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Aug 15, 2016

New Worlds New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment – the National Academies released their midterm assessment of the Astrophysics Decadal Survey in Washinton DC on 15 August 2016.

From a press release by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine:
Many goals outlined in astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey are met, others delayed by unforeseen constraints, says the new report.

While scientists have made remarkable advancements in astronomy and astrophysics since the beginning of this decade -- notably the first detection of gravitational waves and the discovery of distant Earth-like planets -- unforeseen constraints have slowed progress toward reaching some of the priorities and goals outlined in the Academies’ 2010 decadal survey of these disciplines, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The report calls for NASA, National Science Foundation (NSF), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) -- the federal agencies largely responsible for funding and implementing these research activities -- to maintain, and in some cases adjust, their programs in order to meet the survey’s scientific objectives.

The report also finds that the driving factor in the delay or non-pursuit of some new NASA initiatives, including WFIRST, was the schedule change and increased cost associated with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) -- a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that is set to launch in 2018. As a result, NASA’s WFIRST mission was delayed, and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) -- a space-based gravitational wave detector that first took shape as collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) -- did not go forward.

However, following the LIGO results, the report recommends that NASA restore support this decade for space-based gravitational wave research so that the U.S. is in a position to be a strong technical and scientific partner in a planned ESA-led gravitational observatory. The report notes that U.S. participation could enable the full scientific capability for the ESA-led mission as envisioned by NWNH.

More information on the report "New Worlds New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment"

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