high-risk research,23 also emphasized the difficulty of managing this type of development: when resources are limited, the temptation is always to cut long-range work in order to satisfy the more immediate demands of near-term technology requirements. Keeping the funding steady and healthy for promising long-term work while carefully evaluating it to avoid waste requires considerable attention from long-term program managers. An NRC recommendation to NASA was that the agency increase the number of scientifically and technically capable program officers, so that they could devote an appropriate level of attention to the tasks of actively managing the portfolio of research and technology development that enables a world-class space science program.24

Long-term technology development is funded at small levels from the APRA program. In the past, the Research and Engineering Directorate funded long-term and cross-cutting technologies (i.e., technologies with broad application within NASA), but this program was discontinued in the past decade. The committee was pleased to learn that NASA is planning to re-invigorate technology development across the enterprise, and it hopes that this effort will be managed in a way that provides an increased variety of opportunities for far-sighted work toward the future needs of astrophysics.

To address the issues raised above concerning support of mid-range technology development for future astrophysics missions, the committee recommends in Chapter 7 increases in the funding levels of NASA’s APRA and Suborbital programs. The adequate support of technology development for specific high-priority missions is also recommended in Chapter 7.

NSF-Funded Ground-Based Astrophysics Technology Development

The above discussion of the categories and benefits of technology development for the space program apply equally well to ground-based efforts, but the funding patterns are different.

At NSF, relatively near-term technology development is carried out in the course of instrument construction, for example at the national observatories and by the larger community funded by competitive grants from the MRI and ATI programs. The critical advancement of promising new technologies that are not yet ready for implementation, including next-generation and blue-sky technologies, is funded primarily by the ATI program. This aspect of NSF-AST


National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2007.


National Research Council, An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Space and Earth Science Missions, 2010.

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