Innovative ideas need to be tested and evaluated on a rapid time scale, so that the best of them can be brought to maturity. To accomplish this goal, there needs to be inexpensive and routine access to space for technology demonstration. Continuing cooperative programs for instrument development within university engineering and science departments also can be a key asset. This type of program needs to promote development of appropriate management tools and of engineering parts kits that utilize standard interfaces, which can make instruments significantly easier to integrate and test.
2. Low-Cost, High-Performance Telescopes: Enhance and expand searches for the first stars, galaxies, and black holes, and advance understanding of the fundamental physics of the universe by developing a new generation of lower-cost, higher-performance astronomical telescopes.
Cosmologically important astronomical objects are very distant, producing faint signals at Earth. Measurement requires much larger effective telescope collecting areas and more efficient detector systems, spanning the wavelength range from far infrared into the gamma-ray region. This goal requires new, ultra-stable, normal and grazing incidence mirrors with low mass-to-collecting area ratios. A challenge will be to maintain or extend the angular and spectral resolution properties for such mirror systems, which must be coupled to advanced, large-format, low-noise focal plane arrays. Advanced detector systems will require sub-Kelvin coolers and high-sensitivity camera systems.
3. High-Contrast Imaging and Spectroscopy: Enable discovery of habitable planets, facilitate advances in solar physics, and enable the study of faint structures around bright objects by developing high-contrast imaging and spectroscopic technologies to provide unprecedented sensitivity, field of view, and spectroscopy of faint objects.
Among the highest-priority and highest-visibility goals of the space science program is the search for habitable planets and life upon them; only technologies that are fully developed and demonstrated to a high level will facilitate the large, expensive missions needed to achieve this goal. Such technology, once implemented, will set the stage for detailed study of planetary systems, their formation, nature, evolution, and death. The new capabilities will also be of fundamental value for a wide variety of high-contrast targets such as active galactic nuclei and their relativistic jets and subtle but scientifically important features on the sun.
4. Sample Returns and In Situ Analysis. Determine if synthesis of organic matter may exist today, whether there is evidence that life ever emerged, and whether there are habitats with the necessary conditions to sustain life on other planetary bodies, by developing improved sensors for planetary sample returns and in situ analysis.
The needed technologies include integrated and miniaturized sensor suites, sub-surface sample gathering and handling, unconsolidated-material handling in microgravity, temperature control of frozen samples, portable geochronology, and instrument operations and sample handling in extreme environments. In order to enable missions to surfaces of Venus and outer planet satellites, geological, geophysical, and geochemical sensors and instrumentation that survive in extreme environments will be necessary.
5. Wireless Systems. Enhance effectiveness of spacecraft design, testing, and operations, and reduce spacecraft schedule risk and mass, by incorporating wireless systems technology into spacecraft avionics and instrumentation.
To make wireless systems ready for application in spacecraft, current ground-based network technologies will need to be adapted and improved to accommodate very high data rates, provide high throughput and low latency wireless protocols, support a myriad of avionics interfaces, and be immune to interference.