NASA, in collaboration with current and potential partners, should update and build on its 2003 roadmap, BeyondEinstein: FromtheBigBangtoBlack Holes, in setting its future plans.2 An updated roadmap would include greater detail on how specific missions will be planned and implemented, including specific plans for technology development, research and analysis, and education and outreach. Continuous funding support for these areas is necessary to ensure a pipeline of future Beyond Einstein science opportunities.
Several of the proposed mission concepts rely on existing infrastructure outside the Beyond Einstein Program. The committee is concerned that critical infrastructure needed to accomplish these missions must be in place during the period when the Beyond Einstein missions will be operating. These assets include the equivalent of a Deep Space Network with supporting orbital and ground networks, data archival and distribution networks, and high-speed ground links. Investments in the infrastructure that enables researchers to communicate, organize, and share information are crucial to ensuring optimal participation in the research effort. In making decisions about the maintenance and upgrades of existing infrastructure, NASA must include the projected requirements for Beyond Einstein missions.
The committee is concerned that ITAR could impede cooperation or collaboration with Beyond Einstein international partners. Of particular concern are LISA and the JDEM mission candidate, SNAP, proposing international collaboration. Should a mission experience serious ITAR issues regarding the exchange of technical information or hardware, schedule and cost impacts could be significant.
Among Beyond Einstein missions, LISA is the most vulnerable to potential ITAR problems. LISA’s greater susceptibility to ITAR issues is due to the scope and complexity of the technical interfaces between the NASA and ESA contributions. While LISA and other mission teams proposing significant international participation are proactive in addressing export control issues, these issues remain a programmatic risk that NASA and ESA must carefully manage.
NASA’s experience in managing international collaborations (e.g., the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Cassini-Huygens mission) speaks to its ability to overcome ITAR impediments, although sometimes with difficulty. Policy makers should carefully review the efficacy of the current application of export control regime as it applies to international scientific missions.
The policy areas of interest addressed above are fairly representative of issues and concerns faced by cutting-edge space sciences missions. Although important and challenging, none is considered an insurmountable barrier to success. And while science, technology, and operations issues could present additional complications and risks, the committee believes that the space sciences community is capable of responding to these challenges. Obviously, partnerships have been and will continue to be successful, but they do require substantial attention.
In conclusion, the United States and its partners are in an enviable position of possessing multiple, high-quality mission concepts to answer Beyond Einstein questions. To succeed, however, sponsoring agencies must quickly align behind the highest priorities identified for the Beyond Einstein Program while continuing a robust program that invests in future mission technologies.