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The Future of Fundamental Physics Research at NASA. From Quantum to Cosmos: Fundamental Physics Research in Space Airlie Center, Warrenton VA May 21-24, 2006 Michael Salamon Astrophysics Division/Science Mission Directorate/NASA HQ. Fundamental Physics at NASA.

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the future of fundamental physics research at nasa

The Future of Fundamental Physics Research at NASA

From Quantum to Cosmos: Fundamental Physics Research in Space

Airlie Center, Warrenton VA

May 21-24, 2006

Michael Salamon

Astrophysics Division/Science Mission Directorate/NASA HQ

fundamental physics at nasa
Fundamental Physics at NASA
  • “Laboratory” fundamental physics within the Astrophysics Division: The fundamental issues
  • Difficult times: Budget, earmarks
  • Advisory bodies
  • The Roadmap process: The nose of the camel…
  • Summary
how can laboratory fundamental physics become a priority within astrophysics
How Can Laboratory Fundamental Physics Become a Priority within Astrophysics?
  • Context:
    • Fixed funding: money for LFP comes at expense of other existing programs
    • Large (strategic) missions: Must be in the Decadal Survey, which establishes national priorities across agencies, and subsequently the NASA Roadmap.
      • NRC’s Board of Physics and Astronomy (BPS) and the Space Studies Board (SSB) supports the Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee (AASC)
      • Panel Reports to the BPS/SSB provide input to AASC
    • Small mission opportunities: Explorer Program (WMAP success; STEP made finalist list)
    • Research and Analysis: Reduced funding, although LFP does receive modest support (e.g. APOLLO, in cooperation with the NSF); balloon missions.
    • International Space Station: No longer a NASA decision; the Administration has decided to use the US share of the ISS only for those life science studies required for exploration.
  • Entry Points:
    • Decadal Survey
    • Advisory bodies (NAC, ApS, AAAC)
    • SMD Roadmap
current budgetary issues at nasa
Current Budgetary Issues at NASA
  • Unanticipated costs within the Shuttle and International Space Station programs required the Administrator to reduce the growth in the Science Mission Directorate funding levels by ~$3B over the next five years.
  • SMD now sees 1.5% growth in FY07, followed by 1% growth in later years.
  • Within the Astrophysics Division, cost increases in JWST, GLAST, and HST SM4 have serious impact on other, later missions:
    • NuSTAR is cancelled.
    • SOFIA has undergone review (budget zeroed out for FY07 and beyond); fate TBD.
    • Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) zeroed out for FY07 and beyond.
    • Beyond Einstein Program severely cut.
    • R&A budget cut by 15% for FY07 and beyond. (This is being reconsidered following response from the science community.)
entry points
Entry Points?
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey: Board of Physics and Astronomy, and Space Studies Board; Panel Reports
  • NASA Advisory Council* (NAC) and its Astrophysics Subcommittee (ApS) (input to Roadmap)
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee* (AAAC)
  • SMD Science Plan (Roadmap): Requires NAS/NRC pedigree (e.g. Decadal Survey, Quarks to Cosmos Report)

* Federal Advisory Committee (FACA law => meetings are open to the public, excluding extraordinary circumstances)

1. From the Board of Physics and Astronomy Website

Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium

The report of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee (AASC), Astronomy and

Astrophysics in the New Millenium, contains recommendations in priority order for

new initiatives to realize the science goals of the field. It is the most recent in a

series of surveys that are carried out once every 10 years.

In preparing the New Millennium report, the AASC made use of a series of panel

reports that address various aspects of ground- and space-based astronomy and

astrophysics. These reports provide in-depth technical detail.

Panel on Optical and Infrared Astronomy from the Ground

Panel on Radio and Submillimeter-Wave Astronomy

Panel on Ultraviolet, Optical and Infrared Astronomy from Space

Panel on Particle, Nuclear, and Gravitational-Wave Astrophysics

Panel on High-Energy Astrophysics from Space

Panel on Solar Astronomy

Panel on Theory, Computation, and Data Exploration

Panel on Astronomy Education and Policy

Panel on Benefits to the Nation

2 nasa advisory council
2. NASA Advisory Council

NASA Advisory Council (25 members)

Science Committee (5 members)

Human Capital

Audit & Finance



Science Subcommittees Executive Panel

(chairs of SMD subcommittees)

Planetary Protection Subcommittee

Heliophysics Subcommittee

Astrophysics Subcommittee

Earth Science Subcommittee

Planetary Science Subcommittee

Advises on SMD Roadmap

Each Subcommittee has about 15 members



Astrophysics Subcommittee (APS) Slate

3 astronomy and astrophysics advisory committee aaac
3. Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC)
  • Congress in 2002 mandates establishment of Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC) to oversee coordination of A&A programs between NASA, the NSF, and DOE. This is an official advisory body to the Government, operating under FACA law.
  • Oversight by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, whose role in the Executive Office of the President includes coordination of interagency activities.
  • The AAAC has commissioned a number of task groups:
    • Task Force for Cosmic Microwave Background Research
    • Dark Energy Task Force
    • Dark Matter Scientific Assessment Group
  • Chaired by Garth Illingworth, UC Santa Cruz
Congressional Charter for the AAAC

As established in SEC. 23 of P.L. 107-368 (the National Science Foundation

Authorization Act of 2002) and amended by SEC. 5 of P.L. 108-423 (the Department of Energy High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004):


(a) Establishment.—The Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy shall jointly establish an Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (in this section referred to as the “Advisory Committee”).

(b) Duties.—The Advisory Committee shall—

(1) assess, and make recommendations regarding, the coordination of astronomy and astrophysics programs of the Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy;

(2) assess, and make recommendations regarding, the status of the activities of the Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Energy as they relate to the recommendations contained in the National Research Council's 2001 report entitled “Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium”, and the recommendations contained in subsequent National Research Council reports of a similar nature; and

(3) not later than March 15 of each year, transmit a report to the Director, the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Secretary of Energy, the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions of the Senate on the Advisory Committee's findings and recommendations under paragraphs (1) and (2).

task force for cmb research tfcr
(From a talk at the CMB and Physics of the Early Universe Conference, April 22, 2006)Task Force for CMB Research (TFCR)
  • The AAAC in 2004 establishes a Task Force for CMB Research:“The Task Force has been asked to provide an ordered program of preliminary observations and technology development ultimately leading to a possible space mission post WMAP and PLANCK.”
  • TFCR report (2005) outlines scientific and technology pathway to an ultimate space-based CMBPol mission. (Available at
  • Most importantly: The TFCR establishes a unified voice for the U.S. CMB community which is heard by Congress, NASA, and the White House (Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget)
4 strategic planning and roadmap 2001 2003
4. Strategic Planning and Roadmap: 2001-2003
  • Each Theme within the Division had its own subcommittee (under the Space Science Advisory Committee)
  • Triennial theme roadmaps produced by “roadmap committees” composed of community and subcommittee members, with agency oversight.
  • Theme roadmaps used as input to the Space Science strategic plan, which in turn informed the Agency Strategic Plan.

Decadal Survey

NASA Authorization Act for 2005 (S.1281)

Title I Section 101

(d) SCIENCE.— (1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator shall develop a plan to guide the science programs of NASA through 2016.

(2) CONTENT.—At a minimum, the plan developed under paragraph (1) shall be designed to ensure that NASA has a rich and vigorous set of science activities, and shall describe— (A) the missions NASA will initiate, design, develop, launch, or operate in space science and earth science through fiscal year 2016, including launch dates; (B) a priority ranking of all of the missions listed under subparagraph (A), and the rationale for the ranking; and (C) the budget assumptions on which the policy is based, which for fiscal years 2007 and 2008 shall be consistent with the authorizations provided in title II of this Act.

proposed outline of smd science plan
Proposed Outline of SMD Science Plan

Preamble: The NASA Science Story

Purpose & Progress: Tie to NASA Strategic Plan; table of goals and long-term outcomes; highlights of recent accomplishments

Summary of Science Questions and Prioritized Missions: (mostly tables)

Common Elements of Strategy: SMD principles; science prioritization and community engagement (NRC, NAC, etc.); role of R&A; research solicitation & selection (peer review basis, etc); program and mission development (mission classes, strategic & PI-mode, launch & comm services); technology management approach; EPO strategy; interagency & international partnerships

Research Areas: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science, Astrophysics

Science Enabling & Enabled by Human Exploration: how science enables and is enabled by human exploration; SMD’s relationship to ESMD; science at the Moon; science in preparation for human expeditions to Mars

Summary: On the Brink of Understanding










Outline of Astrophysics Division contribution to NASA Science Plan for 2007-2016
  • Science Goals
    • Exploring the Extremes of Spacetime
    • Origin and Evolution of Cosmic Structure
    • Origin and Destiny of Stars
    • Exploring New Worlds
  • Strategic Mission Summary
  • Mission Roadmap with Milestones
  • Technology Enables Discovery
  • Sustaining the Vision: Research and Analysis

RoadmapSMD ReviewDraftPresentationTable Top ReviewMeetingsDelivery

SMD Science Plan Schedule 3/27



Earth (Internal Draft)

Mars to NRC

Mars post NRC




Solar System

SMD Management Review




Draft of Common Elements Sections

Roadmap Presentations to Subcommittees

Status / Content Presentation to NAC / SC


Draft of Science Division Sections


1st Table top review with PA&E


Italics = change from prior version of the schedule


Draft for SC, Subcommittees, NRC, Industry, public review

1st Table top review with OMB



Comments from NRC,Subcommittees, etc.


Revised Draft for NAC/SC Review

Final Discussion with NAC / SC

2nd Table top review with PA&E


2nd Table top review with OMB


SSB report on impacts of FY07 request

Draft for Agency & OMB clearance



Deliver to Congress

NAC Science Committee

2/7-8 HQ?

2/8-9 HQ

5/17-18 JPL

7/19-20 TBD

10/11-12 GSFC

Science Subcommittees

Chairs telecon - TBD


5/3-4 Conference



  • Opportunities exist for doing some types of laboratory fundamental physics experiments in space, but not at the strategic mission level.
  • Flat funding levels for SMD science means that addition of new program elements will displace others.
  • Scientific priorities are established by the community through NAS/NRC surveys and federal advisory committees. Interagency adoption of common, coordinated goals adds stability and visibility to programs.
  • Small, incoherent communities have small influence; a united fundamental physics community is essential. Consider possible avenues to developing a strong science case (national strategic case?), prioritizing, and building a representative body.
  • Jean Clavel’s talk on ESA’s Fundamental Physics program; proposal pressure works.