• 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.


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


Now being implemented as the James Webb Space Telescope.


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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