science centers, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC), and the Spitzer Science Center (SSC); and a center focusing on interferometric data, the Michelson Science Center (MSC). The committee also considered two archival centers: the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). It discerned a consistent set of functions and services that allow the research community to utilize the data in creative ways that advance research and our understanding of the cosmos and to preserve the data and metadata for future use, including the following:
Support of flight operations,
Instrument support and calibration,
Data analysis and Level 1 processing,
Archiving and distribution of data to the research community,
Software development and documentation for science analysis,
Help desk and other user support services,
User workshops and symposia,
Proposal submission processing and peer review evaluation,
Grant management and administration,
Advocacy and strategic planning, and
Education and public outreach.
The committee’s assessment identified the factors that impeded or aided a center’s ability to provide the full range of these functions effectively.
The committee concluded that the core services of astronomy centers—mission support, scientific research, and data archiving—could be viewed as reaching their fullest performance at the following astronomy centers: (1) STScI, (2) CXC, (3) HEASARC and its associated RXTE and XMM–Newton guest observer facilities, and (4) IPAC and its associated Spitzer and Michelson science centers. The committee concluded that because a number of space-based astronomy missions had been delayed, the existing astronomy centers have sufficient scientific and programmatic expertise to manage all of NASA’s astronomy center responsibilities now, for the foreseeable future, and after the active phases of current and planned missions have been completed.
Finding: The Chandra X-ray Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center, and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center have sufficient scientific and programmatic expertise to manage NASA’s current science center responsibilities after the active phases of all current and planned space-based astronomy missions have been completed.
Recommendation 1. NASA should establish a large new center only when the following criteria