By National Research Council, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Space Studies Board, NASA Astrophysics Performance Assessment Committee
Whereas a few amazing discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics have taken position over the last twenty years, many very important questions stay. persisted growth in those fields would require NASA's management. to aid confirm if NASA can meet this problem, Congress, within the 2005 NASA Authorization Act, directed the service provider to have "the functionality of every department within the technological know-how directorate...reviewed and assessed via the nationwide Academy of Sciences at 5-year intervals." In early 2006, NASA requested the NRC to behavior such an evaluation for the agency's Astrophysics department. This record offers an evaluate of ways good NASA's present software addresses the suggestions, pursuits, and priorities defined in prior Academy experiences. The record offers an research of development towards knowing those concepts, pursuits, and priorities; and a dialogue of activities that may be taken to optimize the clinical price of this system within the context of present and forecasted assets.
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The result is that the present program is no longer well balanced across a desirable range of scientiic areas, mission sizes, and mission-enabling activities. The committee believes that these changes diminish the nation’s near-term ability to achieve the balance of science expectations articulated in the AANM and Q2C reports. The committee is also concerned that if a signiicant imbalance persists, deleterious effects on development of the workforce needed to sustain NASA and the astrophysics community will result.
The “faster, better, cheaper” (FBC) initiative started in the early 1990s was set in motion, in part, to develop smaller and less costly moderate missions in astrophysics as well as the other NASA program areas. Although the impact of the FBC initiative began to appear in the late 1990s with the reduction in cost and complexity of the SWAS and FUSE missions, the major impact has come in the current decade. Seven Explorer-class missions have been launched or are projected to be launched in the decade 2000-2010, with six of them—HETE-2, WMAP, RHESSI, CHIPS, GALEX, and Swiftbeing carryover missions from the FBC era, launched through 2004.
5 This architecture lacks the short path between the relevant manager and outside experts that is needed for eficient communication and dialogue. Furthermore, it puts the highlevel NASA Advisory Council, whose primary function is advising the NASA administrator on broad strategic planning questions, in the position of having to digest and transmit more mission- and division-speciic advice, which can only distract the council from addressing the global issues. Inevitably, there is a loss of valuable information, and necessarily the critical dialogue between expert advisers and relevant managers becomes dificult if not impossible.
A Performance Assessment of NASA's Astrophysics Program by National Research Council, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences, Board on Physics and Astronomy, Space Studies Board, NASA Astrophysics Performance Assessment Committee