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Radio Astronomy I. INTRODUCTION: SCOPE OF THE REPORT The extraordinary progress of astronomy since 1945 has largely been the result of technological innovation--the development of detectors and telescopes that have opened to observation regions of the electromagnetic spectrum beyond the small band where the human eye and the photo- graphic plate are sensitive. Radio astronomy, born in attempts by engineers and physicists to detect cosmic radio waves with the electronic instrumentation of com- munication and radar, was the first step in this process. Today it ranks as one of the major subdisciplines of astronomy, pursued in the United States by two National Astronomy Centers--the National Radio Astronomy Observa- tory (NRAO) and the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC)--and by research groups at many univer- sities. Many of the most influential astronomical dis- coveries of the last 35 years have been made almost entirely by radio astronomers, and other key discoveries were heavily dependent on their efforts, examples being the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, quasars, pulsars, and interstellar molecules. The task of the Panel on Radio Astronomy has been to assess the present status of observational astronomy at wavelengths longer than a few hundred micrometers, to identify the opportunities for research during the coming decade in this large region of the spectrum, and to rank 211