Guide to the next decade of space research has just been taken off the shelf

Who pays American Astronomy and Astrophysics Project-Are we collectively gazing into the void and seeking answers from the universe?Well, we all do this, through taxation, the government decides how to distribute Approve the annual appropriation budget.

But how will NASA decide to use the funding it provides—approximately $23 billion in 2021? In space and ground science missions, the agency — and almost all American space scientists — draw inspiration from a decade of astrophysics and astronomy surveys. Since the 1960s, every ten years, a team of hundreds of experts, led by the steering committee organized by the National Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Engineering, and the School of Medicine, has compiled these large-scale reports, designed to provide a Explore and research to provide advice.

This year’s survey-the official name is “The road to discovery of astronomy and astrophysics in the 2020s“-Released today. Although it was released in late 2021, it was referred to as “Astro2020” for short. It was originally scheduled to expire last year, but the Covid-19 pandemic caused major delays in the already difficult process. It is very difficult for about 150 scientists in 13 groups, such as cosmology, galaxies, stars, particle physics and professional status. In order to complete the investigation, they carefully read nearly 900 white papers submitted by researchers from all over the world, and Completed hundreds of hours of Zoom meetings.

Rachel Osten, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, and a member of the Astro2020 steering committee, said: “It’s very difficult to accomplish this through Zoom rather than face-to-face meetings. Process.” “So we have to figure out how to make it work with what we have.”

These Zoom conferences guided the future of science itself. Paul Goldsmith, team director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “Their decisions will affect what scientists will do.” Ten-year surveys usually require certain large and medium-sized missions to be carried out under certain budgets; it also emphasizes Important areas of scientific exploration in the next decade will require researchers to fill the gaps with their work. Whether the project is funded depends on the content of the survey.

Today’s 500-page report prioritizes three scientific fields: searching for habitable exoplanets, exploring the origin of the universe, and studying gas to understand the evolution of galaxies. In these categories, it requires multiple tasks, including the creation of a large infrared/optical/ultraviolet space telescope, funding for far-infrared and X-ray missions, the continued growth of important ground-based astronomy assets, and smaller “stable drums.” “Exploration” level tasks, and increased investment in equity in this field.

It also recommends a radical change in the way the main mission proposal matures into realized projects, creating a plan worth more than $1 billion to guide concepts from the early stages to help ensure they are delivered on time and on budget. Osten said that recommending changes to the overall process, rather than just choosing one or two top-level projects, “changes the rules of the game about how ten-year surveys usually work.” “Usually it will choose a winning project and everyone else can go home.”

New pipeline for large-scale tasks

Ten years of surveys from the 1960s to the 1990s laid the foundation for NASA’s “great observatories”-Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-ray Observatory, Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope. For decades, they have sent us images and information about black holes, exoplanets, etc. from deep space to the ocean.

Although these projects are very important, they are also known for being late and over budget. (For example, with James Webb Space Telescope, After being included in the ten-year survey in 2000, it will be launched this fall. ) “When considering grand and visionary projects, ten years is not the right timetable,” Osten said. From concept to launch, the time is not long enough; therefore, when they are still in the early stages, it is usually almost impossible to estimate their actual cost.

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