nologies have found applications in the health sciences and national security. The major facilities and missions recommended in this survey will open new windows on the universe and will forge partnerships with both the private sector and international partners.

  1. To strengthen educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (and critical foreign languages). Astronomy has broad public appeal and vibrant ties to other branches of science and technology, strengths that enable the field to contribute to STEM education in uniquely powerful ways. As is mentioned above, college-level introductory astronomy courses are often the only science class taken by future K-12 teachers. Astronomical observatories and NASA missions have strong programs in informal science education, which can be a gateway to the sciences and have the potential to attract more minorities and women to the sciences and engineering.

  2. To develop a workforce for the 21st century. Astronomy can play a central role in raising U.S. science literacy at all levels from kindergarten through university and across the general public as well. College-level introductory astronomy courses play a central role in teaching the scientific method. The depth and sophistication of engineering analysis required for today’s new astronomical facilities and missions provide a unique opportunity for interns and young professionals to strengthen their skills.

CONCLUSION: Astronomical research continues to offer significant benefits to the nation beyond astronomical discoveries. These benefits include its role in capturing the public’s attention and thereby promoting general science literacy and proficiency, its service as a gateway to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers, and a number of important and often unexpected technological spin-offs. The field of astronomy and astrophysics deserves inclusion in initiatives to enhance basic research, such as the America COMPETES Act.

Astronomy Addresses the Challenges of the 21st Century

The examples above show that astronomy contributes in unexpected ways to national agendas that extend far beyond the study of the universe itself. In science and technology today, two of the most important challenges are the impact of global climate change and the search for clean, sustainable, carbon-free sources of energy. In his address to the National Academy of Sciences in April 2009, President Obama issued a call to action, exhorting the United States to muster its collective expertise and energy to assume international leadership in addressing these challenges.

Astronomy has already played a major role in our understanding of global climate and climate change. The first understanding of the planet-wide greenhouse



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