3
Conclusions

The fiscal boundary conditions communicated to the NRC by NASA shifted considerably during the decadal survey process, and erosion since then has been continuing at an alarming pace. Providing strategic advice under these conditions is extremely challenging. The question may be asked whether these changing conditions fundamentally alter the context for the strategy developed by the decadal survey. The panel notes, however, that the decadal survey process was designed to produce advice robust to changing conditions, both fiscal and scientific, and the panel found that the recommendations made in NWNH remain scientifically compelling. Nevertheless, the decline in real purchasing power identified before NWNH was issued, and the recent increase in the cost of completing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST),1 together jeopardize the implementation of NWNH. In this context and with a focus on the Euclid/WFIRST issue, the panel explored the pros and cons of the four primary options that emerged during its deliberations, and it drew conclusions for each as to whether they were consistent with NWNH recommendations.

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. According to NWNH,2

WFIRST addresses fundamental and pressing scientific questions and contributes to a broad range of astrophysics. It complements the proposed ground-based program in two key science areas: dark energy science and the study of exoplanets. It is an integral part of coordinated and synergistic programs in fields in which the United States has the leading role. It also presents opportunities for interagency and perhaps international collaboration that will tap complementary experience and skills. It also presents relatively low technical and cost risk, making it feasible to complete within the decade, even in a constrained budgetary environment. For these reasons, it is the top-priority recommendation for a space-based initiative. A 2013 new start should enable launch in 2020. (p. 7-18)

However, without additional funds to augment the projected NASA astrophysics budget for the express purpose of completing JWST, the carefully crafted program for space-based astrophysics recommended in NWNH may not be realized. It is clear from NASA and OSTP comments at the November 7, 2010, meeting that in the current budget climate WFIRST will be delayed by a delayed JWST (assuming that JWST will not be canceled). In recognition of tight budgetary constraints for the coming decade due to the continued development of JWST, the NWNH program for space astrophysics was more modest than the programs of the previous two decadal surveys.3 That being the case, there is considerable concern in the astronomy and astrophysics community that even this modest program is jeopardized by the possibility of yet more cost and schedule growth in JWST which threatens to reduce still further the funding available for new astrophysics missions such as WFIRST and other activities

______________

1 J. Casani et al., James Webb Space Telescope Independent Comprehensive Review Panel: Final Report, October 29, 2010 (publicly released on November 10, 2010).

2 National Research Council (NRC), New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics [prepublication], The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2010.

3 NRC, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics [prepublication], 2010, p. 7-4.



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3 Conclusions The fiscal boundary conditions communicated to the NRC by NASA shifted considerably during the decadal survey process, and erosion since then has been continuing at an alarming pace. Providing strategic advice under these conditions is extremely challenging. The question may be asked whether these changing conditions fundamentally alter the context for the strategy developed by the decadal survey. The panel notes, however, that the decadal survey process was designed to produce advice robust to changing conditions, both fiscal and scientific, and the panel found that the recommendations made in NWNH remain scientifically compelling. Nevertheless, the decline in real purchasing power identified before NWNH was issued, and the recent increase in the cost of completing the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST),1 together jeopardize the implementation of NWNH. In this context and with a focus on the Euclid/WFIRST issue, the panel explored the pros and cons of the four primary options that emerged during its deliberations, and it drew conclusions for each as to whether they were consistent with NWNH recommendations. OPTION A: LAUNCH OF WFIRST IN THE DECADE 2012-2021 The panel reaffirms the centrality to the overall integrated plan articulated in NWNH of 2 embarking in this decade on the scientifically compelling WFIRST mission. According to NWNH, WFIRST addresses fundamental and pressing scientific questions and contributes to a broad range of astrophysics. It complements the proposed ground-based program in two key science areas: dark energy science and the study of exoplanets. It is an integral part of coordinated and synergistic programs in fields in which the United States has the leading role. It also presents opportunities for interagency and perhaps international collaboration that will tap complementary experience and skills. It also presents relatively low technical and cost risk, making it feasible to complete within the decade, even in a constrained budgetary environment. For these reasons, it is the top-priority recommendation for a space-based initiative. A 2013 new start should enable launch in 2020. (p. 7-18) However, without additional funds to augment the projected NASA astrophysics budget for the express purpose of completing JWST, the carefully crafted program for space-based astrophysics recommended in NWNH may not be realized. It is clear from NASA and OSTP comments at the November 7, 2010, meeting that in the current budget climate WFIRST will be delayed by a delayed JWST (assuming that JWST will not be canceled). In recognition of tight budgetary constraints for the coming decade due to the continued development of JWST, the NWNH program for space astrophysics was more modest than the programs of the previous two decadal surveys.3 That being the case, there is considerable concern in the astronomy and astrophysics community that even this modest program is jeopardized by the possibility of yet more cost and schedule growth in JWST which threatens to reduce still further the funding available for new astrophysics missions such as WFIRST and other activities 1 J. Casani et al., James Webb Space Telescope Independent Comprehensive Review Panel: Final Report, October 29, 2010 (publicly released on November 10, 2010). 2 National Research Council (NRC), New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics [prepublication], The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2010. 3 NRC, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics [prepublication], 2010, p. 7-4. 8

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recommended in NWNH. More broadly, this budget situation has serious consequences for elements of the program that address time-critical science opportunities and strive for a balanced and diverse program. As the panel heard from the survey chair at its workshop, key to the WFIRST mission recommendation is the possibility of its rapid development and thus launch within the decade.4 Current estimates of a launch of 2022, 5 or even much later, substantially weaken NWNH’s rationale for this mission, and would also postpone the development of future missions (in the 2020-2030 time frame). NWNH states that WFIRST’s relatively low technical risk makes it “feasible to complete within the decade, even in a constrained budgetary environment. For these reasons [emphasis added], it is the top- priority recommendation for the space-based initiative” (p. 3-14). NWNH considered LISA and IXO to be compelling, highly capable, and more ambitious flagship missions than WFIRST but ranked them lower because of their required new technology development, higher cost, and technical risk, which, given NWNH’s budget assumptions, make launch this decade or even early next decade highly unlikely. 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. The panel notes that the NWNH program also includes (1) key investments in technology development for future missions, (2) medium-scale activities (beyond such technology development), and (3) small-scale activities, all of which are jeopardized by the austere budgets now under consideration. While the advantages of appropriating the projected budget scenarios utilized in developing the NWNH- recommended astrophysics program are obvious, the panel recognizes the unique challenges that this option presents. However, until the issues associated with WFIRST (and JWST) are clarified, it is difficult to determine whether the relative priorities of NWNH should be reconsidered, or whether resources would be better invested in small and medium-scale activities than on a significantly delayed WFIRST. The relative development schedules of Euclid and WFIRST may also be a factor in such considerations. Having heard the evidence presented at its workshop, the panel finds that the current situation is unclear and that all of these issues may well require consideration by the decadal survey implementation advisory committee (DSIAC) recommended in NWNH when more information is available. This panel, echoing the assumption in NWNH that the mission would be available to address key science priorities in the decade ahead, strongly emphasizes that the success of JWST is central to U.S. space astronomy, but hopes that whatever means are found to address the JWST cost increases do not vitiate the exciting program put forward in NWNH. OPTION B: A JOINT WFIRST/EUCLID MISSION If the budget constraints that have emerged since delivery of the NWNH report are not adequately addressed (see Option A) and a timely WFIRST as originally conceived is not possible, one option to accomplish WFIRST’s goals would be a single international mission, combining WFIRST and ESA’s Euclid.6 The panel affirms the scientific priority of a mission that accomplishes all the goals of WFIRST and that would also accomplish the goals of Euclid. Although no path has yet been identified by the agencies toward a single international mission, such a mission may still be possible. Fitting the ESA and NASA processes together at this stage would be a challenge, but the scientific benefits are clear. Were a joint mission to remain on the ESA schedule for Euclid to launch within this decade, it would indeed be completely consistent with the NWNH plan for WFIRST. The NWNH report recommended a leadership role for the U.S. in a joint mission. The panel interprets “a leadership role”7 to mean (1) ensuring that the science requirements and observing plan, which are jointly designed and agreed upon, support all the primary WFIRST science goals specified in NWNH—namely, planet microlensing, dark energy science (through the BAO, weak lensing, and Type Ia 4 As described in Roger Blandford’s presentation at the panel’s November 7, 2010, meeting. 5 As described by NASA at the panel’s November 7, 2010, meeting. 6 See number (3) in “Specific Statements in NWNH Concerning Euclid” above. 7 NRC, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics [prepublication], 2010, p. 3-14. 9

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supernovae methods), and the galactic survey/guest investigator program (p. 7-17);8 (2) that the United States has a prominent role on the science team, whose members have full access to the data, and that the data are archived for the U.S. community to use; and (3) that the United States has sufficient involvement in mission development to ensure that all the science requirements are met. With the above conditions, either a U.S.-led mission or an ESA-led mission could be consistent with the NWNH report. Appropriately, NASA is pushing ahead with a WFIRST science definition team (SDT) to clarify mission details and is waiting for ESA to finish its M(edium)-class selection process before reopening negotiations on a possible partnership.9 NASA could invite current Euclid scientists to participate in the WFIRST SDT, and solicitations for U.S. scientists to participate on the Euclid team could encompass the full suite of WFIRST goals. Should Euclid be selected, negotiations could proceed to merge the teams toward an optimized international mission. The panel notes that at this stage it has too little information to determine whether the option of a transatlantic partnership on WFIRST/Euclid science can be crafted that comports with NWNH’s overall integrated plan for U.S. astronomy. Therefore, the panel concludes that it would be advantageous for NASA to embark as soon as possible on the required studies, presumably in collaboration with ESA, to determine whether such a partnership is technically, financially, and politically feasible. Also, the panel notes that 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 recommended in NWNH to be established to “monitor progress toward reaching the goals recommended in [NWNH], and to provide strategic advice to the agencies over the decade of implementation” (p. 1-5). The current panel is very sympathetic to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate as it attempts to implement NWNH in the current budgetary climate and expects that the DSIAC, once established, will work closely and productively with NASA to help realize the program articulated in NWNH within emerging budgetary constraints. OPTION C: COMMITMENT BY NASA OF A 20 PERCENT INVESTMENT IN EUCLID PRIOR TO THE M-CLASS DECISION The panel heard from NASA about its proposal to join ESA in a partnership on the Euclid mission at a level of 20 percent. Having also heard details of the Euclid mission from ESA and the rationale for the decadal survey’s WFIRST recommendation and its three science goals from Roger Blandford, the panel concluded that a 20 percent investment in Euclid as it is currently envisioned and as presented by NASA is not consistent with the program, strategy, and intent of the decadal survey. NASA’s current position is that a down payment can be made on the dark energy science goals of WFIRST by making a 20 percent investment in Euclid, and that this approach would provide the opportunity for U.S. scientists to be involved sooner in space-based dark energy science, given that a launch of WFIRST would most likely be delayed significantly. 10 However, the two other WFIRST science goals outlined in NWNH, robust exoplanet microlensing and guest-observer-survey programs, would not be fully realized in the baseline mission of Euclid (although Euclid does include a modest microlensing capability). The Astro2010 decadal survey committee was aware of Euclid as it is currently configured and of the possibility of a minority partnership. However, a minority share in Euclid does not appear as an option in either budget scenario described in NWNH. Instead, NWNH stated that if the survey’s budget assumption cannot be realized, then “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). NWNH does not prioritize among these three recommendations and does not provide guidance on how to do so. The DSIAC may be able to weigh in on this matter should the need arise. NASA has stated that a 20 percent investment in Euclid as described would be cost-neutral over 8 Ibid., p. 7-17. 9 As described by NASA at the panel’s November 7, 2010, meeting. 10 As presented by NASA at the November 7, 2010, meeting. 10

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the decade owing to a complementary ESA contribution in WFIRST. However, the panel concludes that the 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 ($463 million), as well as augmentations to the core activities ($110 million) that were elements in the survey’s first tier of activities for a less optimistic budget scenario. Moreover, the present panel emphasizes that a 20 percent share dedicated to Euclid would amount to a non-negligible fraction of the resources needed for these and other NWNH priorities (such as New Worlds [$100-200 million] and Cosmic Microwave Background/inflation [$60 million to $200 million] technology development and theory and computation networks [$50 million from NASA]), and would be spent in part during the period of greatest stress on the NASA budget due to JWST cost growth and delay.11 The NWNH program recommended for NASA also includes support for the LISA pathfinder and IXO development—both LISA and IXO are candidates for ESA’s L(arge)-class mission opportunity— which the panel highlights because ESA intends12 to make a decision on its L-class and M-class missions on a similar timescale in 2011. The outcome of these ESA processes may be another key issue for the NWNH-recommended DSIAC to review in the context of extremely limited available resources. OPTION D: NO U.S. FINANCING OF AN INFRARED SURVEY MISSION THIS DECADE The impacts of the JWST cost overruns on the astrophysics budget are not currently known, but it is conceivable that their severity would have a crippling effect on the integrated program recommended in NWNH. If neither of 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 finds that, 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 recommendations, possibly with the omission of WFIRST (p. 7-40). Although an extremely unfortunate outcome with severely negative consequences for the exciting science program advanced by NWNH, because NWNH did not prioritize between its large, medium, and small recommendations, this option would seem consistent with NWNH. However, such a major change of plan should first be reviewed by the DSIAC. FINAL REMARKS In exploring the four options discussed above and reaching its conclusions, this panel was guided by the widely recognized community consensus that the decadal survey process is the most effective way to inform federal priority setting in astronomy and to ensure the continuance of the remarkable record of accomplishment in astronomy witnessed during the past 50 years. The recent decadal survey engaged a large number in the astronomy community for almost 2 years in a massive consensus-building exercise. Past surveys have always served astronomy and the federal agencies well as the “gold standard” for scientific and project advice. As charged, this panel has sought to interpret the integrated plan recommended in NWNH in the context of changing circumstances.13 It did not view its role as altering or revisiting in any way the issues addressed by NWNH, nor as providing guidance beyond what is stated in NWNH. 11 As presented by NASA at the November 7, 2010, meeting. Based on input received from ESA at this meeting, the panel assumed that the ~20 percent share in question would equal approximately $170 million to $200 million. 12 As presented by ESA at the November 7, 2010, meeting. 13 The recently-enacted NASA Authorization Act directs NASA “to take into account recommendations from the National Academies’ decadal surveys when submitting their budget request.” (Section 805) 11

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Appendixes

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