Priority 1: A coordinated program to combine federal funds ($185M) with state and private funds to build and instrument large (8-m class) US ground-based telescopes. The key federal contributions are:
support for construction of a pair of nationally accessible 8-m telescopes, one each in the northern and southern hemisphere. The northern hemisphere telescope will be a uniquely powerful instrument , optimized for performance at infrared wavelengths by providing diffraction-limited images (of angular size ~ 0.05" at and minimizing the background thermal emission from the telescope. This unique facility must be built on the best site in the world - Mauna Kea, on the island of Hawaii. Its twin will provide the US astronomical community with the access to the southern celestial hemisphere essential in the era of the NASA Great Observatories, and can be optimized for performance at optical wavelengths.
support for developing and building the advanced auxiliary instruments required for the new generation of large telescopes - including the recommended pair of national 8-m telescopes, and other US telescopes of comparable aperture which are under construction or in advanced planning stages.
support to develop and deploy wavefront sensors and adaptive mirrors capable of providing diffraction-limited imaging at near-infrared wavelengths for the new generation of large telescopes.
Priority 1: A coordinated program to develop high angular resolution O/IR astronomy which includes federal investment ($50M) in order to:
extend the wavelength range (from infrared to optical wavelengths) for full adaptive correction of atmospheric distortion above large telescopes;
support engineering efforts to design an ultra-large (), adaptively-corrected single-aperture telescope;
support university-based efforts to build and operate pilot interferometers;
support a university-based effort to develop a sensitive O/IR interferometer array by mid-decade;
support engineering studies leading to the design of a large, national O/IR array capable of imaging celestial objects with at least ten times the angular resolution of 8-m class telescopes and at comparable or greater sensitivity.
Priority 2: A program to construct at least four, new-generation 4-m class telescopes.
These telescopes will provide the basic tools necessary to carry out a wide variety of large-scale surveys, innovative observational programs, and basic research aimed at deeper understanding of known astrophysical phenomena. It is highly desirable that these telescopes be constructed by individual universities and university consortia. The most immediate community need is for two new generation 4-m class telescopes (one in each hemisphere) to support and complement the Great Observatories. Construction of four new-generation telescopes will require a combination of federal ($30M), state and private funds.
Priority 1: A program to carry out near-infrared and optical all-sky surveys with digital arrays ($11M)
These surveys will produce complete, unbiased infrared and optical maps of both celestial hemispheres, and will thus provide an essential database for planning space-based missions and major observing programs on large, ground-based telescopes.
Priority 2: A program to develop a National Astrometric Facility ($5M)
The NAF will provide the ability to obtain ultra-precise (better than 0.001") positions of celestial objects both within and outside the solar system.
Priority 1: A program to fund the development, purchase and distribution of large format optical and infrared detectors ($40M)