Competed instrumentation and technology development are supported, including computing at astronomical facilities in support of the research program, as described in Chapter 5. The current level of funding is roughly $10 million per year, and the survey’s proposal is to increase this to $15 million per year to accommodate key opportunities including, especially, advanced technology in adaptive optics development and radio instrumentation.
Competed individual investigator grants, as described in Chapter 5, provide critical support for astronomers to conduct the research for which the observatories and instruments are built. The current funding level has fluctuated, especially because of the welcome injection of ARRA funding, but the rough baseline is $46 million per year. An increase of $8 million for a total of $54 million per year is recommended. This increment should include the support of new opportunities in Laboratory Astrophysics.
An international partnership supports operations and instrumentation at the two international Gemini telescopes. As described in Chapter 6, the imminent withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the partnership will require that additional support be provided by the remaining partners. Set against this need is a desire to operate the telescopes more efficiently and achieve significant savings in operations costs. An augmentation of $2 million to the annual budget is recommended subject to the results of NSF’s exploring a restructuring of the management and operations of Gemini and acquiring an increased share of the observing time, as discussed in Chapter 6.
The TSIP trades competed support of telescope instrumentation on privately operated telescopes for competed observing time open to the entire U.S. astronomical community. As described in Chapter 6, this is a vital component of the OIR system that was instituted following advice presented in the 2001 decadal survey. It is currently supporting new telescope instrumentation at an average rate of roughly $2 million to $3 million per year and an increment to $5 million per year is recommended.