Structure and Evolution of the Universe Subcommittee Meeting Minutes 3-4 Dec 2001

Status Report From: NASA Advisory Council
Posted: Monday, December 3, 2001


Cocoa Beach, Florida
December 3-4, 2001

Letter to SEU Director Dr. Anne Kinney from Dr. Bruce Margon, Chair of SEUS

Dear Anne:

The Structure and Evolution of the Universe Subcommittee (SEUS) met in Cocoa Beach, Florida, on December 3-4, 2001. All current members of the committee other than S. Swordy and J. Hewitt were present. Also present as invited observers were two member-designates (including the Chair-designate), C. Dermer and R. Kolb.

The large majority of the meeting consisted of preparations for writing the latest SEUS Roadmap, as input to the OSS Enterprise Strategic Plan revision. The SEUS reviewed and ratified the structure of the roadmapping effort: a writing team consisting approximately half members of SEUS, and half from outside of SEUS, bringing various specialized skills to the roadmap effort. The Roadmap will be coordinated with the full SEUS at several points in its development, with the full committee ultimately approving the end product. The Roadmap team is chaired by Sterl Phinney (Caltech), a SEUS member.

The Roadmap team has solicited white papers from the community via a variety of contact routes, with a submission due date of January 31, 2002. Rough drafts of such contributions are already appearing, so we are confident that the community has heard the call and will feel enfranchised. We also invited many of the major missions which are obvious candidates for discussion in the Roadmap to make in-person presentations to SEUS at this meeting.

The SEUS discussed "lessons learned" from the previous roadmap cycle, using input gathered from NASA, the community, the Decadal Survey, and simply observations of the progress of the plan put forth previously. There was agreement that the new Roadmap should aim for a somewhat narrower theme than the previous edition, although we do not expect a substantial change in the overall science direction and goals. Further, and clearly related to this sharper focus, it appears advantageous to reduce the number of "midterm" missions, at least those that receive prominent descriptions. This may require hard choices that I believe SEUS and its roadmapping team are willing to make. I stress that the comments in this paragraph emerged from the very first group discussion, at the very start of the roadmap process; they thus must be regarded currently as more "plans and signals" rather than boundary conditions, at this early stage.

In connection with the roadmapping effort, we received quite detailed presentations on current status and plans from persons or teams representing the following missions: Constellation-X, LISA, EXIST, MAXIM Pathfinder, iARISE, HSI, OWL, SAFIR, and SNAP. The first two missions in this list continue to hold a special place in our considerations. As you know, they were two of the three highest priority missions in the previous Roadmap, with the third such mission, ACCESS, now started down an implementation route via the MIDEX program rather than the Strategic Planning process. A new and very positive development since the last Roadmap is the release and publication of the Decadal Survey. In the category of large space missions, Con-X was ranked number two priority, immediately behind NGST, and in the medium category, LISA was ranked number two, immediately after GLAST. The latest presentations have shown us that both missions are making good progress in more detailed definition. We therefore can anticipate that Constellation-X and LISA will continue to be the pillars of the next Roadmap.

The SEUS met in two joint sessions with the OS, and roadmapping was also a prominent topic of discussion there. There was discussion between the two groups regarding the option that, for the purposes of the roadmap process, the science of observation and evolution of distant faint galaxies in the far infrared (e.g., approximately 60 - 900 microns) be handled by OS rather than SEUS. Both groups were I believe pleased with the discussions; the desired level of smooth coordination between SEUS and OS appears to be present.

In addition to the roadmap discussions, SEUS also considered a number of other topics. Your proposal for the creation of two new Working Groups, the Astronomy & Physics Working Group (APWG) and the Science Archive Working Group (SAWG), was discussed and well received. We encourage you to go ahead with these groups as described. It was pointed out that since the cessation of the SOMOWG, there is no obvious forum for community discussion of problems and transfer of knowledge in the area of "front end" of data handling and acquisition for small and medium missions. (Large missions have such complex, highly specialized issues in this area that they are not relevant to this forum.) As the boundary between front-end data acquisition and handling and that of archiving grows steadily grayer, the SAWG will probably periodically discuss some of the former issues, and we view this as a positive.

At the request of Marc Allen, SEUS participated in the science achievement portion of the GPRA process. We were very pleased to endorse his suggestion of a "blue bullet" in one SEU area, and to see that 100% of the other SEU science bullets were suggested as green, and we concur with this assessment.

There was a brief discussion of the NASA role in the National Virtual Observatory (NVO), the number one priority of the Decadal Survey in the small mission category. We have already received several presentations from multiple NASA personnel, and feel the next step is for SEUS to receive a briefing from community scientists working on NVO.

This meeting completes my term of service on SEUS and SScAC. It's been a pleasure to serve, and I look forward to now being a consumer of some of the results of the efforts of my SEUS colleagues.


Bruce Margon
Chair, Structure and Evolution of the Universe Subcommittee

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