Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

NASA Colloquium: Writing Mission Proposals


Presented by


Dr. Thomas H. Zurbuchen

Associate Administrator

for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate


Writing Successful Mission Proposals: Observations From NASA


NASA’s Science missions support the U.S. science community and its partners to discover the secrets of the universe, to find life elsewhere, and to protect and improve life on Earth. In this pursuit, NASA relies heavily on the innovation and excellence of the science community to develop new mission concepts that expand our capabilities and grow our portfolio. Based on guidance from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and given the demonstrated successes of this approach, most NASA missions are initiated in response to proposals from teams led by principal investigators (PIs). For such proposing teams, this is a challenging and highly competitive process, composed of multiple phases.

Dr. Thomas H. Zurbuchen will first describe this process and relevant stakeholders along the way. He will then examine the characteristics of proposals submitted during the past 20 years—both the ones that were selected for flight and the ones that were not—to share lessons learned about what makes a proposal successful, common mistakes, and experiences from the point of view of both proposers and the NASA selection official. Dr. Zurbuchen will also provide a brief update on how the mission review process has changed over the past 2-3 years and how it may evolve in the near future. The target audience for this talk are researchers who are thinking about being a PI or joining a proposal team.

Study done by T. H. Zurbuchen, M. H. New, P. Hertz, E. Gertsen


Wednesday, June 5 at 2:00 PM MDT


In Person Attendance:

Old Main Chapel

University of Colorado Boulder Heritage Center

1600 Pleasant St.

Boulder, CO 80303




RECEPTION to follow: CIRES Atrium, 216 UCB, University of Colorado Boulder


Virtual Attendance:



Instructions on how to ask a question during the livestream:


The event will be recorded and made available online after the talk.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019
2:00pm to 4:00pm


Old Main Chapel, followed by reception in CIRES Atrium