planetary science goals and missions for the decade 2023 - 2032.
As part of that process, the decadal committee requested papers to highlight scientific opportunities, state priorities, and comment on the state of the profession itself. On July 15th, The Planetary Society submitted 2 papers to the decadal committee: one on the value of the search for life and the other on the relevance of planetary defense.
You can read both papers as they were submitted:
The planetary science community should embrace the search for life as a prime organizing science principle of the decadal survey. The discovery of life beyond Earth, particularly in the form of extant life within the solar system, would be a discovery of such significance that it would be a discontinuity in human knowledge—a scientific revolution.
Increasing the Scope of Planetary Defense Activities: Programs, Strategies, and Relevance in a Post-COVID-19 World
Due to COVID-19, the public is very aware of the value of disaster preparation. Combined with the coming Apophis flyby, there is a new relevance for planetary defense, the ultimate "low probability, high impact" event. The community should embrace this effort and endorse a permanent mission line to advance science and planetary defense capability.
The topics were derived from The Society's 3 core enterprises: the advancement of planetary exploration, the search for life, and the defense of Earth from dangerous near-Earth objects. We hope they spur debate and consideration within the decadal committee as they go about their work. But you can also read them as statement our values and goals here at The Planetary Society.
This is yet another example of how The Planetary Society advocates for its priorities at every level of the process: from contributing to the scientific debate to getting our members in-person to congressional offices. It's a long game to play, but the outcomes could be nothing short of revolutionary.