approximately 30 such coinvestigators currently in the Planetary Branch supported on soft money. There has been a steady increase in this type of scientific personnel over the decade.

The postdocs at Ames have numbered between 10 and 20 over the decade, and they have been exclusively NRC fellows, with support funneled through the NRC from NASA. Last year NASA funding evaporated and the NRC fellowship program went bankrupt, but the program has been fully restored this year.

The total amount of funding for astronomical research at Ames in addition to direct grants and contracts is estimated to be about $5 million per year based on the information above and standardized assumptions about the total cost of scientists ($150,000 per year) and postdocs ($80,000 per year), which includes salaries, benefits, and overhead. A significantly larger amount of funding for astronomy at Ames comes through the airborne observatories program. The Kuiper Airborne Observatory and the next-generation airborne observatory (SOFIA) are described in Section 5.3.3 under NASA facilities.

Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Currently there are only two scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) involved in astrophysical research, so the federal investment here is less than $0.5 million per year.

Goddard Space Flight Center

Astronomy and astrophysics at GSFC is conducted in the Sciences Directorate, primarily in the Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics and the Laboratory for Astronomy and Solar Physics. There are other smaller programs in the Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics (primarily comets and planetary work) and in Space Science Data Operations. There are approximately 100 civil service Ph.D.s who conduct astronomy and astrophysics research, a number that has been approximately constant for more than a decade, with new hiring balancing attrition. Over the past five years, however, there has been virtually no hiring (although in the past year, seven term appointments have been made that are expected to be converted to ordinary civil service appointments over the next few years). There is a center strategic initiative that, if carried through to fruition, should result in an increase of about 10 percent to the civil service astronomy and astrophysics staff steady state after 2000. Funding for civil service salaries, travel, and overhead comes directly out of NASA funds and is not subject to reprogramming in accordance with the current congressional authorization, although reprogramming is planned in the future.

Expansion (or contraction) of the civil service staff is under the control of GSFC-level management, NASA headquarters, and ultimately, Congress. The primary research areas are (roughly in order of the size of the staff) these:

  • High-energy astrophysics (x-ray, gamma-ray, and cosmic-ray astrophysics),

  • IR astronomy,

  • UV astronomy,

  • Planetary research,

  • Solar physics, and

  • Comets.

In the last 10 years, the IR and high-energy astrophysics programs have increased their civil service staff, the UV and solar physics numbers have decreased, and the planetary and comet programs have remained about the same. The present estimates are that 50 to 75 percent (on average) of civil

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement