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Executive Summary The 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey (Astro2010) report, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (NWNH), outlines a scientifically exciting and programmatically integrated plan for both ground- and space-based astronomy and astrophysics in the 2012-2021 decade. 1 However, late in the survey process, the budgetary outlook shifted downward considerably from the guidance that NASA had provided to the decadal survey. And since August 2010— when NWNH was released—the projections of funds available for new NASA astrophysics initiatives has decreased even further because of the recently reported delay in the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2015 and the associated additional costs of at least $1.4 billion.2 These developments jeopardize implementation of the carefully designed program of activities proposed in NWNH. In response to these circumstances, NASA has proposed that the United States consider a commitment to the European Space Agency (ESA) Euclid mission at a level of approximately 20 percent.3 This participation would be undertaken in addition to initiating the planning for the survey’s highest-ranked, space-based large-scale mission, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested that the National Research Council (NRC) convene a panel to consider whether NASA’s Euclid proposal is consistent with achieving the priorities, goals, and recommendations in NWNH and with pursuing the science strategy articulated in it. The panel also investigated what impact such participation might have on the prospects for the timely realization of the WFIRST mission and other activities recommended by NWNH in view of the projected budgetary situation.4 The Panel on Implementing Recommendations from New Worlds, New Horizons Decadal Survey convened its workshop on November 7, 2010, and heard presentations from NASA, ESA, OSTP, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and members of the domestic and foreign astronomy and astrophysics communities. Workshop presentations identified several trade-offs among options: funding goals less likely versus more likely to be achieved in a time of restricted budgets; narrower versus broader scientific goals; and United States-only versus U.S.-ESA collaboration. The panel captured these trade-offs in considering four primary options.5 • Option A: Launch of WFIRST in the Decade 2012-2021. The panel reaffirms the centrality to the overall integrated plan articulated in NWNH of embarking in this decade on the scientifically compelling WFIRST mission. If WFIRST development and launch are significantly delayed beyond what was assumed by NWNH, one of the key considerations that led to this relative ranking is no longer valid. However, until there is greater clarity on how and when WFIRST can be implemented, it is difficult to determine whether the relative priorities of NWNH should be reconsidered. These issues may well require 1 National Research Council, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics [prepublication], The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2010. 2 J. Casani et al., James Webb Space Telescope Independent Comprehensive Review Panel: Final Report, October 29, 2010 (publicly released on November 10, 2010). 3 At the November 7, 2010, workshop NASA said that the current participation level on Euclid is planned at 20 percent of the estimated mission development cost (see Appendix B for more information). 4 The panel’s statement of task is given in this report’s preface. Information on the workshop is provided in Appendixes A and B. 5 The four options are not ranked in any particular order. 1
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consideration by the decadal survey implementation advisory committee (DSIAC) recommended in NWNH.6 • Option B: A Joint WFIRST/Euclid Mission. If the budget constraints that have emerged since delivery of the NWNH report are not adequately addressed and a timely WFIRST as originally conceived is not possible (see Option A), one option to accomplish WFIRST’s goals would be a single international mission combining WFIRST and ESA’s Euclid. Either a U.S.-led mission or an ESA-led mission could be consistent with the NWNH report, contingent on whether or not the United States plays “a leading role” and “so long as the committee’s recommended science program is preserved and overall cost savings result” (p. 1-6). Therefore, it would be advantageous for NASA, in collaboration with ESA, to study whether such a joint mission is feasible. Waiting to decide on a significant financial commitment to such a partnership, whatever its form, would allow time for such studies and for the DSIAC to be established and provide guidance on this issue. • Option C: Commitment by NASA of a 20 Percent Investment in Euclid prior to the M-class Decision. A 20 percent investment in Euclid as currently envisioned and as presented by NASA is not consistent with the program, strategy, and intent of the decadal survey. NWNH stated the following if the survey’s budget assumption cannot be realized: “In the event that insufficient funds are available to carry out the recommended program, the first priority is to develop, launch, and operate WFIRST, and to implement the Explorer program and core research program recommended augmentations” (p. 7-40). A 20 percent plan would deplete resources for the timely execution of the broader range of NWNH space- based recommendations and would significantly delay implementing the Explorer augmentation, as well as augmentations to the core activities that were elements in the survey’s recommended first tier of activities in a less optimistic budget scenario. A 20 percent contribution would also be a non-negligible fraction of the resources needed for other NWNH priorities. • Option D: No U.S. Financing of an Infrared Survey Mission This Decade. If neither options A nor B are viable due to budget constraints (or if Option A is not viable and Option B is not possible due to programmatic difficulties), and Option C is rejected, the panel concluded that to be consistent with the overall plan in NWNH, any existing budget wedge could go to other NWNH priorities: the next-ranked large recommendation (augmentation of the Explorer program), technology development for future missions, and the high-priority medium and small recommended activities, possibly with the omission of WFIRST. Although an extremely unfortunate outcome with severely negative consequences for the exciting science program advanced by NWNH, this option seems consistent with NWNH, which did not prioritize between its large, medium, and small recommended activities. However, such a major change of plan should first be reviewed by the recommended DSIAC. Providing strategic advice under current conditions is extremely challenging. Whether today’s changing conditions fundamentally alter the long-term approach of the decadal survey might understandably be questioned. However, the panel emphasizes that the 2010 decadal survey provided integrated advice that was explicitly designed to be robust for the entire decade. The survey anticipated that fiscal and scientific conditions would change. NASA’s rapidly changing budgetary landscape highlights the urgency of establishing a mechanism such as the DSIAC to ensure that appropriate community advice is available to the government. The NWNH recommendations remain scientifically compelling, and this panel believes that the decadal survey process remains the most effective way to provide community consensus to the federal government to assist in its priority setting for U.S. astronomy and astrophysics. 6 In NWNH, the recommended DSIAC was charged to “monitor progress toward reaching the goals recommended in [NWNH], and to provide strategic advice to the agencies over the decade of implementation” (National Research Council, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics [prepublication], 2010, p. 1-5). 2