At the National Academies Space Science Week in March 2018, Thomas Zurbuchen (NASA Associate Administrator for Science) charged the astronomy and astrophysics community with considering whether the upcoming Decadal Survey could be ambitious and forward looking in the context of the unresolved challenges for the James Webb Space Telescope (launch date is delayed and under review) and WFIRST (proposed for termination in FY2019 budget request). He suggested that one could delay the Decadal Survey until these issues are resolved, and he asked the community to consider whether there was an alternative. He repeated his question at the April 2018 meeting of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee and the May 2018 meeting of the Space Studies Board.
NASA's Program Analysis Groups conducted a survey of the astrophysics community to gauge community thoughts (https://cor.gsfc.nasa.gov/copag/rfi/copag-rfi.php). Within the National Academies, the Astro2020 consultation group, and leadership of the National Academies' Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, Space Studies Board, and the Board on Physics and Astronomy discussed the issue and considered the input from the community survey.
On May 24, Space Studies Board Chair Fiona Harrison sent a letter to NASA's Zurbuchen recommending that that the start of the Astro2020 decadal survey not be delayed. Zurbuchen accepted this recommendation, tweeting "Upon receiving National Academies analysis with respect to the timing of Astro2020, I directed the NASA team to start the decadal process now. I hope that the US Astrophysics community takes this as an opportunity to come together as one and plan a decade of discovery and exploration—the best yet." (https://twitter.com/Dr_ThomasZ/status/1000058335570333696)
I have informed my counterparts at National Science Foundation and Department of Energy, NASA's co-sponsors of Astro2020 (http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/CurrentProjects/SSB_185159), that NASA is ready to proceed with initiating the 2020 Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Director, Astrophysics Division
NASA Science Mission Directorate
29 Days on the Edge
Congratulations to James Webb Space Telescope on successful launch!
Video Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
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