the notional budget used here up to a significant (perhaps on the order of $200 million) mission-specific technology program starting mid-decade.18
Most small missions and contributions to non-NASA programs can be competed within the Explorer program and are best handled there through the peer-review process. However, one time-critical opportunity with compelling scientific return—the Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics (SPICA) mission—exceeds the scale allowed by Explorer MoOs, and the committee recommends that NASA proceed with contributions to its development as described below. The committee considered it along with the competed investigator programs that are also described below, and does not rank any of these small-scale opportunities.
The tremendous success of the Spitzer Space Telescope has spurred the development of a yet-more-powerful mid- and far-infrared mission, the Japanese-led SPICA mission. It addresses many of this report’s identified science goals, especially understanding the birth of galaxies, stars, and planets as well as the cycling of matter through our own interstellar medium and dusty gas in nearby galaxies. SPICA will have a cooled 3.5-meter aperture and operate at wavelengths from 5 to 210 microns. The planned launch date is 2018.
The committee recommends that the United States should join this project by contributing infrared instrumentation, which would exploit unique U.S. expertise and detector experience. The committee received a proposal from a project called BLISS which provided one possible way to meet this opportunity and was rated highly by the survey’s Program Prioritization Panel on Electromagnetiic Observations from Space. NASA has recently issued a call for proposals for science investigation concept studies that will elicit more ideas. Such participation would provide cost-effective access to an advanced facility for the U.S. research community and full participation in the science teams. Because JAXA and ESA are currently moving ahead, joining SPICA is time-sensitive, and so the committee urges NASA to work with JAXA to determine the optimal phasing of an Announcement of Opportunity for contributions. A notional budget of $150 million, including operations over the decade, is recommended.