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Session 93 - Space Astronomy in the Next Millennium.
Oral session, Wednesday, January 17
1st Floor, La Villita Assembly Building
The Space Interferometry Science Working Group (SISWG), soon to be disbanded, has spent four years helping with NASA's entry into space interferometry. The Working Group's initial charge was to help with the selection of the Astrometric Interferometry Mission (AIM) design and to advise on long term interferometry strategy. Events have overtaken the original goals. Programmatic concerns and the Future Mission Concepts reviews resulted in the focus landing on the Orbiting Stellar Interferometer (OSI) design. The rapidly developing roadmap for the detection and characterization of Earth-like planets has created a need for early technology development in interferometry. And the dramatic gains in the fields of adaptive optics and ground-based interferometry have shown that space is not the only location for high-spatial-resolution imaging and spectroscopy.
Against this background, the science enabled by a 1000-fold improvement in wide angle positional accuracy (compared to Hipparchus) coupled with the major role in technology development, leaves the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM, an expanded OSI instrument) in a secure role. The narrowly focused, but electrifying science of the nulling IR interferometer/spectrometer designed for the planet search is correspondingly unique and secure.
Funding of conceptual studies through the Future Missions Concepts program is allowing a close look at the potential of a mid-IR, 25m baseline, imaging interferometer (the Dilute Lens Imager) and of a widely Separated Spacecraft Interferometer (SSI) designed to test a highly dilute interferometer over baselines of up to 10 km.
While not without complications, the birth of optical/IR interferometry in space seems well on schedule.
Program listing for Wednesday