As discussed in Chapter 5, NASA’s core research programs—such as support for individual investigator grants, data management, theoretical studies, and innovative technology development—are fundamental to mission development and essential for scientific progress. They provide the foundation for new ideas that stretch the imagination, and they lay the groundwork for nearer-term Explorer programs as well as far-future vision missions. They provide the means to interpret the results from currently operating missions. Maintaining these core activities, even in the face of cost overruns from major missions, has high priority and is the most effective way to maintain balance in the research program.19
To support the new scientific opportunities of the coming decade, and to lay the foundations for future missions for 2020 and beyond, the committee recommends several augmentations to core activities, as well as some new programs of small scale. These are unranked and listed in alphabetical order. Programs that are not mentioned are assumed to proceed with existing budget profiles, subject to senior review recommendations, although the committee emphasizes the importance of many small elements of the core research programs described in Chapter 5.
New investments in the Astrophysics Theory Program (ATP) will be amply repaid in the form of new mission concepts and enhanced scientific return from existing missions. A $35 million augmentation or 25 percent is recommended.
Following the fourth servicing mission, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is now more capable than ever before and is enabling spectacular science, including observation at ultraviolet wavelengths. No more servicing missions are planned, and NASA intends to deorbit HST robotically at the end of the decade. The committee endorses this decision. Meanwhile, the results from FUSE, GALEX, and the HST’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph now show that as much could be learned about the universe at ultraviolet wavelengths as motivated the proposal and development of JWST for observations at infrared wavelengths. Topics that are central
See for example the following National Research Council reports: An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Earth and Space Science Missions (2009), A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Astrophysics Program (2007), An Assessment of Balance in NASA’s Science Programs (2006), Review of the Science Mission Directorate’s Draft Science Plan: Letter Report (2006), and Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA’s Science Programs: Engines for Innovation and Synthesis (1998), all published by The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.