WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- In a statement released today, the American Astronomical Society, the largest professional scientific association for astronomers and astrophysicists, has endorsed the Hubble Space Telescope - James Webb Space Telescope Transition Panel Report. The President of the American Astronomical Society, Dr. Catherine A. Pilachowski of Indiana University said, "Astronomy will clearly benefit if NASA and the community work together for a productive transition between Hubble and the JWST. The Committee's prioritization of options for this transition gives a clear sense of the community's scientific goals." Dr. Sidney Wolff, the chair of the Society's committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics and former director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory agreed, saying "HST has had an immense impact on both astrophysical research and public understanding of astronomy. This report provides clearly prioritized options that will serve as an effective guide for the detailed planning required to optimize the total scientific return as we make the transition from the era of HST to observations with the even more powerful JWST." The Panel report, released August 14, 2003, is available in PDF format from the NASA web pages at http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/49151main_hst-jwst.pdf . The decadal surveys mentioned in the AAS statement below are available from the National Research Council. The AAS statement, adopted today, is given below in its entirety. American Astronomical Society Endorsement of the Hubble Space Telescope - James Webb Space Telescope Transition Panel Report The American Astronomical Society strongly endorses the HST-JWST Transition Panel report and its list of prioritized options for the future of the HST. The AAS believes that this report summarizes clearly the strategies that would optimize the total science return from these space telescopes while taking into account the inevitable uncertainty about future Hubble servicing missions. Given that extensive planning and substantial lead time will be required to implement any of the options for future operation of HST, we urge NASA to give prompt and thoughtful consideration to the report. Information about the differential costs of the scientific activities (beyond normal operations costs) associated with each of the three options would help to inform the decision process. The Transition Panel's preferred option was two additional Shuttle servicing missions. The AAS supports the recommendation that the extended HST science program resulting from SM5 occur only if the HST science is successful in a peer-reviewed competition. We believe: 1) that such competition should be with like-sized proposals for new missions -- as the report stated -- that fall within the same science categories and that this process should be informed by and consonant with the priorities of the three recent decadal surveys for astrophysics, solar physics, and planetary science; and 2) that the scientific community should be consulted during the formulation of any Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for any extended mission; and 3) that the AO for any extended mission should allow a broad range of options, possibly including new instruments or new modes of observation, such as focused surveys, that could require a limited suite of capabilities and could be carried out at lower operational cost; and 4) that if extended HST mission proposals compete for funds from existing NASA mission lines then each proposal should compete as a normal proposal adhering to the selection principles within that line. The Society notes in closing that the most important link in the chain of continued scientific excellence from HST is the now delayed Servicing Mission and so 5) the Society strongly urges that whatever support is needed for this servicing mission be found, consistent with the need for safety and the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
SOURCE American Astronomical Society