• Study the formation of stars and their planetary systems, and the birth and evolution of giant and terrestrial planets; and

  • Understand how the astronomical environment affects Earth.

As discussed below, new discoveries since the publication of the AAp decadal survey motivated the development of a subsequent report on the interface between physics and astrophysics, Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos.3

High-Priority Missions in the AAp Decadal Survey

To achieve the priority goals listed above, the AAp decadal survey selected as its highest priorities a number of ground- and space-based initiatives, grouped according to cost as major, moderate, and small.a

The major space-based initiatives recommended are, in priority order, as follows:

  1. Next Generation Space Telescope. A large telescope optimized for near-mid-infrared imaging and spectroscopy;b

  2. Constellation-X. A suite of four x-ray telescopes optimized for high-throughput spectroscopic observations;

  3. Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF). A telescope system intended to image faint planets orbiting nearby Sun-like stars;c and

  4. Single Aperture Far Infrared Observatory. A large telescope designed to study the important but relatively unexplored spectral region between 30 and 300 microns (μm).

The moderate space-based initiatives include, in priority order, the following:

  1. Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope. A joint NASA-Department of Energy mission to study gamma rays with energies from 10 MeV to 300 GeV;

  2. Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. A gravitational wave detector sensitive to radiation in the 0.1- to 100-mHz band likely to be emitted by merging supermassive black holes and close binary stars;

  3. Solar Dynamics Observatory. A telescope to study the Sun’s outer convection zone and the structure of the solar corona;

  4. Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope. An instrument designed to map the highly variable, hard x-ray sky; and

  5. Advanced Radio Interferometry between Space and Earth. An orbiting radio antenna designed to work in conjunction with ground-based radio arrays to provide high-resolution observations of active galactic nuclei.

In addition, the AAp decadal survey strongly encouraged the continued development of small space missions (e.g., sounding rockets, Explorer-class and Discovery-class principal investigator (PI)-led missions). These provide low-cost opportunities to test new ideas or to use groundbreaking new technologies, and also serve to give personnel experience in mission development and implementation.

a  

Note that unlike the SSP and SSE surveys, the AAp decadal survey did not define strict cost limits for these categories.

b  

Now being implemented as the James Webb Space Telescope.

c  

Now being implemented as two different spacecraft: TPF-I, an interferometric array working at infrared wavelengths, and TPF-C, a coronagraph working at visible wavelengths.



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