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Nasa ’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation B Background and Statement of Task BACKGROUND The National Research Council’s (NRC’s) 2001 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, identified a number of key scientific goals.1 Among these were the following: to determine the large-scale properties of the universe—the amount, distribution, and nature of its matter and energy, its age, and the history of its expansion; to understand the formation and evolution of black holes; and to study the dawn of the modern universe, when the first stars and galaxies formed. A subsequent NRC report, Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos,2 identified the science connections between the fields of astronomy and astrophysics and that of fundamental physics. In 2003, building on these reports, NASA and the astronomy and astrophysics communities prepared a roadmap entitled Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes3 and proposed a set of five space science missions, including two Einstein Great Observatories (Constellation-X and the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) and three Einstein Probes (Inflation Probe, the Joint Dark Energy Mission, and Black Hole Finder Probe). These missions address dark energy, black holes, gravitational radiation, properties of the cosmic microwave background radiation, and other science questions. NASA’s Beyond Einstein Program also includes a technology development, theory, and education program to support the flight missions. In addition, the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science has had a growing interest in exploring questions about dark energy and dark matter, as evidenced in the NRC report Revealing the Hidden Nature of Space and Time.4 DOE has sought a means for exploring dark energy and has funded research for a potential dark energy probe, and both NASA and DOE have taken steps toward a joint NASA-DOE Joint Dark Energy Mission. 1 National Research Council, Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2001. 2 National Research Council, ConnectingQuarkswiththeCosmos:ElevenScienceQuestionsfortheNewCentury, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2003. 3 National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, Washington, D.C., January 2003. This document was part of NASA’s 2003 roadmapping effort required under the Government Performance Results Act of 1993 (Public Law No. 103-62). 4 National Research Council, Revealing the Hidden Nature of Space and Time: Charting the Course for Elementary Particle Physics, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006.
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Nasa ’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation While the NRC has recommended the undertaking of all five of the space science missions referred to above in either Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium or Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos, the NRC has never prioritized all five missions in this suite against one another. In response to an expected NASA “funding wedge” that is to open in fiscal year 2009, NASA and DOE requested that the NRC assess the five Beyond Einstein missions and recommend one for first launch and development. This NRC study (i.e., the present report) was to use a set of criteria, including potential scientific impact and technical readiness, to examine the five Beyond Einstein missions. STATEMENT OF TASK The committee will be charged to address the following tasks: Assess the five proposed Beyond Einstein missions (Constellation-X, Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, Joint Dark Energy Mission, Inflation Probe, and Black Hole Finder Probe) and recommend which of these five should be developed and launched first, using a funding wedge that is expected to begin in FY 2009. The criteria for these assessments include: Potential scientific impact within the context of other existing and planned space-based and ground-based missions; and Realism of preliminary technology and management plans, and cost estimates. Assess the Beyond Einstein missions sufficiently so that they can act as input for any future decisions by NASA or the next Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey on the ordering of the remaining missions. This second task element will assist NASA in its investment strategy for future technology development within the Beyond Einstein Program prior to the results of the Decadal Survey.