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Working Papers: Astronomy and Astrophysics Panel Reports
implementation of the Great Observatories program and the deployment of second-generation image-correcting instruments for the Hubble Space Telescope.
In addition to the 5-year plan, NASA should expand its support of moderate and small programs, implemented by a doubling of the Explorer budget and expansion of the suborbital program.
NASA should adopt management strategies for the Explorer program with the aim of developing missions faster and at lower cost.
NASA should support an augmented research and analysis program that is stable and protected against cost overruns of its hardware programs.
The development of astronomical facilities for the Space Exploration Initiative should follow a logically phased approach. Whenever feasible, the technology development program should include testing through actual astronomical research on the ground, on stratospheric platforms, and/or in earth orbit. The greater expenses of astrophysical observatories on the Moon must be fully justified by the greater scientific return that they are expected to provide.
In §V, we recommend a program for education in astronomy:
To exploit the unique potential of astronomical and space research to attract young people into scientific and technical careers, astronomers should participate in a broad educational initiative designed to provide more access to the excitement of modern astronomy for students, teachers, and the general public.
Finally, in §VI, we address several other policy issues and recommend that:
A standing committee of the National Academy of Sciences be established to monitor the overall health of the field and to provide strategic, coordinated advice to all agencies that support research in ground-based and space astronomy.
Astronomical research will advance most rapidly in a climate of open exchange of information and access to all facilities, foreign and domestic, by the best qualified observers. The agencies should support open access to US facilities and data and should expect other countries to reciprocate.
We encourage international cooperation on the construction of facilities when each country or entity brings complementary capabilities to the project or when the international nature of the project is uniquely valuable to its performance.
National and private observatories should formulate policies and make plans for the entry of astronomical data in standard formats into a national archive to enable access by the broad astronomical community. The agencies should encourage these efforts and support their implementation according to scientific merit as determined by peer review.
NASA and NSF should consider the development or procedures and facilities to enable the simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of variable celestial sources.
II.THE CONTEXT OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS
The NSF and NASA provide primary support for US research in astronomy and astrophysics. During the 1980's, these agencies have responded to the advice of the previous NAS Astronomy Survey Committee (ASC) report.
The National Science Foundation has implemented, fully or partially, many of the ASC recommendations for new ground-based facilities. For example, construction for the Very Long Baseline Radio Telescope Array (VLBA) is now well-advanced. NSF provided partial support to build new 2 - 4 meter-class telescopes at universities, one of which is already operational, and the NOAO has formed partnerships with private universities to build and operate such telescopes at KPNO and CTIO. NSF financed the construction of a submillimeter telescope on Mauna Kea. The Agency supported several outstanding young astrophysicists through the Presidential Young Investigator program. It provides advanced computing power to astrophysicists through the national supercomputing centers and the national research network.
In addition, the NSF Astronomy Division initiated the solar Global Oscillation Network project and responded to the collapse of the Green Bank radio telescope by funding the construction of a modern fully-steerable 100-m radio telescope. The NSF Division of Polar Programs supported the development of astrophysics programs to exploit the unique advantages of the South Pole.