Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Beyond funding

I've just got this news via cosmicvariance. The US National Academy of Science has just released its recommendations to NASA and the DoE for the Beyond Einstein program - see here for the press release. The basic conclusion they came to is that a Joint Dark Energy Mission should be first off, given that it will be using pretty much proven technologies and a mission could be easily put together, whereas the space-based gravitational wave detector LISA requires more technological testing before they could place it top of the list for recommending. It does, however say that LISA should become the flagship mission in the future. What all this means in practical terms for the US side of LISA funding I'm not sure? LISA has been pushed back with regards to a potential launch date due to technological and funding issues for ages, but this could lead to yet more delays (although not entirely unexpected.) This is obviously a bit of a disappointment for a gravitational wave researcher like me, and I honestly think that the science return from LISA would be more than one of the JDEM missions could give - I mean they're only trying to understand what potentially makes up 70% of the universe, so who cares about that? ;) But seriously LISA has the potential to do very good cosmology as well as provide loads of other fundamental astrophysics with possible completely new discoveries being made - it just has a little bit more risk attached to pull off the mission, but many people are working very hard to make it as sound as possible. As Sean at cv notes maybe ESA should consider finding a more reliable partner for LISA - China, Japan, India what are your thoughts?

[Update: Apparently, according to my boss, the US recommendations are pretty much a match for the timescale that ESA was planning for LISA anyway, so they shouldn't really cause any significant extra delays. Not so bad really then.]


  1. Unproven technology with no space heritage so nasa wisely wont touch it at the moment. They are being very conservative with everything and something as crazy as lisa just wont get off the ground until the components of it have been tested and flown. Even esa should be weary as they don't have a lot of money to splash about.

    The cosmic variance blog posting is a bit naive as other than nasa who is going to give real money to help esa with lisa?

  2. There were originally going to be two proof of concept missions (planned to be flying about now), but NASA shelved their one and now there's only ESAs LISA Pathfinder, which should fly in a couple of years.

    With regards to other potential funders, the Japanese already have heritage in the gravitational wave community and in space mission design (although probably not the cash to put in), and China have also shown interest in developing ground and space-based gravitational wave detector - so they could be potentially come in as partners.

  3. if china is involved then the us will walk away as nasa aren't allowed to do anything with china.

    Japan might help but they don't have the funds nasa has or esa needs.

  4. Despite my initial reaction the reports recommendation might actually be a problem. Jim thinks that the recommendation fits in with what ESAs timeline is anyway!