scientifically productive program would require early technology development, including pilot programs with substantial scientific return.
The committee recommends that an appropriate fraction of the funding for a lunar initiative be devoted to supporting fundamental scientific missions as they progress from small ground-based instruments, to modest orbital experiments, and finally, to the placement of facilities on the moon. The advanced technology should be tested by obtaining scientific results at each development stage.
The committee urges the selection of a modest project for the early phase of the lunar program, such as a 1-m-class telescope for survey or pointed observations, that would provide useful scientific data and valuable experience for operating larger facilities in the future. The committee concluded that, in the long term, the chief advantage of the moon as a site for space astronomy is that it provides a large, solid foundation on which to build widely separated structures such as interferometers.
Answering questions about the universe challenges astronomers, fascinates a broad national audience, and inspires young people to pursue careers in engineering, mathematics, and science.
The committee recommends enhancing astronomy's role in precollege science education by increasing the educational role of the national observatories, by expanding summer programs for science teachers, and by setting up a national Astronomy Fellowship program to select promising high school students for summer internships at major observatories.
Astronomical research assists the nation, directly and indirectly, in achieving societal goals. For example, studies of the sun, the planets, and the stars have led to experimental techniques for the investigation of the earth's environment and to a broader perspective from which to consider terrestrial environmental concerns such as ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect.
Research in astronomy derives its support from the curiosity of human beings about the universe in which we live, from the stimulus it provides to young people to study science, from the synergistic benefits to other sciences, and from the unforeseen practical applications that occasionally ensue. While participating in the thrill of the discovery of new things “out there,” society passes on something of value to future generations.