At the present time both LISA and Con-X are being funded at a low level for technology development, with current extimated launch dates in the 2010’s. A small amount of funding had been allocated to preliminary mission concept studies for the Einstein Probes, and now NASA is about to fund three JDEM concept studies at the few million dollar level for completion in 2008. Funding for a Beyond Einstein mission start is anticipated in FY 2009. Determining which of the five Beyond Einstein mission should be selected for this start involves several factors, scientific impact being of primary importance, but also including technological readiness and mission partnership issues.

The tasks of the study committee will be:

  • To assess the five proposed Beyond Einstein missions (Constellation-X, LISA JDEM, Inflation Probe, and Black Hole Finder probe) and recommend which of these five should be developed and launced first, using a funding wedge that is expected ot begin in FY 2009. The criteria for these assessments include

    • potential scientific impact within the context of other existing and planned space-based and ground-bases missions;

    • realism of preliminary technology and management plans, and cost estimates.

  • To assess the Beyond Einstein missions sufficiently so that they can act as input for any future decisions by NASA or the next Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey on the ordering of the remaining missions. This second task element will assist NASA in its investment strategy for future technology development within the Beyond Einstein Program prior to the results of the Decadal Survey.

I request that the NRC submit a proposal for execution of the study by the Space Studies Board, in cooperation with the Board on Physics and Astronomy. Once agreement on the scope, cost, and schedule of the proposed study has been achieved, the Contracting Officer will issue a task order for implementation. The technical point of contact for this study within the Science Mission Directorate will be Cr. Michael H. Salamon, who can be reached at 202-358-0441


Mary L. Cleave

Associate Admistrator for Science Mission Directorate

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