American Astronomical Society Endorses Hubble Space Telescope - James Webb Space Telescope Transition Panel Report

Sep 04, 2003, 01:00 ET from American Astronomical Society

    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
     The Panel report, released August 14, 2003, is available in PDF format
 from the NASA web pages at .
     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
     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;
     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