While the NRC has recommended the undertaking of all five of the space science missions referred to above in either Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium or Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos, the NRC has never prioritized all five missions in this suite against one another.
In response to an expected NASA “funding wedge” that is to open in fiscal year 2009, NASA and DOE requested that the NRC assess the five Beyond Einstein missions and recommend one for first launch and development. This NRC study (i.e., the present report) was to use a set of criteria, including potential scientific impact and technical readiness, to examine the five Beyond Einstein missions.
The committee will be charged to address the following tasks:
Assess the five proposed Beyond Einstein missions (Constellation-X, Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, Joint Dark Energy Mission, Inflation Probe, and Black Hole Finder Probe) and recommend which of these five should be developed and launched first, using a funding wedge that is expected to 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-based missions; and
Realism of preliminary technology and management plans, and cost estimates.
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.