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New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
PROPOSED PROGRAM OF ACTIVITIES
The committee’s recommended program is presented in terms of specific space-based2 and ground-based projects and opportunities. In space, large-scale activities are those having a total appraised cost exceeding $1 billion, while medium-scale activities have a total cost estimated to range from $300 million to $1 billion. On the ground, large-scale activities are those whose total cost is appraised to exceed $135 million, while medium-scale activities have a total cost in the range of $4 million to $135 million. All values are in FY2010 dollars.3
Space Projects—Large—in Rank Order
Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)
A 1.5-meter wide-field-of-view near-infrared-imaging and low-resolution-spectroscopy telescope, WFIRST will settle fundamental questions about the nature of dark energy, the discovery of which was one of the greatest achievements of U.S. telescopes in recent years. It will employ three distinct techniques—measurements of weak gravitational lensing, supernova distances, and baryon acoustic oscillations—to determine the effect of dark energy on the evolution of the universe. An equally important outcome will be to open up a new frontier of exoplanet studies by monitoring a large sample of stars in the central bulge of the Milky Way for changes in brightness due to microlensing by intervening solar systems. This census, combined with that made by the Kepler mission, will determine how common Earth-like planets are over a wide range of orbital parameters. It will also, in guest investigator mode, survey our galaxy and other nearby galaxies to answer key questions about their formation and structure, and the data it obtains will provide fundamental constraints on how galaxies grow. The telescope exploits the important work done
Two space missions recommended in the 2001 NRC decadal survey Astronomy and Astrophysicsin the New Millennium (AANM; National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.)—namely ARISE and EXIST—and one recommended by the 1991 NRC survey The Decade of Discovery in Astronomyand Astrophysics (National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.), SIM, do not appear in this survey’s priorities. The goals of ARISE have been largely subsumed by JAXA’s VLBI Space Observatory Programme (VSOP)-2 project and the SAMURAI (Science of AGNs and Masers with Unprecedented Resolution in Astronomical Imaging) proposal. EXIST and SIM (now SIMLite) are not included in the recommended program for the decade, following the committee’s consideration of the strengths of competing compelling scientific opportunities and the highly constrained budget scenarios described in this report.
All costs are given in FY2010 dollars. A recommendation of level funding is equivalent to a recommendation of constant level of effort. Details on the methodology used to assess cost and schedule risk and technical readiness are provided in Chapter 7 and Appendix C. Cost and schedule risk was assessed relative to project estimates. Technical readiness was assessed independent of cost. The risk scale used was low, medium low, medium, medium high, and high.