Download A Performance Assessment of NASA's Astrophysics Program by National Research Council, Division on Engineering and PDF

By National Research Council, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Space Studies Board, NASA Astrophysics Performance Assessment Committee

Whereas a few notable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics have taken position during the last twenty years, many very important questions stay. endured growth in those fields would require NASA's management. to aid ascertain if NASA can meet this problem, Congress, within the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, directed the corporation to have "the functionality of every department within the technology directorate...reviewed and assessed by way of the nationwide Academy of Sciences at 5-year intervals." In early 2006, NASA requested the NRC to behavior such an evaluate for the agency's Astrophysics department. This record offers an review of ways good NASA's present application addresses the ideas, objectives, and priorities defined in earlier Academy reviews. The file offers an research of growth towards understanding those thoughts, pursuits, and priorities; and a dialogue of activities which may be taken to optimize the clinical worth of this system within the context of present and forecasted assets.

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Therefore, unless the Delta II line can be retained or an alternative launcher of comparable capability developed, small and moderate astrophysics missions will be affected either by being restricted to small launchers or by becoming much more costly. In conclusion, the central reason for the difference between the 2003 and 2006 NASA strategies for astrophysics is that, for many reasons, there has been a substantial increase in the cost for nearly all astrophysics missions. SCIENCE OPPORTUNITIES LOST Past NASA successes have encouraged ever more ambitious planning, but at the same time missions are taking longer to complete.

The Q2C report recommended that NASA collaborate with the Department of Energy on the Joint Dark Energy Mission, a wide-ield telescope in space that would explore the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. NASA has competitively selected three proposals for mission concept studies, and the results of those studies are due in 2008. Also explicitly recommended in the Q2C report was the Inlation Probe, which would aim to detect the signature of inlation in the infant universe by measuring the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

Mission classes designated on the right-hand side are approximate based on plotted missions as well as currently baselined mission cost assumptions. Projections into the 2010 decade (represented with “+” symbols) are estimates based on the current understanding of mission status and expected mission starts. The committee believes that the current era of discovery in astronomy and astrophysics owes much to the combination of lagship missions and Explorer missions that are now operational. Smaller missions using available technology provide opportunities for rapid turnaround when new discoveries are made.

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