aspect of this study. The committee also consulted with distinguished foreign scientists on future directions in astronomy.

In addition to constructing a prioritized list of new instruments based on its assessment of the opportunities for fundamental scientific advances, the committee also evaluated the existing infrastructure, considered the human aspects of the field, including education and international collaborations, explored the consequences of the computer revolution for astronomy, investigated the astronomical opportunities provided by lunar observatories, prepared a popular summary of opportunities for scientific advances in astronomy, and suggested the most promising areas for developing new observational technologies. The committee also examined the ways in which astronomical research contributes to society.

For the decade of the 1990s, the committee places the highest priority for ground-based research on increased support for the infrastructure for astronomy and sets as the highest priority for space-based research the establishment of a program that has an appropriate balance between more frequent small and moderate projects and unique large projects. The prioritized list of new equipment initiatives primarily reflects the committee's assessment of the relative scientific potential of the different projects. The committee also took into account cost-effectiveness, technological readiness, educational impact, and the relation of each project to existing or proposed initiatives in the United States and in other countries.


The committee's highest priority for ground-based research is to strengthen the research infrastructure at universities and at the national observatories.

  • The committee recommends that the National Science Foundation increase the operations and maintenance budgets of the national observatories to an adequate and stable fraction of their capital cost, thereby repairing the damage caused by a decade of deferred maintenance.

  • The committee recommends an increase in the individual grants program in astronomy at the NSF to permit young researchers to take advantage of the new opportunities for discovery, to utilize appropriately the large amounts of new data, and to enhance support for theoretical astrophysics.


For space astronomy, the report highlights the need for a balanced program that includes both the Great Observatories and more frequent, smaller missions.

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