A Midterm Assessment
Committee on the Review of Progress Toward the Decadal Survey Vision in
New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
Space Studies Board
Board of Physics and Astronomy
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
A Report of
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This study is based on work supported by Contract No. NNH11CD57B with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Grant No. AST-1533814 with the National Science Foundation, and Award No. DE-SC0014211 with the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of High Energy Physics. This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the U.S. government. Neither the U.S. government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. government or any agency thereof. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any agency or organization that provided support for the project.
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Suggested Citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. New Worlds, New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi:10.17226/23560.
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COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF PROGRESS TOWARD THE DECADAL SURVEY VISION IN NEW WORLDS, NEW HORIZONS IN ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS
JACQUELINE N. HEWITT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chair
ADAM S. BURROWS, Princeton University
NEIL J. CORNISH, Montana State University
ANDREW W. HOWARD, University of Hawaii, Manoa
BRUCE MACINTOSH, Stanford University
RICHARD F. MUSHOTZKY, University of Maryland
ANGELA V. OLINTO, University of Chicago
STEVEN M. RITZ, University of California, Santa Cruz
ALEXEY VIKHLININ, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
DAVID H. WEINBERG, Ohio State University
RAINER WEISS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ERIC M. WILCOTS, University of Wisconsin
EDWARD L. WRIGHT, University of California, Los Angeles
A. THOMAS YOUNG, Lockheed Martin, retired
DAVID B. LANG, Senior Program Officer, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Study Director
KATIE DAUD, Research Associate, Space Studies Board
DIONNA WILLIAMS, Senior Program Coordinator, Space Studies Board
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director, Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director, Board on Physics and Astronomy
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
DAVID N. SPERGEL, Princeton University, Chair
ROBERT D. BRAUN, Georgia Institute of Technology, Vice Chair
JAMES G. ANDERSON, Harvard University
JEFF M. BINGHAM, Consultant
JAY C. BUCKEY, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
MARY LYNNE DITTMAR, Dittmar Associates, Inc.
JOSEPH FULLER, JR., Futron Corporation
THOMAS R. GAVIN, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NEIL GEHRELS, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
SARAH GIBSON, National Center for Atmospheric Research
WESLEY T. HUNTRESS, JR., Carnegie Institution of Washington
ANTHONY C. JANETOS, Boston University
CHRYSSA KOUVELIOTOU, The George Washington University
DENNIS P. LETTENMAIER, University of California, Los Angeles
BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR, University of Toronto
ROSALY M. C. LOPES, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
DAVID J. MCCOMAS, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
LARRY PAXTON, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
SAUL PERLMUTTER, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
ELIOT QUATAERT, University of California, Berkeley
BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR, University of Toronto
HARLAN E. SPENCE, University of New Hampshire
MARK H. THIEMENS, University of California, San Diego
MEENAKSHI WADHWA, Arizona State University
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director
BOARD ON PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY
BARBARA V. JACAK, Stony Brook University, Chair
CHARLES L. BENNETT, Johns Hopkins University, Vice Chair
RICCARDO BETTI, University of Rochester
TODD DITMIRE, University of Texas, Austin
NATHANIEL J. FISCH, Princeton University
DANIEL FISHER, Stanford University
PAUL FLEURY, Yale University
WENDY FREEMAN, University of Chicago
GERALD GABRIELSE, Harvard University
JACQUELINE N. HEWITT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
BARBARA JONES, IBM Almaden Research Center
HERBERT LEVINE, Rice University
ABRAHAM (AVI) LOEB, Harvard University
MONICA OLVERA DE LA CRUZ, Northwestern University
PAUL SCHECHTER, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
JAMES C. LANCASTER, Director
DAVID B. LANG, Senior Program Officer
NEERAJ GORKHALY, Associate Program Officer
LINDA WALKER, Program Coordinator
HENRY KO, Research Assistant
BETH DOLAN, Financial Associate
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The Committee on the Review of Progress Toward the Decadal Survey Vision in New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics was charged to review the responses of NASA’s Astrophysics program, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Astronomy program, and the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Cosmic Frontiers program (hereafter the agencies’ programs) to previous National Research Council (NRC)1 advice, primarily the 2010 decadal survey, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics2 (hereafter referred to as NWNH). The complete statement of task is reprinted in Appendix A.
To address its task, the committee held four in-person meetings, including a science symposium, and many teleconferences during its work from October 2015 through May 2016. These meetings involved speaking with government policymakers, researchers in the community, authors of earlier advisory reports (including those of the NRC), leaders of ongoing activities recommended in NWNH, and foreign space agency representatives. In particular, the science symposium, held on December 12, 2015, at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering in Irvine, California, featured leading astronomers who provided assessments of the scientific progress in each
1 Effective July 1, 2015, the institution is called the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. References in this report to the NRC are used in an historical context identifying programs prior to July 1.
2 National Research Council (NRC), 2010, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
of the Science Frontier Panel areas of the 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey.3 The committee also organized a splinter meeting at the January 2016 meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida, at which the committee provided a brief summary of its scope and activities and then engaged in discussion with the attendees. Lastly, the committee created a public email box for anyone who wished to provide input to the study process.
This report was written to convey the substantial and exciting progress that has been achieved in astronomy and astrophysics since the August 2010 release of NWNH, to describe the events and factors that have constrained further discovery, and to recommend actions that could give humankind an even deeper understanding of our universe.
The committee discussed its scope extensively. As stated in its task, the committee is not to “revisit or alter the scientific priorities or mission recommendations” from NWNH or other reports of the NRC, but could “provide guidance on implementation of the recommended science and activities portfolio and on other potential activities in preparation for the next decadal survey.” This guidance therefore prohibited the committee from changing the survey’s priorities but did provide the latitude to recommend course corrections, where needed, as long as the relative priorities of the survey were maintained.
A general priority of NWNH was restoring and then maintaining a balanced astronomy and astrophysics portfolio. Likewise, echoing NWNH’s perspective, the current committee similarly stressed the importance of executing a balanced research program. Thus, in the section “The Goal of a Balanced Program,” in Chapter 2 of this report, the committee lays out the guiding principles on balance taken from NWNH and used in its analysis of the present science program. The layout of this report mirrors the committee’s charge. Chapters 1 and 2 describe the most significant scientific discoveries, technical advances, and relevant programmatic changes in astronomy and astrophysics over the years since the publication of NWNH. Chapters 3 and 4 assess how well the agencies’ programs address the strategies, goals, and priorities outlined in NWNH and other relevant NRC reports; assess the progress toward realizing these strategies, goals, and priorities; and recommend actions that could be taken to maximize the science return of the agencies’ programs. Concluding the report, Chapter 5 responds to the element of the committee’s task to provide guidance on potential activities in preparation for the next decadal survey.
For consistency with NWNH and per its charge, the committee incorporated the scientific scope of NWNH into its own assessment. Per the survey, “[o]nly
3 These panels’ scientific areas were Cosmology and Fundamental Physics, the Galactic Neighborhood, Galaxies across Cosmic Time, Planetary Systems and Star Formation, and Stars and Stellar Evolution.
physics topics with a strong overlap with astronomy and astrophysics were within the study charge. In addition, only ground- and not space-based solar astronomy was to be considered. Direct detection of dark matter was also excluded from prioritization.” NWNH also excluded ground-based observations of gravitational waves, so the committee did as well.
The committee was fortunate enough to be able to rely on recent work done by other committees, including Evaluation of the Implementation of WFIRST/AFTA in the Context of New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics,4Optimizing the U.S. Ground-Based Optical and Infrared Astronomy System,5The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices,6 and annual reports of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee, among others. These reports provided the current committee with an indispensable source of background and analysis on many complex topics that it did not have the time nor depth of knowledge in which to be able to delve effectively.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank the many very busy people in the U.S. government and astronomy and astrophysics community, as well as those abroad, who helped the committee through presentations, written input, and discussions. A special thanks goes to the staff of the Board on Physics and Astronomy and the Space Studies Board: Katie Daud, James Lancaster, David Lang, Michael Moloney, Linda Walker, and Dionna Williams. Their guidance and support were critical to the success of this effort. This report, although ultimately written by the committee, was only possible thanks to the countless pieces of input contributed by many.
Jacqueline N. Hewitt, Chair
Committee on the Review of Progress Toward the Decadal Survey Vision in New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics
4 NRC, 2014, Evaluation of the Implementation of WFIRST/AFTA in the Context of New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
5 NRC, 2015, Optimizing the U.S. Ground-Based Optical and Infrared Astronomy System, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
6 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015, The Space Science Decadal Surveys: Lessons Learned and Best Practices, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
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Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Eric G. Adelberger, University of Washington,
Steven J. Battel, Battel Engineering,
Mitchell Begelman, University of Colorado, Boulder,
James Fienup, University of Rochester,
B. Scott Gaudi, The Ohio State University,
Lynne Hillenbrand, California Institute of Technology,
Robert P. Kirshner, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation,
Rene Ong, University of California, Los Angeles,
George H. Rieke, University of Arizona,
Adam G. Riess, Johns Hopkins University, and
Anneila Sargent, California Institute of Technology.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommenda-
tions, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Louis J. Lanzerotti, New Jersey Institute of Technology, who was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.