Beyond Einstein – Verdict

Beyond Einstein



“Recommendation 1: NASA and DOE should proceed immediately with a competition to select a Joint Dark Energy Mission for a 2009 new start.
The broad mission goals in the Request for Proposal should be 1) to determine the properties of dark energ with high precision and 2) to enable a broad range of astronomical investigations.
The committee encourages the Agencies to seek as wide a variety of mission concepts and partnerships as possible.”

My translation of Rec 1.2 is that it tips the scales towards SNAP.
ADEPT and DESTINY are more narrowly focused on Dark Energy, SNAP is broader.
It will also drive costs up, which risks severe budget overruns.

“Recommendation 2: NASA should invest additional Beyond Einstein funds in LISA technology development and risk reduction, to help ensure the Agency is in a position to proceed in partnership with ESA to a new start after LISA Pathfinder results are understood.”

So, keep LISA alive. The tech risk argument is overstated, in my humble opinion.
Big question is whether ESA will be willing to wait and partner at this stage. At some point ESA will balk at getting screwed by the NASA process again.
If they can find a new partner (China?) they might be able to go it alone on LISA. Most of the tech at this stage is European, what they really need is a big launcher.

“Recommendation 3: NASA should move forward with appropriate measures to increase the readiness of the three remaining mission areas – Black Hole Finder Probe, Constellation-X, and Inflation Probe – for consideration by NASA and the NRC Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics.”

Translation: RIP
Some of these concepts may come to live again under new names and new scope.

The NRC review – go to bottom for the Free Executive Summary.
NASA formal announcment is expected tomorrow. Figure they will go with the NRC recommendation without trying to mess with it and taking on any responsibility, that might piss off people.

No surprise.
JDEM and LISA are selected.
LISA is ranked after JDEM on technology readiness grounds, even though JDEM is at the concept stage and not at the mission selection. ADEPT and DESTINY can compete with SNAP for the launch slot.






Con-X is dead. For now.

EXIST is also dead.

This is extraordinarily bad news for high energy astronomy.
I’d bet there will be a x-ray SMEX class mission, and I’m sure EXIST or equivalent will try to squeeze into a medium class mission slot, but I don’t know if they’ll fit, and there will be very hard competition from other mission concepts within Science Mission Directorate.
Better hope Chandra lasts a very long time indeed.

Inflation Probe is not even dead, ’cause I don’t think any of the concepts ever got any life.

Maybe the mid-size missions will compete a microwave background polarization misison to test inflation theories, after Plank flies.

‘Course all this happened over a period of just four years…
Who knows what funding and politics will come to NASA in the next decade.


  1. #1 Brad Holden
    September 5, 2007

    What was interesting was JDEM got #1 because it was considered easiest to build of the missions that will answer a Beyond Einstein AND it will have a nice broad impact. Con-X will do everything as well, but was harder and the science was not as “clean”.

    The committee thinks that two missions can get squeezed out of the infamous wedge, assuming exploration does not loot the SMD and there are no more overruns.

    Oddly, our local NRC member assumed that Con-X would happen anyway.

  2. #2 Craig Heinke
    September 5, 2007

    Well, the verdict is in, so now we can start lobbying. The Beyond Einstein executive summary is pretty clear that Con-X should be funded–just that they don’t want to be the ones to do it, they think the money should come from elsewhere in NASA. Sigh. Well, I guess that’s the tack to take.
    When the next president takes office, there may come a new plan for science at NASA. Anybody heard any thoughts from Obama, Edwards or Hillary on the Vision for Space Exploration? If they’re skeptical of Moon/Mars, and yet willing to spend on NASA (and can stop our spending on stupid wars), then we may do better than we think on science spending. Looking at Kerry’s plans for NASA from 2004, I’m somewhat optimistic.

  3. #3 Jeff
    September 5, 2007

    Results came in as expected. Just downloaded the full report to look for hidden messages… So, for me, the real question is — is it an “open competition” for JDEM as the report suggests, or is it really de-facto SNAP (because that’s what the DOE wants, even if there may be better missions to be designed for JDEM…)

  4. #4 Craig Heinke
    September 5, 2007

    Interesting tidbit I found in the Recommendations section:
    “…two stood out for the directness with which they address Beyond Einstein goals and their potential for broader scientific impact: LISA and JDEM. The committee was unanimous that in fulfilling its charge, it should choose between these two….”

  5. #5 Louise
    September 5, 2007

    Bravo for the reports on this issue. Sad that CON-X seems to be left in the cold. Perhaps this worthy mission can find funding elsewhere.

  6. #6 The AstroDyke
    September 6, 2007

    Thanks for the heads-up and the review, Steinn. People at coffee this morning were too busy dissecting Astro-Ph to pay attention to the NRC review — I wouldn’t have heard about it today except from your blog.

  7. #7 Steinn Sigurdsson
    September 6, 2007

    Science before funding!?
    I am soooo jealous.

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