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Session 93 - Space Astronomy in the Next Millennium.
Oral session, Wednesday, January 17
1st Floor, La Villita Assembly Building

[93.04] Exploration of Neighboring Planetary Systems: Roadmap to a New Discipline in Space Science

D. C. Black (LPI)

A little more than two decades ago a pair of workshops chaired by Jesse Greenstein marked the beginning of a new era in modern astronomy and planetary science, leading perhaps to the formation of a new discipline in space science. More significantly, this is also an era that will bring to closure the much grander revolution in human thought due to Copernicus some five hundred years ago. This is the time when powerful new telescopes in space will permit humans to search for and characterize other planetary systems and to study in detail the nature of other Earth-like planets should they exist, with the possibility of inferring the presence of life on at least some of these planets from their atmospheric spectra.

The NASA Administrator, Mr. Goldin, challenged the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to create a roadmap to explore neighboring planetary systems and to characterize and image individual planets in those systems. JPL conducted a study involving 135 researchers from 53 universities and companies, most of which were selected through a competitive process, and recently (October 5 and 6) reported on their findings to a Blue Ribbon Panel chaired by Professor C. Townes.

The findings of the ExNPS study resonate strongly with those of the ``HST and Beyond'' Committee chaired by Alan Dressler, that a search for and characterization of Earth-like planets revolving around nearby stars and the search for evidence of life on them should be one of the major objctives of space astronomy in the coming decade.

I will review the major aspects of the proposed roadmap with emphasis on the scientific objectives and the combined ground and space-based hardware that is being considered to accomplish the task.

Program listing for Wednesday