Millimemeter Array), and a transfer might disrupt the progress of this effort given NASA’s lack of expertise.
NSF is primarily a science agency. NASA is primarily a mission agency. Increasingly, the frontiers of science are multidisciplinary, and NSF is chartered to act as a general science agency, linking various disciplines together where appropriate. The loss of such potential linkages would be harmful to the development of astronomy and astrophysics. Basic research across the sciences, but especially astronomy and astrophysics, would be adversely affected by loss of the role that NSF plays in enabling interdisciplinary research between the astronomical and astrophysical sciences and, for example, physics (particle, gravitational, nuclear, atomic, molecular and optical, plasma, and condensed matter), computation, mathematics, chemistry, and geophysics. Although NASA has a role in the interagency information technology initiative that is creating the powerful grid-based supercomputing capability needed by all of science and engineering, the main players are NSF and the Department of Energy, and to a lesser extent, the Department of Defense. The probable loss of synergy across all of the aforementioned fields is a prime argument against an administrative move of the NSF astronomy program to NASA.
In conclusion, the committee finds that the potential advantages of transferring NSF’s astronomy and astrophysics responsibilities to NASA are outweighed by the advantages inherent in retaining a leadership role for NSF in ground-based astronomy and astrophysics.