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8 Interdisciplinary Studies Before this study began it was already clear that there would be some overlapping interests among the various disciplinary task groups. From the beginning of the study, the task groups were urged to join forces with each other in identifying problems of com- mon interest, either intrinsically or because they required common means for investigation. This approach proved fruitful. The task groups in astronomy and astrophysics and in planetary and lunar exploration recognized their common interest in understanding the processes by which planetary systems develop. Both groups, there- fore, emphasize developing techniques to observe such systems as they are being born and when they are mature. The astronomical and the relativity disciplines both appreciate the potential signif- icance to cosmology that objects such as black holes or cosmic strings may have. Additionally, detection of gravitational radia- tion is important to the field of relativity theory and, as another means of understanding fundamental cosmological processes, to astronomy as wed. Solar studies were another area where interdisciplinary links were evident. The Sun is an object of great interest to astronomers as well as to solar and space plasma physicists. Likewise plasmas, representing the dominant form of matter in the universe, are of intense interest to solar scientists, solar system physicists, and 74

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75 astronomers alike. Planetary sci~nt~ts, solar and space plasma physicists, and relativists Al have requirements for spacecraft that orbit Mercury and that approach within a few solar radii of the Sun. This common interest accords a higher priority to such e missions. Earth scientists and life scientists alike could have designed the Mission to Planet Earth. The configuration of that mission has been determined by contributions from the earth science and life science task groups. As well, life scientists share with planetary scientists an interest in understanding how life developed ~ tints solar system and whether or not it exists elsewhere. It is not possible to understand Earth by studying it in isolation and out of its context as one of the terrestrial planets, each of which has followed a different evolutionary track. This list of interdisciplinary projects is not exhaustive. How- ever, it should demonstrate that a balanced space science program in which multidisciplinary investigation can flourish should be mamta~ned during the next century.