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Suggested Citation:"4 Policy Issues." National Research Council. 2007. NASA's Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12006.
Page 115
Suggested Citation:"4 Policy Issues." National Research Council. 2007. NASA's Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12006.
Page 116
Suggested Citation:"4 Policy Issues." National Research Council. 2007. NASA's Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12006.
Page 117

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4 Policy Issues POLICY CONSIDERATIONS IN MAKING RECOMMENDATIONS As directed in the statement of task for this study, the Committee on NASA’s Beyond Einstein Program made its recommendations based on its assessments of the scientific impact and the technical and management realism of proposed missions. Policy issues are additional considerations, or external factors that provide underlying context and possibly influence the future implementation of committee recommendations. During its deliberations, the committee identified several policy-related issues relevant to the Beyond Einstein Program. They included the following: implications for U.S. science and technology leadership, program funding constraints, the role of interagency and international partnerships, investments in underlying research and technol- ogy and supporting infrastructure, and the impact of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Each issue is addressed in more detail in the sections that follow. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY LEADERSHIP An international competition is under way to find answers to questions about the origin, evolution, composi- tion, and behavior of the universe. Because of prior mission successes such as those of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, Cosmic Background Explorer, Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, Swift, and Chandra, the United States enjoys a substantial lead in applying space research to explore the frontiers of cosmology and high- energy astrophysics. The national priority of this field and the associated level of commitment to pursue Beyond Einstein missions is an important issue. At stake is this nation’s leadership role as well as the vitality of research universities and laboratories. It is this vitality that fosters the knowledge base, technology, and prestige with which the United States competes on the world stage. The impact of the efforts vis-à-vis the Beyond Einstein missions is felt far beyond the science goals outlined in this report. The pursuit of answers to the fundamental science questions at the heart of the Beyond Einstein Program is an awesome responsibility of national leadership. Achievements in Beyond Einstein science, including the rate of progress, depend on an actively engaged and enlightened leadership within the nation’s political institutions and scientific enterprises. 115

116 NASA’S BEYOND EINSTEIN PROGRAM PROGRAM FUNDING CONSTRAINTS The cost realism assessments performed by the committee indicate that the probable costs of Beyond Einstein missions are substantially higher than the current estimates provided by the candidate mission teams. As a result, the committee is concerned that the Beyond Einstein funding wedge provided for its assessment is inconsistent with a healthy long-term program. Assuming that the start of development for a high-priority mission is in 2009, Beyond Einstein Program funding will be severely restricted, potentially crowding out critical research and analysis and technology development needs. The committee recognizes that the Beyond Einstein funding wedge represents an agreement among NASA, the administration, and the Congress and is viewed as a relatively fixed budget. However, as a result of cost realism assessments, the committee believes that policy makers may need to reconsider the allocation of funds within the budgeting process. NASA may also consider alternative funding sources outside the Beyond Einstein Program. Without such actions, the likely result is that the overall Beyond Einstein Program will be stretched out considerably and difficult to sustain. PARTNERSHIPS Two Beyond Einstein missions can be characterized as partnerships: the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM), a joint NASA/Department of Energy (DOE) effort; and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), a partner- ship between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. NASA’s experience with similar interagency and international space missions is wide ranging and generally successful. Both ESA and DOE have similar experiences, including successful partnerships with NASA. Cassini-Huygens is one example of a mission that involved these three agencies. While partnerships do succeed, aligning priorities among these agencies will require substantial management effort by the involved parties. The complexity of the integration and operations of joint missions is an additional concern. Usually, to manage complexity and risk, the focus is on decoupling and simplifying interfaces whenever possible, a task not easily accomplished on LISA. The NASA/DOE JDEM partnership, although between U.S. government agencies, is not without potential complications. The present arrangement for sharing responsibilities is governed by the DOE/NASA JDEM Straw- man Plan, which assumes contributions from each agency in proportion to the role of each in mission development and operation. It would be useful for the two agencies to develop this Strawman Plan into a more detailed agree- ment, specifically stating the basis for sharing. After a specific JDEM design is chosen, the agencies are expected to develop a funding profile jointly and to agree on a split that reflects the work to be performed by each agency. The committee recognizes that interagency and international collaboration can, if properly structured, reduce the cost burden on individual agencies, increase the richness of scientific collaboration, and provide larger pools from which to draw technology and talent. The committee also recognizes that such collaboration, if not properly structured, can increase cost and risk by adding bureaucratic hurdles to securing funding, can increase technical and management complexity, and can delay schedule. The committee assumes that proposed collaborations will be implemented and that partnering organizations and policy makers will successfully follow through on Beyond Einstein mission execution. INVESTMENTS IN RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY AND INFRASTRUCTURE Ongoing research and technology investments are the glue that holds the space science community together. Research and analysis engender new questions, while technology provides the means to obtain new data and eventual answers. Without continuous investment funding, the quality of the future missions and science results would certainly suffer. The committee is concerned about possible gaps in missions and about funding having an impact on the supply and quality of scientists, and ultimately, on Beyond Einstein science. Available at  

POLICY ISSUES 117 NASA, in collaboration with current and potential partners, should update and build on its 2003 roadmap, Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, in setting its future plans. An updated roadmap would include greater detail on how specific missions will be planned and implemented, including specific plans for technology development, research and analysis, and education and outreach. Continuous funding support for these areas is necessary to ensure a pipeline of future Beyond Einstein science opportunities. Several of the proposed mission concepts rely on existing infrastructure outside the Beyond Einstein Program. The committee is concerned that critical infrastructure needed to accomplish these missions must be in place during the period when the Beyond Einstein missions will be operating. These assets include the equivalent of a Deep Space Network with supporting orbital and ground networks, data archival and distribution networks, and high-speed ground links. Investments in the infrastructure that enables researchers to communicate, organize, and share information are crucial to ensuring optimal participation in the research effort. In making decisions about the maintenance and upgrades of existing infrastructure, NASA must include the projected requirements for Beyond Einstein missions. INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC IN ARMS REGULATIONS The committee is concerned that ITAR could impede cooperation or collaboration with Beyond Einstein inter- national partners. Of particular concern are LISA and the JDEM mission candidate, SNAP, proposing international collaboration. Should a mission experience serious ITAR issues regarding the exchange of technical information or hardware, schedule and cost impacts could be significant. Among Beyond Einstein missions, LISA is the most vulnerable to potential ITAR problems. LISA’s greater susceptibility to ITAR issues is due to the scope and complexity of the technical interfaces between the NASA and ESA contributions. While LISA and other mission teams proposing significant international participation are proactive in addressing export control issues, these issues remain a programmatic risk that NASA and ESA must carefully manage. NASA’s experience in managing international collaborations (e.g., the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Cassini-Huygens mission) speaks to its ability to overcome ITAR impediments, although sometimes with difficulty. Policy makers should carefully review the efficacy of the current application of export control regime as it applies to international scientific missions. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION The policy areas of interest addressed above are fairly representative of issues and concerns faced by cutting- edge space sciences missions. Although important and challenging, none is considered an insurmountable barrier to success. And while science, technology, and operations issues could present additional complications and risks, the committee believes that the space sciences community is capable of responding to these challenges. Obviously, partnerships have been and will continue to be successful, but they do require substantial attention. In conclusion, the United States and its partners are in an enviable position of possessing multiple, high-quality mission concepts to answer Beyond Einstein questions. To succeed, however, sponsoring agencies must quickly align behind the highest priorities identified for the Beyond Einstein Program while continuing a robust program that invests in future mission technologies. NASA, 2003, Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, Structure and Evolution of the Universe Subcommittee Report, Wash-   ington, D.C., January.

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"Beyond Einstein science" is a term that applies to a set of new scientific challenges at the intersection of physics and astrophysics. Observations of the cosmos now have the potential to extend our basic physical laws beyond where 20th-century research left them. Such observations can provide stringent new tests of Einstein's general theory of relativity, indicate how to extend the Standard Model of elementary-particle physics, and -- if direct measurements of gravitational waves were to be made -- give astrophysics an entirely new way of observing the universe.

In 2003, NASA, working with the astronomy and astrophysics communities, prepared a research roadmap entitled Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. This roadmap proposed that NASA undertake space missions in five areas in order to study dark energy, black holes, gravitational radiation, and the inflation of the early universe, to test Einstein's theory of gravitation. This study assesses the five proposed Beyond Einstein mission areas to determine potential scientific impact and technical readiness. Each mission is explored in great detail to aid decisions by NASA regarding both the ordering of the remaining missions and the investment strategy for future technology development within the Beyond Einstein Program.

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