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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers PORTALS TO THE UNIVERSE The NASA Astronomy Science Centers Committee on NASA Astronomy Science Centers Space Studies Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Support for this project was provided by Contract NASW 01001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors. Cover: Remnant, denoted N 49, from a massive star that died in a supernova blast whose light would have reached Earth thousands of years ago. Image courtesy of NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-10734-1 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-10734-2 Copies of this report are available free of charge from Space Studies Board National Research Council The Keck Center of the National Academies 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers OTHER REPORTS OF THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (2007) Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System (SSB with the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, 2007) A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Astrophysics Program (SSB with the Board on Physics and Astronomy, 2007) An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs (2006) Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Venus Missions: Letter Report (2006) Distributed Arrays of Small Instruments for Solar-Terrestrial Research: Report of a Workshop (2006) Issues Affecting the Future of the U.S. Space Science and Engineering Workforce (SSB with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2006) Review of the Next Decade Mars Architecture: Letter Report (2006) The Astrophysical Context of Life (SSB with the Board on Life Sciences, 2005) Earth Science and Applications from Space: Urgent Needs and Opportunities to Serve the Nation (2005) Extending the Effective Lifetimes of Earth Observing Research Missions (2005) Preventing the Forward Contamination of Mars (2005) Principal-Investigator-Led Missions in the Space Sciences (2005) Priorities in Space Science Enabled by Nuclear Power and Propulsion (SSB with ASEB, 2005) Review of Goals and Plans for NASA’s Space and Earth Sciences (2005) Review of NASA Plans for the International Space Station (2005) Science in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration (2005) Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope: Final Report (SSB with ASEB, 2004) Exploration of the Outer Heliosphere and the Local Interstellar Medium: A Workshop Report (2004) Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space Policy (SSB with ASEB, 2004) Plasma Physics of the Local Cosmos (2004) Review of Science Requirements for the Terrestrial Planet Finder: Letter Report (2004) Understanding the Sun and Solar System Plasmas: Future Directions in Solar and Space Physics (2004) Utilization of Operational Environmental Satellite Data: Ensuring Readiness for 2010 and Beyond (SSB with ASEB and the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, 2004) Limited copies of these reports are available free of charge from: Space Studies Board National Research Council The Keck Center of the National Academies 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001 (202) email@example.com www.national-academies.org/ssb/ssb.html NOTE: Listed according to year of approval for release, which in some cases precedes the year of publication.
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers COMMITTEE ON NASA ASTRONOMY SCIENCE CENTERS STEVEN R. BOHLEN, Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Chair ROGER G. BARRY, University of Colorado STEPHEN S. HOLT, Olin College RICHARD A. McCRAY, University of Colorado, JILA ALEXANDERS. SZALAY, Johns Hopkins University PAULA SZKODY, University of Washington PAUL VANDEN BOUT, National Radio Astronomy Observatory PAMELA L. WHITNEY, Study Director, Space Studies Board (through January 2007) BRIAN D. DEWHURST, Study Director, Board on Physics and Astronomy (after January 2007) CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Senior Project Assistant, Space Studies Board CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Assistant Editor, Space Studies Board
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers SPACE STUDIES BOARD LENNARD A. FISK, University of Michigan, Chair A. THOMAS YOUNG, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired), Vice Chair SPIRO K. ANTIOCHOS, Naval Research Laboratory DANIEL N. BAKER, University of Colorado STEVEN J. BATTEL, Battel Engineering CHARLES L. BENNETT, Johns Hopkins University JUDITH A. CURRY, Georgia Institute of Technology JACK D. FARMER, Arizona State University JACK D. FELLOWS, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research JACQUELINE N. HEWITT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology TAMARA E. JERNIGAN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory KLAUS KEIL, University of Hawaii BERRIEN MOORE III, University of New Hampshire KENNETH H. NEALSON, University of Southern California NORMAN P. NEUREITER, American Association for the Advancement of Science SUZANNE OPARIL, University of Alabama, Birmingham JAMES PAWELCZYK, Pennsylvania State University RONALD F. PROBSTEIN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology HARVEY D. TANANBAUM, Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory RICHARD H. TRULY, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (retired) JOSEPH F. VEVERKA, Cornell University WARREN M. WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research GARY P. ZANK, University of California, Riverside MARCIA S. SMITH, Director
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers Preface The field of astronomy and astrophysics has advanced significantly with the advent of orbiting observatories. The ability to observe unobstructed by Earth’s atmosphere has opened new spectral windows and provided clearer, deeper views of the universe. Working with powerful new ground-based tools, astronomers and astrophysicists have revolutionized our understanding of the universe and the physical laws that govern its existence. In the United States, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has built, operated, and supported researchers using a wide variety of space astronomy missions, from the famous Hubble Space Telescope to small missions like the Swift mission. NASA has founded a number of astronomy science centers (distinct from its field centers) that serve as interfaces between the spacecraft and the research community. These science centers vary in size and responsibility, depending on the mission that they are tasked to support. With NASA’s success and the consequent growth in the number of science centers associated with astronomical missions, and in the light of several planned space astronomy missions and the need to consider centers to support those missions, NASA requested that the National Research Council conduct a study to carry out the following tasks: Conduct a comparative review of current astronomy science centers in terms of the kinds of roles and services that they provide; their size, for example, their budget and staff; the extent to which they utilize centralized or distributed approaches to their architecture; the roles and status of their staff; the nature of their host or governing institution and their governance structure; and how the centers were established by NASA—that is, by sole source or competitive procurement. Identify best practices and lessons learned from experience to date with NASA astronomy science centers. Assess whether there are optimum sizes or approaches for science centers, whether there are rational break points in levels of service for the centers, and what may be the main advantages or disadvantages of different scales of service.
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers Early in the study process, the committee learned of budget cuts to NASA’s astronomy and astrophysics program. Several missions in the planning stages were expected to be delayed for the foreseeable future. With that information, the committee decided to focus on the existing centers as examples of the ranges and sizes of science centers in order to determine whether new approaches to astronomy science centers would be necessary in the near future. In any case, it was not the purpose of this study to assess the performance of the science centers. Rather, the comparison of existing centers and the lessons learned from experience form the basis for inferring best practices and optimum sizes and approaches. The statement of task for the study (Appendix B) cited six astronomy science centers—the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Chandra X-ray Center, the Spitzer Science Center, the Michelson Science Center, the X-ray Multimirror Mission–Newton guest observer facility, and the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer mission guest observer facility—and the committee’s work for this report focused on these centers. Accordingly, the committee (see Appendix C for members’ biographies) obtained written information and heard presentations from the leaders of the science centers and assembled panels of experts, from research scientists to high school science teachers. Such a review will inform the committee on the full range of center services. The chair of the committee also visited each of the science centers discussed in the report as well as two archival centers, the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology. In this report the committee describes the functions and responsibilities of an astronomy science center, models of science centers for missions of various sizes, and the principles that should guide the establishment, operation, and evolution of science centers, and it makes recommendations for the future of NASA science centers.
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers Acknowledgment of Reviewers This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Robert Chen, Center for International Earth Sciences Information Network, Brian Drayton, TERC, Neal J. Evans, University of Texas at Austin, Sarah Gallagher, University of California, Los Angeles, Walter Gekelman, University of California, Los Angeles, Peter Quinn, University of Western Australia, and Burton Richter, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Stephan Meyer, Enrico Fermi Institute, University of Chicago. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers Contents SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 6 Expanding Access to Space Astronomy Data, 7 An Institutional Arrangement for NASA Astronomy Science Centers, 7 Standardized Data Formats, 8 Guest Observer Data Access and the Internet, 9 Expanding the Roles and Functions of Science Centers, 10 Proposal Support, 10 Education and Public Outreach, 10 2 FUNCTIONS OF CURRENT SCIENCE CENTERS 11 Support of Flight Operations, 11 Instrument Support and Calibration, 11 Data Analysis (Level 1 Processing), 12 Archiving and Distribution to the Community, 12 Software Development and Documentation for Science Analysis, 13 Help Desk and Other User Support, 13 User Workshops and Symposia, 13 Proposal Submission and Review, 14 Grant Administration, 14 Scientific Research, 15 Advocacy and Strategic Planning, 16 Education and Public Outreach, 16
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Portals to The Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers 3 MODELS FORNASA ASTRONOMY SCIENCE CENTERS 17 Five Models and the Services They Offer, 17 Traditional Mission Centers, 17 Explorer-Class Mission Centers, 18 Guest Observer Facilities, 18 Archival Centers, 19 Flagship Science Centers, 19 Factors Affecting Service and Size of Centers, 19 Budgets, 20 Size, Role, and Status of Staff, 20 Centralized Versus Distributed Architectures, 20 Governing Institution and Governance, 21 Oversight of Centers, 21 Summary, 21 Findings, 23 4 DATA ARCHIVING IN THE SCIENCE CENTERS 25 The Importance of Archival Access, 25 Sustainable, Long-Term Archives, 25 Organization by Wavelength, 26 Archives as a System, 27 Standardization and Reuse of Tools, 27 Current Status, 28 Near Future, 29 5 EDUCATION AND PUBLIC OUTREACH 30 Public Outreach, 30 K-12 Education, 31 6 BEST PRACTICES AND RECOMMENDATIONS 34 APPENDIXES A Tabulated Characteristics of the NASA Astronomy Science Centers 41 B Statement of Task 47 C Biographical Information for Committee Members and Staff 49 D Acronyms 53