Guided by the science opportunities identified in the reports of the decadal survey’s five Science Frontiers Panels (Chapters 1 through 5 in this volume) and within the framework of current and in-process facilities and programs available to the astrophysics community, the panel formulated the program described below for electromagnetic space missions for the 2010-2020 decade. In the process of formulating this program, the panel reviewed nearly 100 written submissions from the astronomy and astrophysics community describing a broad range of potential facilities, required tools, and needed technology development, as well as thought-provoking manifestos on process and principles.
The program recommended by the panel reflects its judgment that, in the 2010-2020 decade—with many scientifically compelling space missions to choose from but with a tightly constrained budget—the highest priority is for programs that will have a major impact on many of the most important scientific questions, engaging a broad segment of the research community.
The panel’s recommended program is divided into large activities and moderate/small activities. The panel expresses emphatic support for a balanced program that includes both. The three large initiatives—the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) Observatory mission, the International X-ray Observatory (IXO) mission, and an exoplanet mission—are presented in prioritized order.
The four moderate/small activates are not prioritized. The panel’s recommended program calls for strong support of all four activities, although one—the Space Infrared Telescope for Cosmology and Astrophysics and the Background-Limited Infrared-Submillimeter Spectrograph (SPICA/BLISS)—has de facto priority because of its time-critical nature. The moderate/small initiatives are the SPICA/BLISS initiative, augmentation of NASA’s Explorer program for astrophysics, technology development for a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) successor, and augmentation of NASA research and analysis (R&A) programs in technology development and suborbital science. The relative levels of support for these activities would depend on factors that cannot be forecast in detail, such as (1) the future funding level of NASA’s Astrophysics Division base budget and (2) science opportunities and cost-benefit trade-offs. In the final section (“Funding a Balanced Program”) of this report the panel recommends funding levels across the program that address these issues for three different budget projections for the Astrophysics Division.
The WFIRST Observatory is a 1.5-m telescope for near-infrared (IR) imaging and low-resolution spectroscopy. The panel adopted the spacecraft hardware of