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Society Resolutions Whose Period of Relevance Has Passed

The following list includes AAS resolutions related to research, education, society, and astronomy as a profession but whose period of relevance has passed.

AAS Statement on the President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request

Adopted 12 March 2015

Investments in scientific discovery lay the groundwork needed to secure America’s future economic prosperity and a higher quality of life for our nation’s citizens. It is crucial that the government make these investments a priority as our economy continues to recover if we are to compete globally. The study of the universe drives technology development that contributes to US national and economic security, captures the public’s imagination, and serves as a disproportionately important gateway science attracting students from diverse backgrounds to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is troubled by the lack of priority placed on scientific discovery in the president’s FY 2016 budget request, including a proposed 2% cut for the astronomical sciences. This cut is set against the backdrop of a budget that proposes to increase total discretionary spending by 7% above FY 2015 appropriated levels (and FY 2016 budget caps). The AAS does appreciate that the FY 2016 request for the astronomical sciences reflects an increase over past administration proposals, but the compounding impact of another year of cuts would have lasting negative consequences and further erode US leadership in this field.

The astronomical science community has a long history of producing prioritized visions for the field via “decadal surveys” from the National Research Council. These reports require difficult, consensus-based choices and serve to maximize the scientific return on the public’s investment by guiding federal budget priorities in the astronomical sciences within an environment of highly constrained resources. Over just the past year, decadal-survey prioritized missions and facilities have enabled US researchers to discover potentially habitable Earth-like planets around other stars, orbit a dwarf planet in the outer solar system for the first time, observe fireworks from the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, and better predict energetic outbursts from the Sun that have serious implications for power and communications systems on Earth.

Dramatic research results such as these, made possible by previous federal investments, are met with flat or declining budget requests that force unhealthy trade-offs between breakthrough facilities and the research grant programs required to fully exploit them. The unrestricted competitive grant programs at the NSF and NASA have seen proposal award rates — an imperfect but useful indicator of the adequacy of a competitive grant program’s funding — steadily decline for a number of years, with many productive research groups around the country now at a tipping point. Increasing numbers of top new scientists and engineers trained at American universities are choosing to pursue their careers in research and innovation abroad, reversing a multidecade trend started when Albert Einstein first came to the US. This budget does little to address this mounting problem. There is a serious long-term threat to the nation’s international competitiveness as our long-standing leadership position in many areas of science is lost to other countries where very different investment decisions are being made.

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD)

The AAS is concerned that while the administration’s proposal would increase the NASA top-line budget by 3% — well below the overall proposed 7% increase in discretionary spending — little of the increase would flow to SMD. In fact, SMD’s astronomical science divisions in aggregate would be cut by almost 4%. The proposed budget for FY 2016 and future years would require already funded missions to be canceled before the end of their scientifically productive lives and would underinvest in the research grants that enable our community to maximize the scientific return on federal investment in SMD’s missions. A number of top-priority decadal-survey recommendations such as the modest Diversify, Realize, Integrate, Venture, Educate (DRIVE) initiative in the Heliophysics Division continue to be delayed in this budget.

We also continue to have concerns about the administration’s proposals for SMD’s education and public outreach activities. The FY 2016 budget supports a consolidated program within SMD, which we support in principle, but the proposed funding level is only half the amount appropriated in FY 2015 and prior years for these activities. The AAS shares the administration’s goal of a more effective and efficient STEM education portfolio but disagrees with such steep budget reductions before the impact of the newly consolidated program can be properly evaluated.

Within this overall troubling budget outlook for SMD, there are a number of positive elements: support for high-priority flagship missions (James Webb Space Telescope, Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, Mars 2020 rover, and Solar Probe Plus) and a steady cadence of cost-capped, competed missions in the Astrophysics Explorer and Planetary Discovery budget lines. The Society also appreciates the administration’s support for beginning formulation of a cost-effective flagship mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa and its continued commitment to pre-formulation investments in the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The AAS appreciates NSF’s continued commitment to building cutting-edge telescopes through the Major Research Equipment and Facility Construction account and growing the Mid-Scale Innovations Program (MSIP). However, we note that while the NSF would receive a 5% increase under the request, the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) directorate would increase by only 2%, and the Astronomical Sciences division by just 1%. With increasing operations costs for new facilities coming online and an overwhelming demand for MSIP grants, this request would lead to a 2% reduction in the core competitive research grant programs that allow the astronomical user community to capitalize on federal investment in new and existing facilities and instrumentation.

A recent NSF report listed a number of important priorities from the latest astrophysics survey that NSF is unable to implement given the Astronomical Sciences Division’s ongoing funding constraints. These lost opportunities ranged from exciting new large- and medium-sized facilities to modest augmentations to research grant and advanced technologies and instrumentation programs.

Department of Energy’s Office of Science

The AAS appreciates the administration’s support for the DoE’s Cosmic Frontier program, including full funding to keep the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope camera project on track as NSF continues construction of the telescope, and initial fabrication support for the high-priority Dark Energy Survey Instrument.

As the budget process moves forward over the coming months, the AAS looks forward to working with the Congress and the administration to ensure robust and sustained investment in scientific discovery. Together we can forge a brighter future for the scientific research enterprise and our country as a whole.

AAS Statement on the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request

Adopted 24 March 2014

As the nation works toward a hard-fought economic recovery, it is crucial that we strengthen investments in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research that will help drive our long-term prosperity in the global knowledge economy. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is troubled by the reduction in basic science research funding proposed in the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request. We are particularly concerned by the budget allocations for NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. While we appreciate the limitations imposed by the statutory caps on discretionary spending, these vital basic science research programs warrant a higher priority within these spending caps.

The astronomical sciences play an important role in our nation’s science and technology enterprise as a discovery-focused field that captures the public’s imagination, drives technology development, contributes to our national security, and serves as a gateway science introducing students to the scientific method and other STEM fields. Our community has a long history of producing exciting and prioritized visions for the field via “decadal surveys” from the National Research Council. These broad community-based reports serve to maximize the scientific return on the public’s investment by guiding federal budget priorities in the astronomical sciences.

As with many other areas of basic science research, the astronomical sciences have never been more ripe for discovery. In just the past few weeks NASA’s Kepler mission has nearly doubled the number of confirmed planets outside our solar system (many of them in multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system). Shortly thereafter, a U.S.-led team of researchers using an NSF-funded telescope at the South Pole announced compelling evidence of primordial gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time itself. These waves originate in the explosive inflationary period just after the Big Bang and open a whole new window on our Universe’s first moments.

Dramatic research results such as these are now juxtaposed with a lackluster budget that cuts funding outright for NASA and provides only small, sub-inflationary increases for the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Within these top-line funding levels, our primary concern — an overarching priority of the decadal surveys — is achieving a balanced research program. Steadily declining proposal funding rates across competitively selected grant programs at NASA and NSF are a bellwether of imbalance.

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD)

At a time when space science is one of nation’s brightest lights, delivering outstanding scientific discoveries and substantial public support, the President’s proposed 3.5-percent cut for NASA’s SMD is extremely worrying. We are particularly concerned by the 9 percent cut to the Astrophysics Division and the unanticipated decision to mothball a major mission outside the well-established senior review process. The AAS is also concerned about the imbalance within SMD given the inadequate funding for ongoing mission operations (including damaging cuts to major missions), flat or declining research and analysis grant funding, and the outlook for the Planetary New Frontiers and Heliophysics Explorer competed mission lines. Within this overall troubling budget outlook for SMD, there are positive elements of the request that deserve praise: support for high-priority flagship missions (James Webb Space Telescope, Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, Mars 2020 rover, Solar Probe Plus, and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope) and the improved cadence of cost-capped, competed missions in the Astrophysics Explorer and Planetary Discovery lines.

The new proposal for mission-focused STEM education and public outreach (EPO) activities to be consolidated within SMD is also noteworthy since it is an improvement over the drastic and damaging restructuring proposed in the 2014 Budget. We are pleased the Administration has recognized that successful EPO programs need to deeply embed mission scientists and engineers in the program. However, we are concerned that the Budget reduces funding for these EPO activities by two-thirds. This drastically reduced funding level is inadequate for continuing the current high-quality EPO activities within SMD. The AAS shares the Administration’s goal of a more effective STEM education portfolio, and we welcome the opportunity for improved stakeholder input as the Administration pursues the strategic goals outlined in its recent interagency STEM education plan.

National Science Foundation

Given the importance of NSF’s core research programs to the nation, the AAS is concerned by the flat funding for NSF’s research account — including a one-percent cut for the Division on Astronomical Sciences — in the President’s Budget. The loss of buying power and outright reductions in funding for the astronomical sciences and other core research programs at NSF will continue to erode our nation’s leadership in many fields. There are, nevertheless, two relative bright spots in the NSF budget for which the AAS is appreciative. We welcome the significant increase for the second year of construction funding for the groundbreaking Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), the number one priority for ground-based astronomy in the most recent astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey. The Division for Astronomical Sciences and its parent Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate are to be commended for identifying more resources for a mid-scale instrumentation and facility program, also a top decadal survey priority. The AAS stands ready to work with the NSF as it tries to rebalance its astronomical sciences and space physics portfolios in the face of increasing facility operations costs and declining proposal success rates.

Department of Energy’s Office of Science

While the AAS laments the proposed cut to the High Energy Physics program at the Office of Science, we are pleased by the increase in the Cosmic Frontiers area. We enthusiastically welcome the planned increase in funding for the LSST camera fabrication, which would keep this NSF-DOE project on track to provide our first deep look at the violent, ever-changing universe at the beginning of the coming decade

As the budget process moves forward over the coming months, the AAS looks forward to working with the Congress and the Administration to strengthen the country’s investment in basic science research. Together we can forge a brighter future for the scientific research enterprise and our country as a whole.

AAS Statement on the Impact of Federal Agency Travel Restrictions on Scientific Conferences

Adopted 27 March 2013

The American Astronomical Society and its six divisions (Planetary Science, High Energy Astrophysics, Solar Physics, Dynamical Astronomy, Historical Astronomy, and Laboratory Astrophysics) are deeply concerned about the impact of the Administration’s new conference travel restrictions on the scientific productivity and careers of researchers who are Federal employees and contractors.

Scientific meetings and conferences are a principal mechanism for researchers, students, and educators to facilitate and strengthen their interaction and collaborations with peers in their field, thereby advancing the state of knowledge in that field. Scientists who are Federal employees or contractors play a critical role in all fields of science and engineering, so the Federal agency mission suffers when they, and any students collaborating with them, are unable to travel to relevant conferences.

In response to guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget on implementation of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 sequestration, many agencies have issued new travel restrictions for employees, contractors, and grantees for the rest of FY 2013. For example, NASA has effectively capped conference attendance at 50 employees and contractors and prohibited all attendance at foreign conferences. Given the mission need for NASA personnel to regularly meet with international collaborators, we believe our international leadership in space will be undermined by this prohibition.

While conferences occurring in the remaining six months of FY 2013 will be severely impacted by these new directives, our deeper concern is the likelihood that the restrictions and reduced conference travel spending will become standard policy going forward. We agree that all government travel expenditures should be subject to vigorous review and oversight, but we urge the Administration to consider carefully the harm that these top-down restrictions could cause the U.S. research enterprise and our international standing.

AAS Statement on the President’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal to Eliminate the Education and Public Outreach Programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

Adopted 21 May 2013

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is encouraged by the goal in the President’s 2014 budget proposal to increase the impact of the federal education investment. The AAS has contributed significantly to advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) literacy in all four areas called out in the proposal — K-12 instruction, undergraduate education, graduate education and career mentoring, and education activities that take place outside the classroom — as well as to programs aligned with the President’s desire to increase opportunities for, and participation by, individuals from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Furthermore, we agree that our nation’s students must improve their STEM knowledge and critical-thinking abilities if they are to become the innovators our country needs to ensure the future competitiveness of the United States. We also strongly support the President’s ambitious goals of generating 100,000 new and effective STEM teachers and 1,000,000 more STEM graduates in order to achieve the outcomes called for in the 2014 budget proposal.

While it is certainly appropriate and reasonable to assess critically how taxpayer investments are being used to create federal education programs in order to decrease duplication and increase programmatic effectiveness, it is not at all clear that the proposed reorganization of federal education efforts would produce more efficient and productive education programs than those that currently exist through the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) programs of the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The proposed budget reorganization would dismantle some of the nation’s most inspiring and successful STEM education assets. Over the past 15 years NASA SMD EPO efforts have developed a network of national partnership among mission scientists, formal and informal STEM education professionals, faculty from university STEM departments and colleges of education, K-12 educators, and school-district policy makers. Many of the resulting educational programs have matured into national models that have produced tremendous broader impacts, serving as an incredible source of inspiration for our society and providing a robust pathway into STEM careers over the widest possible range of STEM disciplines.

NASA SMD EPO programs provide some of the nation’s best examples of how federal funding is used effectively to achieve the broad impacts and evidence-based strategic outcomes that are the goal of the 2014 budget reorganization. Many of the most successful NASA SMD EPO programs are funded through a rigorous peer review process that requires the clear identification of both a target audience and strategic impacts, accompanied by an evidence-based evaluation plan. This process results in EPO programs that are uniquely capable of translating cutting-edge science, technology, and engineering into one of the nation’s most powerful vehicles for educating learners at all levels (K-PhD) and increasing participation and opportunities in STEM fields for individuals from historically underrepresented groups.

The AAS strongly recommends that those NASA SMD EPO programs that have demonstrated success with implementing evidence-based educational methods and have robust assessment outcomes that document significant achievement of the STEM objectives of the 2014 budget proposal be exempted from the proposed consolidation and streamlining efforts.

AAS Statement on the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request

Adopted 22 April 2013

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) appreciates the President’s continued support for science in the 2014 Budget. Investment in the science and technology enterprise is particularly important during difficult economic times, since Federally funded research plays a critical role in the Nation’s economic competitiveness and the well-being of its citizens. Astronomical research, including the study of the Sun, the solar system, and the rest of the universe, is a vital part of the research activity of the United States and an area in which the country has been preeminent for many decades.

Within the request for NASA, the AAS appreciates the Administration’s strong support for a number of top-priority recommendations from the three National Research Council decadal surveys that span the astronomical sciences, including the James Webb Space Telescope, Mars exploration, and the Solar Probe Plus and Solar Orbiter missions.

The AAS also appreciates the coordinated funding at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to begin construction and fabrication of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope — the top-ranked major ground-based project in the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. The AAS acknowledges increased research funding in the DOE Cosmic Frontiers program and increased funding at NSF for a number of decadal survey priorities, including ongoing construction of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, the transition to full operations at the recently dedicated Atacama Large Millimeter Array, and the initiation of a wedge for the new Mid-Scale Innovations Program.

While noting these important and positive aspects of the President’s request, the AAS also has a number of concerns about the Budget, specifically its negative impact on planetary science missions, the proposed reorganization of NASA’s education and public outreach programs, and the balance of the overall research program for the astronomical sciences.

The AAS is deeply concerned about the Administration’s renewed proposal to cut NASA’s Planetary Science Division, this time by $200 million compared to the 2013 level enacted by Congress and signed by the President last month. At this level, the budget precludes a major mission to any planet other than Mars after 2017, and precludes exploration of Europa, a high priority for the planetary science community. The request also threatens the cadence of Discovery and New Frontiers missions, which are a cornerstone of the Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey to ensure balance among mission classes. The U.S. planetary exploration program has a storied history and a compelling plan for the future. The AAS urges the Administration and the Congress to find a path forward that maintains U.S. leadership in planetary science, rather than ceding future exploration of our solar system to other nations.

The AAS shares the Administration’s goal of increasing the impact and reach of the government’s sizable science education investment. Nevertheless, the proposal to restructure NASA’s education portfolio by eliminating all mission-specific education and public outreach (EPO) programs is deeply concerning. Many NASA EPO activities serve as the government’s best examples of how to bring the results of contemporary science into a wide range of educational settings using research-validated pedagogical practices. These mission-specific EPO programs have developed powerful collaborations amongst education professionals, mission scientists, and engineers. The restructuring proposal is certain to dismantle the strategic networks and infrastructure that have been carefully built over many years. The AAS recommends that the EPO programs using evidence-based methods and demonstrating clear success at achieving the objectives of the Administration’s restructuring proposal be exempted from any consolidation.

Finally, the AAS is concerned by the relatively low priority afforded research and analysis grants and future Explorer opportunities at NASA, and research grants and existing facility operations at NSF. These were identified as high priorities in all three of the decadal surveys. Taken together, reductions in these smaller competitive, peer-reviewed programs will result in an overall program that is unbalanced toward large facilities without allocating the research and training resources necessary to exploit those facilities’ full scientific potential. It is critical to maintain the balance among the large, medium, and small missions, projects, and activities recommended in all three decadal surveys in order to sustain the vibrant research community essential to our nation’s economic, scientific, and technological future.

The AAS looks forward to working with the Administration and the Congress to improve upon the 2014 request as the process moves forward.

AAS Statement on the NSF Portfolio Review

Adopted 9 September 2012

For more than fifty years, the Astronomical Sciences have set a standard for responsible stewardship of public resources. Each decade, the community reviews the current state of the disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics, planetary science, and heliophysics and produces a prioritized list of projects, programs and initiatives important for scientific progress in the coming decade. The AAS strongly supports the principle of making such decadal recommendations and works to have them implemented as part of its mission to enhance and share humanity's scientific understanding of the Universe. These grand aspirations are now being pursued in a changing fiscal environment that is likely to see severe constraints on federal research expenditures.

As a consequence, the Astronomical Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation convened a committee to review its complete portfolio of facilities and programs. The Portfolio Review Committee report provides a thorough and detailed audit of the nation's ground-based resources in light of the scientific priorities set forth by the Decadal Surveys. Their recommended balance of large, medium, and small-scale efforts highlights the need to maintain sufficient funds to support individual investigators, to continue a program of technical innovation, and to train the next generation of scientists, while also funding those facilities essential for addressing the decadal surveys’ scientific priorities.

The AAS supports such community involvement in the hard decisions imposed on us by the current trend of diminishing federal investment in the nation's future scientific capacity, a trend we regard as unwise. The Astronomical Sciences Division's diminished projected budget cannot both initiate the new projects envisioned by the decadal surveys, and operate the entire current suite of ground-based facilities. These national facilities, available to all solely on the basis of scientific merit, are essential to keeping the astronomical community strong and diverse. Curtailment of access will have a major negative impact on many in our active research community. Even if some public-access facilities can be converted to private ownership, smaller programs will be disproportionately challenged, producing a negative impact on the training of a diverse scientific workforce.

The Portfolio Review presents an opportunity for a new dialog with the leadership of the NSF and other federal agencies, along with the Executive and Legislative branches, on the value to the nation of their investments in the astronomical sciences. The recent surveys — New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science, and Solar and Space Physics: A Science for a Technological Society — aptly noted that astronomy is a key “gateway science,” promoting growth in the K-16 STEM pipeline which, in turn, helps to build the innovation economy. If, however, the NSF budget projections become our reality, the Portfolio Review has both provided a framework for developing creative new arrangements for facility operations and opened important new pathways for innovative mid-scale projects by advocating divestment rather than closure of lower-ranked facilities, by explicitly recognizing the importance of co-tenants and work in progress, and by recommending some restructuring of grant programs.

The operation of new and existing world-class facilities, coupled with robust support for the individual scientists and engineers — including those in training — who will use these facilities in charting the future of our science, will impose hard choices of the kind the Review Committee has recommended. The AAS stands ready to help support the transitions required, while working to promote continued US leadership in the exploration of the Universe and the understanding of our place in it.

AAS Statement on the President's FY 2013 Budget

Adopted 23 February 2012

The American Astronomical Society, noting the budgetary challenges that the nation faces, appreciates the President’s commitment to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research in the FY 2013 budget. Astronomical research, including the study of the Sun, the solar system, and the rest of the universe, is a vital part of the research activity of the United States and an area in which the U.S. has been preeminent for many decades. It is critical to maintain a balance among the large, medium, and small missions, projects, and activities recommended in the heliophysics, planetary, and astronomy and astrophysics decadal surveys in order to sustain a vibrant research community that is essential to our nation’s economic, scientific, and technological future.

The AAS is grateful to the Congress and the Administration for the inclusion of NASA funding to enable launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) later this decade, as the top-ranked large-scale space mission of the 2001 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey and the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. The AAS also appreciates National Science Foundation (NSF) funding for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) pre-construction planning and Department of Energy support for LSST camera development, continued funding for the construction of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST), and for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), now entering science operations. These are top-ranked projects in the 2001 and 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal surveys.

At the same time, the AAS is deeply concerned that the significant cuts to NASA’s Planetary Science Division will preclude development of the top-ranked projects in the 2011 planetary sciences decadal survey, scale back the very successful Discovery and New Frontiers programs, threaten our national standing as a leader in planetary science research now and in the future, and curtail planned collaborations with international partners. Stepping away from international partnerships degrades NASA’s reputation as a trusted collaborator and limits the scientific capabilities achievable in the future. The significant scientific challenges of the future demand reliable cooperation internationally, and NASA, the Administration, and Congress should seek to build up these partnerships in robust and sustainable ways in all of NASA’s science divisions, while not degrading the ongoing success of our nation’s planetary science activities.

The National Science Foundation supports astronomical sciences through the Division of Astronomical Sciences, the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, and the Office of Polar Programs. The AAS applauds the President for increasing the budgets for these NSF divisions, enabling key research for decadal priorities.

The Department of Energy plays a key role in supporting our understanding of the basic physics that enables the production and utilization of energy. Through the High Energy Physics office’s Cosmic Frontier program, support is provided for activities designed to advance our understanding of fundamental laws of physics and to answer mysteries of how the universe works. The AAS strongly supports the President’s requested funding for these activities, which include dark matter, dark energy, and gamma-ray astrophysics.

NASA funds the astronomical sciences through the Science Mission Directorate via its Astrophysics, Planetary Science, and Heliophysics Divisions. The AAS notes the critical importance of healthy research and analysis (R&A) budgets in all divisions and the ongoing support and the promise of future funding for Explorer-class missions, which are vital to the development of knowledge and new mission concepts. Enhancement of the Astrophysics Explorer program was identified as a top priority of the 2010 astronomy & astrophysics decadal survey.

The AAS calls upon Congress and the Administration to fully support the balance of NASA activities by ensuring a healthy, affordable progression of flagship-class missions across all three space science divisions. There are key scientific goals that can only be addressed through significant investment in large missions, which of necessity have long lead times. The number one priority of the 2010 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), is delayed from the rapid science return that was envisioned, and planned future Mars missions are now on hold. Previous large missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), the Cassini Saturn orbiter, and others demonstrate that the wealth of knowledge they produce outweighs their costs and allows breakthroughs in understanding our universe.

The members of the AAS are committed to enhancing our understanding of the universe by using the resources made available to us through publicly funded programs that develop and operate world-class facilities, support our research, and enable us to educate our students and fellow citizens.

AAS Statement in Support of the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences Portfolio Review Process

Adopted 2 January 2012

The United States invests in advanced scientific research through the National Science Foundation, and has done so since the agency’s founding in 1950. The NSF has historically provided funding to researchers whose proposals are rigorously peer-reviewed to ensure that the best possible scientific research is conducted with taxpayer funds, and has supported national observatories that provide competitively allocated telescope access. A regular review of all activities funded by Divisions within the NSF can strengthen the overall research effort by providing a balance among programs, facilities, and projects.

Therefore, the American Astronomical Society strongly supports the current portfolio review of the Division of Astronomical Sciences as an important step in realizing the aspirational goals of our community. Such a review can enable the research envisioned by the Decadal Surveys through a prudent balance of funding for facilities old and new, large and small. It can also assure the proper distribution of funds among grants to research centers and to individual investigators, and for programs to support astronomical training and public communication of our exciting scientific discoveries.

American Astronomical Society Statement on the James Webb Space Telescope

Adopted 7 July 2011

The proposal released on July 6 by the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies to terminate the James Webb Space Telescope would waste more taxpayer dollars than it saves while simultaneously undercutting the critical effort to utilize American engineering and ingenuity to expand human knowledge. Such a proposal threatens American leadership in the fields of astrophysics and advanced space technology while likely eliminating hundreds, if not thousands, of high-tech jobs. Additionally, this proposal comes before the completion of a revised construction plan and budget for a launch of JWST by 2018. The United States position as the leader in astronomy, space science, and spaceflight is directly threatened by this proposal.

The JWST is the highest-ranked mission in the National Academy of Science's Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey released in 2000 and remains a high priority for the Nation's astronomers in this decade as well, as the revolutionary successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. This survey, conducted once every 10 years by hundreds of the Nation's leading scientists, prioritizes — based on scientific merit and impact — projects proposed by the scientific community that require significant government support for completion. These reports represent a community consensus on the efforts necessary to advance our knowledge of the universe. The potential of JWST to transform astronomy underlies many of the activities recommended in the 2010 decadal report released last August. JWST is designed to observe well beyond Hubble's capabilities. It is expected to serve thousands of astronomers in the coming decades to revolutionize our understanding of our place in the Universe, just as Hubble has done since its completion and launch just over two decades ago.

The JWST's completion, launch, and operation will unveil new knowledge about the earliest formation of stars and planets and on a wide range of additional advanced scientific questions, including many not yet formulated. As was true with the Hubble Space Telescope, recognized as a tremendous success by the public, scientists, and policy-makers, building the most advanced telescopes comes with the risk of unexpected costs and delays. However, the whole Nation can rightly take pride in the engineering and scientific accomplishment that the completion and launch of such instruments represents. With the help of important international partners, we are the only nation that could lead such an effort; we should not shirk from completing the project when the most difficult engineering challenges have already been overcome. As stated in the Casani report, an independent review of project readiness completed late last year, "The JWST Project has made excellent progress in developing the difficult technologies required for its successful operation, and no technical constraints to successful completion have been identified." The mirrors stand ready and waiting for integration into the spacecraft. The telescope has passed both preliminary design review and critical design review. It is time to complete construction and look ahead to JWST's launch and science operations.

The American Astronomical Society calls upon all members of Congress to support JWST to its completion and to provide strong oversight on the path to this goal. Too many taxpayer dollars have already been spent to cancel the mission now; its benefits far outweigh the remaining costs. We must see the mission through. We are a great nation and we do great things. JWST represents our highest aspirations and will be one of our most significant accomplishments.

AAS Statement On Community-based Priority Setting in the Astronomical Sciences

Adopted 24 January 2008

The American Astronomical Society and each of its five divisions strongly endorse community-based priority setting as a fundamental component in the effective federal funding of research. Broad community input is required in making difficult decisions that will be respected by policy makers and stake-holders. The decadal surveys are the premier examples of how to set priorities with community input. Other National Academy studies, standing advisory committees, senior reviews, and town hall meetings are important components. Mid-decade adjustments should also be open to appropriate community input. Pleadings outside this process for specific Congressional language to benefit projects or alter priorities are counterproductive and harm science as a whole. The American Astronomical Society opposes all attempts to circumvent the established and successful community-based priority-setting processes currently in place.

AAS Statement on the Beyond Einstein Program Assessment Committee

Adopted 23 September 2007

The AAS commends NASA and DOE for working together and for using a broad range of community experts to obtain advice on the difficult task of choosing the first mission in the Beyond Einstein program. The attention of the National Academy's Beyond Einstein Program Assessment Committee (BEPAC) to cost, schedule and readiness in the evaluation of the missions and the inclusion of project management experts on the committee are innovations that will prove valuable for the next Astronomy & Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

AAS Statement on NASA Advisory Committees

Adopted 5 January 2007

One of the historic strengths of NASA science programs has been their guidance the close involvement of the space research community. The scientific priorities established by NRC Decadal Studies have been especially important. Committees comprised of leaders of the space science community and governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) have provided programmatic advice to the NASA science leaders at the Associate Administrator and Divisional levels as they develop internal roadmaps to implement the programs recommended by the NRC Studies.

Key to the effectiveness of this FACA-based advisory structure has been the openness of the process. Under FACA rules, meetings are generally open to the public, including members of the press, congressional staff, and members of the scientific community. Along with open meetings, FACA rules impose strict conflict of interest guidelines that enhance the objective nature of advice from the committees.

NASA's internal FACA advisory structure has played a vital role in bringing advice from the science community to NASA management in an open, balanced and non-conflicted manner. The AAS strongly urges the Agency to reinstate this structure at the Directorate level and below as an integral component of NASA's interaction with the scientific community. This is especially important now as NASA copes with new mission and budgetary challenges.

AAS Statement on the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences Senior Review Report

Adopted 28 November 2006

Astronomy is in the midst of a vibrant period of discovery from exoplanets to dark energy. We are poised for dramatic advances in our understanding of the Universe and our place within it. Realizing this potential requires continual life-cycle investment in increasingly complex and expensive NSF-supported ground-based facilities while maintaining basic grant support. Fiscal constraints limit our ability to initiate new projects and to operate all existing facilities at their current levels of support. Acknowledging this reality, the most recent Decadal Survey recommended that NSF competitively review all its older facilities every five years.

Eighteen months ago, the NSF appointed a distinguished Senior Review Committee, led by Roger Blandford, to carry out the first such review. The committee has done an exemplary job of discharging its responsibility by gathering input broadly, including from both policy makers and facilities management, holding numerous town meetings, and clearly formulating its standards of evaluation.

The American Astronomical Society commends the NSF for implementing the Decadal Survey recommendation and for creating an open and transparent process that permitted full community participation. On behalf of the astronomy community, we thank Roger Blandford and his committee for carrying out this important task with great care and thoughtfulness.

To enable the NSF to undertake exciting new projects on the frontiers of astronomy, the Senior Review made recommendations that, if implemented, will cause hardship for some. The AAS urges our community to join with the Astronomy Division of the NSF to present a common front as we plan for a strong future in the context of both the Senior Review and opportunities such as the American Competitiveness Initiative.

AAS Statement in Support of NASA Emergency Appropriations

Adopted 13 July 2006

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) congratulates NASA on its recent successful return to flight of the Space Shuttle; however, return to flight has been a substantial unexpected expense. NASA faces significant outstanding fiscal challenges that include maintaining the Shuttle, completing the International Space Station, and fulfilling the Vision for Space Exploration. The AAS believes that meeting these challenges should not diminish the high quality science that NASA undertakes on behalf of the American taxpayer.

The AAS commends Senators Mikulski and Hutchison for their leadership in proposing an emergency supplement to NASA's FY07 appropriations that will help to compensate for the unexpected expenses associated with the Shuttle Columbia accident and damage to NASA facilities caused by Hurricane Katrina. This emergency funding request will alleviate severe cuts to NASA's space science program that are being taken to fully fund the Space Shuttle and the ISS — costs for which there was never an adequate budget. The AAS pledges to work with Senators Mikulski and Hutchison along with their colleagues in the Congress to ensure the long-term health of NASA.

AAS Statement on Atacama Large Millimeter Array

Adopted 9 May 2006

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) applauds the National Science Foundation for moving forward with a rebaselined, fifty-antenna Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).

This decision will enable ALMA to do the transformational science that made it a high priority project in the past two National Academy Decadal Surveys of Astronomy and Astrophysics. ALMA will lay the groundwork for future global science projects, both in astronomy and in other disciplines. As a world project involving multiple regions – Asia, Europe and the Americas – and operating under a fully international governance structure, ALMA has successfully overcome many hurdles and is now poised for completion in 2012.

We are very pleased that the NSF continues its strong support of ALMA. ALMA will enable important discoveries about the origin of galaxies, stars and planetary systems. The AAS stands ready to work with Congress, the Administration and the NSF to fully implement the prioritized projects described in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

AAS Statement on Proposed FY2007 NASA Budget

Adopted 3 May 2006

Members of the American Astronomical Society advise NASA on scientific priorities, participate in NASA missions, and assemble the evidence from NASA’s outstanding scientific discoveries to build a coherent picture for the origin and evolution of the Earth, the solar system, our Galaxy, and for the Universe as a whole.

From the perspective of the AAS, the current NASA budget for science is disappointing. Although it maintains JWST and provides for a possible refurbishment mission to HST, the sudden and wide-ranging retrenchments in this budget proposal would halt, defer, or postpone programs to explore the solar system, to observe other solar systems as they form, to detect planets around other stars, to measure gravitational waves from astronomical events, to probe the edges of black holes, and to seek the nature of the dark energy. Large, medium, and small programs have been abruptly cut or cancelled. This change has taken place without the broad consultation within the community that we expect when it is necessary to shape NASA’s program in times of finite resources. This seems unwise, wasteful of effort, and damaging to the nation’s ability to develop its capabilities in science.

There is broad and growing understanding in the Congress, as evidenced by the Protecting America’s Competitive Edge (PACE) legislation, that America’s future depends on living by our wits in a competitive world. NASA science has been a bright light, helping to inspire an interest in science and engineering for generations of students. More directly, it has been a great success in its own terms — generating a profound new understanding of the Universe we live in. It is a mistake to suddenly diminish this successful program while it is producing so many good results for NASA and holds such promise for future discovery. For AAS members, the proposed cuts in NASA’s support for science more than offset the increases that have been aimed at improving America’s competitiveness through support for the same type of work by the NSF, DOE, and NIST. A coherent effort to improve science and engineering in the US would treat NASA’s science program as part of the solution.

The AAS and its members are prepared to work with Congress and with NASA to help find the best path to the future. The AAS strongly supports the PACE-acts, which call for significant increases for physical science research, including a 10% increase for NASA basic research in each of the next five years as well as new initiatives in science education. We are prepared to offer our best advice and to work diligently to make the most of NASA’s investment in science.

AAS Statement on the American Competitiveness Initiative and the Senate PACE Acts

Adopted 3 March 2006

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) strongly supports the initiatives proposed by both the President and the U.S. Senate to increase U.S. economic competitiveness as recommended by the National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.

The scientific excitement of exploring the Universe, near and far, is reflected in the abiding public interest in astronomy. Astronomy continues to be an inspiration for students and teachers, to provide an essential training ground for scientists and engineers, and to produce new wide-ranging technologies to stimulate the U.S. economy.

The President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) and the Senate's Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE) Acts (with more than 50 co-sponsors) both propose a doubling of federal funding for the physical sciences. The AAS is particularly encouraged by the proposed increases for the National Science Foundation and the DOE Office of Science in FY 2007. These increases will invest in the skills and creativity that these agencies support and will ensure continued competitiveness of our science and engineering workforce in the globalized economy.

AAS Statement on the Vision for Space Exploration

Adopted 11 July 2005

The American Astronomical Society urges that a vigorous, focused program of scientific research form the core of the implementation of the Vision for Space Exploration. The President's initiative for the civilian space program places emphasis on exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond by humans and robots. Science is exploration, whether it involves directly sampling the surface of Mars, or gathering in the faint and ancient light of distant galaxies. Exploration without science is tourism.

The adventure of exploration will capture the hearts of Americans: but the scientific discoveries that come from that exploration will capture their minds. Scientific discoveries from NASA's new space program will provide its most meaningful legacy. We are learning where we are, where we came from, and we have discovered surprising new features of the way the world works. Based on NASA's leadership in space science, we see the Earth as one planet among many we can now study, we see the origin of chemical and biological matter as woven into the history of cosmic change, and we have learned the surprising fact that, on the largest scales, our Universe is not organized by the material we can see, but is made mostly of dark matter and governed by the properties of a mysterious dark energy we have only recently discovered. We have much to explore. The Universe holds a great deal of "beyond."

Science is essential to implement the Vision for Space Exploration. New technologies to implement the Vision for Space Exploration will depend on scientific advances, and, in turn, will afford new opportunities for scientific work. These notions are laid out in the June 2004 report of the President's Commission on Implementation of United States Exploration Policy and National Research Council's assessment: Science in NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. As we learn how to explore, we will create opportunities for better scientific research, for more stimulating science education, and we will contribute toward our nation's ability to compete in a world based on technology.

We are all explorers whenever we encounter something new. By motivating Exploration for scientific purposes, the Vision for Space Exploration will benefit science and society. The great successes of space science in the past decades arise from a strong partnership between NASA and the scientific community. The astronomical community, through its decadal surveys and other consultations has set priorities, and worked with NASA to make these dreams into reality. The astronomical community embraces the opportunity to continue to work with NASA to implement the Vision for Space Exploration on a sound scientific basis with broad input from the scientific community.

AAS Statement on the National Science Foundation's Division of Astronomical Sciences Senior Review

Adopted 28 June 2005

The American Astronomical Society is encouraged that the National Science Foundation is initiating a Senior Review of its operating facilities: a step recommended by the Decadal report "Astronomy and Astrophysics for the New Millennium." A thorough science-based review of the facility and research portfolio sponsored by the NSF Astronomy Division is essential to provide the most effective and productive scientific program for the future.

The NSF should establish a process for obtaining input from the broad US astronomical community. Each year, more than a quarter of U.S. astronomers use the NSF national facilities for their research. Decisions made by the Senior Review could terminate programs and close facilities: outcomes with significant effects on the ability of US astronomers to accomplish the scientific objectives set out for those facilities. Therefore, we strongly recommend that the NSF lay out the Senior Review issues directly to the astronomical community, that the Senior Review be carried out in a manner that allows adequate time for the broadest possible input, and that decisions be based on a well-defined and publicly accessible process.

The AAS also notes that the growing scale of future large facilities implies a comparable need for growth in the scale of budgets to operate those facilities and to provide grant support so that astronomers can fully exploit the data they produce. If present trends continue, the entire facilities budget of the Astronomy Division will only be able to support a few major facilities. However, such large facilities do not stand alone. Observations with supporting instruments are often required to identify the most promising targets or to interpret the results from state of the art instruments. The Senior Review should identify key scientific problems that will be addressed in the next two decades and identify the suite of capabilities that will be needed to explore these problems fully.

The AAS believes that NSF should strive to achieve public access on the basis of merit to the full complement of facilities needed for these scientific programs. We recommend that the NSF Senior Review adopt this principle as the cornerstone of their deliberations.

AAS Statement on Hubble Space Telescope Servicing

Adopted 7 March 2005

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been the crown jewel in NASA’s science programs for over a decade. Its accomplishments have revolutionized our understanding of the universe in which we live, and it has inspired a new generation of students and the public at large with its discoveries. This remarkable performance can be expected to continue if HST is serviced. NASA’s recently announced decision to forego any option to service the HST is therefore viewed with considerable disappointment by the American Astronomical Society and the astronomical community. While we recognize that HST’s mission must end at some time, the fact that a servicing mission was a part of NASA’s planned activity, and that two key replacement science instruments are already developed to enable important and exciting new science, makes this decision particularly unfortunate and difficult to accept.

Much of the success of NASA’s space science program is due to strong community involvement in planning and setting priorities based upon scientific merit and relevance to a coherent science program. Therefore, the AAS strongly concurs with the view advocated by the recently released report of the NRC Committee to Assess Progress Toward the Decadal Vision in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Specifically, that NASA should continue with the missions and programs as prioritized in the NRC report “Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium.” In particular, should a HST servicing mission have adverse budget consequences, the AAS urges NASA to include the space science communities in an assessment of the relative scientific merits of all impacted missions, in line with the decadal survey process.

Finally, the AAS notes that HST is a component of a dynamic, exciting, and evolving set of astronomy and space science missions. We applaud NASA’s continuing commitment to maintaining a “world-class astronomy program,” as expressed in Acting Administrator Gregory’s testimony on February 17, 2005 to the House Science Committee. This commitment is an essential element of the Vision for Space Exploration, and the AAS stands ready to work with NASA to assure that strong programs in space science continue as NASA implements the Vision.

AAS Statement on Recent NASA Science Mission Directorate Budget Actions

Adopted 27 April 2005

NASA's science programs have provided — and continue to provide — the Nation with a strong return on its investment in space exploration. Essential elements of this return are NASA's data analysis programs associated with specific missions and its research and analysis (R&A) programs that fund more general research that guides and informs future space missions. These R&A programs are critical for training the next generation of scientists and assuring the nation of continued leadership in space exploration.

NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) budget for FY 2005 has come under intense pressure with required reductions of several hundred million dollars arising from costs of returning the shuttle fleet to flight, unplanned expenses associated with the Hubble Space Telescope, and a record level of unfunded congressional earmarks. As a result, NASA has announced a series of terminations of new mission opportunities, as well as cutbacks in key R&A programs for the coming year.

Reductions in R&A programs have a disproportionate long-term impact for the small amount of money saved. These reductions compromise a major vehicle for recruiting and developing younger researchers, and therefore, the cuts correspond to the loss of scientists and the capabilities they bring to our national space efforts. The President is calling for expanded exploration. Cutting R&A programs and thereby reducing our capacity to explore cannot accomplish that.

Budget actions taken at this time can set dangerous precedents for upcoming years, as prospects for NASA's future budget appear no better than for FY2005. To ensure that long-term priorities are preserved and that science return is maximized in a reduced funding environment, NASA should involve members of the science community in a current assessment of missions before finalizing decisions on possible mission terminations. What is at stake is American preeminence in space science and the scientific, educational and economic benefits that flow from that enterprise.

American Astronomical Society Statement on the National Research Council Report on "The Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of Hubble Space Telescope"

Adopted 10 January 2005

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been a remarkable instrument for scientific discovery, of great importance to members of the American Astronomical Society, to international science and to the broader world of curious people who seek to know what the Universe is and how it works.

The long-awaited Servicing Mission (SM)-4 to install powerful new instruments and to extend the productive life of HST was suspended while NASA dealt with the consequences of the Columbia accident. Congress directed NASA to request a study by the National Research Council (NRC) of HST servicing options, evaluating both a shuttle mission and a possible robotic mission.

The final report of the NRC Committee on the Assessment of Options for Extending the Lifetime of the Hubble Space Telescope was released on December 8, 2004. The NRC report is extensive and wide-ranging. The three major recommendations set forth in the report are:

  1. The committee reiterates the recommendation from its interim report that NASA should commit to a servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope that accomplishes the objectives of the originally planned SM-4 mission.
  2. The committee recommends that NASA pursue a Shuttle servicing mission to HST to accomplish the above stated goal. Strong consideration should be given to flying this mission as early as possible after return to flight.
  3. A robotic mission approach should be pursued solely to de-orbit Hubble after the period of extended science operations enabled by a shuttle astronaut servicing mission, thus allowing time for the appropriate development of the necessary robotic technology.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) endorses the work of this distinguished committee and its conclusion that the lowest risk HST servicing mission is a manned servicing mission as originally envisioned for SM-4.

In calling for a manned servicing mission, the AAS reaffirms its position statement “On the Cancellation of Future Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Missions” in which the Society called for an independent panel to review the options, stressed placing paramount importance on astronaut safety, and asserted that the Hubble Space Telescope has had an impact, not only on science, but on the dreams and imagination of our young people that cannot be overstated. The NRC Committee has admirably balanced those concerns and brought forth cogent recommendations.

American Astronomical Society Statement on the Cancellation of Future Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Missions

Adopted 22 January 2004

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has inspired a generation of Americans with its scientific achievements. Since its launch in 1990, HST has explored the Universe, ranging from our own solar system to the most distant galaxies.

In the eyes of the public as well as in the judgment of professional astronomers, both nationally and internationally, HST represents the finest of the countless contributions the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is making to science.

While the American Astronomical Society places paramount importance on astronaut safety, the astronomy community deeply regrets the cancellation of future servicing missions at a time when HST continues to make fundamental discoveries at an undiminished rate.

Thus, the AAS supports the congressional call for an independent panel of outside experts to review the decision to limit prematurely the lifespan of the Hubble Space Telescope. Such a decision must consider all possible options for accomplishing the servicing mission and must also be widely understood. We hope that such a review panel can be convened in a timely manner and its work completed quickly.

We urge that any process to reconsider the decision to cancel Servicing Mission 4 include as one of the considerations the future scientific contributions afforded by HST. These are outlined in part by the HST-JWST Transition Panel Report.

We further note that sustained HST operations are essential to reap the full benefits of NASA's other Great Observatories in space, the Chandra X-ray Telescope, launched in 1999, and the Spitzer Infrared Telescope, launched just a few months ago. Only if HST operates at full capability through 2009 do we have the opportunity to take advantage of the scientific synergy of these three Great Observatories, examining astronomical sources across the electromagnetic spectrum in X-ray, visual, ultraviolet and infrared light.

The Hubble Space Telescope is an international treasure that has inspired the people of America and the world for nearly 15 years. Its impact, not only on science, but on the dreams and imagination of our young people, cannot be overstated.

American Astronomical Society Endorsement of the National Research Council Report "The Sun to the Earth – and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics"

A report of the National Research Council Space Studies Board

Adopted 3 January 2004

The American Astronomical Society hereby endorses the newly released National Research Council Report "The Sun to the Earth — and Beyond: A Decadal Research Strategy in Solar and Space Physics" as a balanced set of priorities for federal expenditure in solar and space physics research studies for the coming decade. This report was completed by the National Research Council after substantial input from the solar and space physics community with the support of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. The report represents a community consensus as to the priorities for federal investment in solar physics research for the period 2003-2013. The key overall recommendations include completion of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) which are under development, and the prioritized new initiatives: Solar Probe, the Frequency Agile Solar Radio (FASR), the theory, modeling, and data analysis initiative know as the Virtual Sun, US participation in ESA's Solar Orbiter and a multi-spacecraft heliospheric mission. These recommendations are consistent with, and build upon, those made in the recent Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey.

The report, and the associated report of the Study's Panel on the Sun and Heliospheric Physics, encourages i) NASA, NSF, and other agencies that fund solar and heliospheric physics to continue interagency planning and coordination activities in order to optimize the science return of ground- and space-based assets, as well as encouraging a similar high level of planning and coordination between the NSF/AST and ATM Divisions, ii) NSF to plan for and provide comprehensive support for scientific users of its facilities, iii) NASA to support instrumentation programs, research programs, and software efforts at national and university ground-based facilities where such programs are essential to the scientific aims of specific NASA missions and/or the strategic goal of training future personnel for NASA's mission, and iv) NSF and NASA to both study ways in which they could more effectively support education and training activities at national and university-based facilities.

The AAS encourages its members, other astronomy, astrophysics and related researchers, astronomy and astrophysics enthusiasts, the public and especially members of Congress and the Administration to fully embrace the report and use it when making policy decisions regarding federal investment in solar and space physics research during the coming decade.

Endorsement of the Hubble Space Telescope – James Webb Space Telescope Transition Panel Report

Adopted 4 September 2003

The American Astronomical Society strongly endorses the HST-JWST Transition Panel report and its list of prioritized options for the future of the HST. The AAS believes that this report summarizes clearly the strategies that would optimize the total science return from these space telescopes while taking into account the inevitable uncertainty about future Hubble servicing missions.

Given that extensive planning and substantial lead time will be required to implement any of the options for future operation of HST, we urge NASA to give prompt and thoughtful consideration to the report. Information about the differential costs of the scientific activities (beyond normal operations costs) associated with each of the three options would help to inform the decision process.

The Transition Panel's preferred option was two additional Shuttle servicing missions. The AAS supports the recommendation that the extended HST science program resulting from SM5 occur only if the HST science is successful in a peer-reviewed competition. We believe:

  1. that such competition should be with like-sized proposals for new missions — as the report stated — that fall within the same science categories and that this process should be informed by and consonant with the priorities of the three recent decadal surveys for astrophysics, solar physics, and planetary science; and
  2. that the scientific community should be consulted during the formulation of any Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for any extended mission; and
  3. that the AO for any extended mission should allow a broad range of options, possibly including new instruments or new modes of observation, such as focused surveys, that could require a limited suite of capabilities and could be carried out at lower operational cost; and
  4. that if extended HST mission proposals compete for funds from existing NASA mission lines then each proposal should compete as a normal proposal adhering to the selection principles within that line.
  5. The Society notes in closing that the most important link in the chain of continued scientific excellence from HST is the now delayed Servicing Mission and so the Society strongly urges that whatever support is needed for this servicing mission be found, consistent with the need for safety and the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Endorsement of the NRC Report "New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy"

Adopted 30 September 2002

The American Astronomical Society hereby endorses the National Research Council Report "New Frontiers in the Solar System: An Integrated Exploration Strategy" as a balanced set of priorities for Federal expenditure in solar system studies for the coming decade.

This report was completed by the National Research Council after substantial input from the planetary sciences community with the support of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. The report represents a community consensus as to the priorities for federal investment in solar system exploration for the period 2003-2013.

The key overall recommendations include maintenance of NASA's Discovery program of low-cost missions, a Kuiper-Belt/Pluto medium class mission and the large-cost category Europa Geophysical Explorer. There are also a separate set of prioritized recommendations for the Mars Exploration Program.

The survey endorses several ground-based facilities recommended by the recent Astronomy and Astrophysics decadal survey, including the Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope and the Large-Aperture Synoptic Survey Telescope with operating modes supportive of solar system studies. It also points out the important role planetary astronomy plays in support of NASA missions.

The AAS encourages its members, other astronomy, astrophysics and related researchers, astronomy and astrophysics enthusiasts, the public and especially members of Congress and the Administration to fully embrace the report and use it when making policy decisions regarding federal investment in solar system exploration during the coming decade.

Endorsement of the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002

Statement, in conjunction with more than 30 other scientific societies, released to the press 7 May 2002, Washington, DC

The American Astronomical Society strongly endorses the House Science Committee's 2002 reauthorization bill for the National Science Foundation, named the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2002. The authorized increases to the NSF budget of 15% over FY 2002 levels and subsequent 15% increases over authorized levels through 2005 will be of great benefit to our Nation's scientific enterprise. The National Science Foundation supports a diverse and growing portfolio of basic scientific research, which has been harmed by a long-term trend of minimal or non-existent funding increases. The American Astronomical Society will work with Chairman Boehlert in his efforts to return the National Science Foundation to a budgetary level adequate to meet its growing goals. Only by strongly supporting a balanced scientific research portfolio can the federal government guarantee the security of our nation, the health of our fellow citizens and a growing base of fundamental scientific knowledge that benefits all of humankind.

Endorsement of the Decadal Astronomy and Astrophysics Report

Adopted 7 January 2001, San Diego, CA

Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium
A report of the
Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee
Board on Physics and Astronomy
Space Studies Board
Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Applications
National Research Council

"Whereas, the National Research Council has recently completed and published the report Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium and,

Whereas, the report represents a consensus of the astronomy and astrophysics community as to the priorities for federal investment in astronomy and astrophysics research for the coming decade and,

Whereas, the process by which the report was produced was carried out in a fully open manner and included many opportunities for input from the astronomy and astrophysics community as well as open public sessions in several locations and at meetings of the American Astronomical Society and,

Whereas, the report will be presented to Congress as an important and useful document for establishing federal investment in astronomical and astrophysical research in the coming decade,

The American Astronomical Society hereby endorses the report as presenting a valid and balanced set of priorities for the coming decade for investment in astronomy and astrophysical research.

Further, the American Astronomical Society encourages its members, other astronomy, astrophysics and related researchers, astronomy and astrophysics enthusiasts, the public and especially members of Congress and the Administration to fully embrace the report and use it when making policy decisions regarding federal investment in astronomical and astrophysical research during the coming decade."

Joint Statement in Support of the National Science Foundation

Adopted 7 January 2001, San Diego, CA

"The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), a group of eighty professional societies, universities, and corporations, commends Congress and the Administration for providing the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the largest dollar increase in the agency's history. The Coalition appreciates the efforts of Senators Christopher "Kit" Bond and Barbara Mikulski to double the NSF's budget, and the support of Representatives James Walsh and Alan Mollohan for the NSF. We applaud the goal of doubling the NSF budget and the FY 2001 appropriation clearly sets us on the right path.

To maintain this momentum, CNSF strongly urges the Administration and Congress to provide no less than $5.1 billion, a 15% increase, for the NSF in FY 2002. We believe this increase to be a necessary step toward doubling the NSF's budget by 2006.

Our national knowledge base in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering is increasingly important to broad economic and social interests. Doubling the NSF budget by 2006 will fund the crucial investments that the agency makes in key components of this vital knowledge base. These funds will permit investments in the basic research needed to rejuvenate and stimulate core disciplines of science, mathematics, and engineering, which are the underpinnings of technological innovation.

The primary source of federal support for non-medical basic research in colleges and universities, the NSF is the only federal agency whose mission consists of comprehensive support for the sciences and engineering. Equally important are investments in people who will apply new knowledge and expand the frontiers of science and engineering. Through its support of research and education programs, the agency plays a vital role in training the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Currently, the NSF must decline almost as many highly-rated grant proposals as it can fund. Increased funding for the NSF will not only enable the funding of more outstanding proposals that will help broaden the nation's knowledge base, it will also enable the agency to increase the size and duration of its grants.

Over the past half century the NSF has had monumental impact on our society. The NSF investment has paid dividends in building the infrastructure of the individual scientific disciplines, as well as laid the groundwork for innovative interdisciplinary research to meet modern day scientific and technical challenges. Many new methods and products arise from the NSF investment in research, such as geographic information systems, World Wide Web search engines, automatic heart defibrillators, product bar codes, computer aided modeling (CAD/CAM), retinal implants, optical fibers, magnetic resonance imaging technology, and composite materials used in aircraft. NSF-sponsored research has triggered huge advances in understanding our planet's natural processes, which lead to providing a sound scientific framework for better decision-making about earth's natural environment. These methods, products, and advances in understanding accrue from basic research performed over many years, not always pre-determined research efforts aimed toward a specific result. Furthermore, the NSF traditionally receives high marks for efficiency – less than four percent of the agency's budget is spent on administration and management.

For these reasons, CNSF highly recommends that Congress and the Administration continue to invest in NSF by providing, at a minimum, $5.1 billion for FY 2002, and work to double the NSF's budget by 2006."

Joint Statement on Science and Technology

Adopted 4 March 1997

"As the federal government develops its spending plans for Fiscal Year 1998, we call upon the President and Members of Congress to renew the nation's historical commitment to scientific research and education by providing the requisite funding for the federal agencies charged with these responsibilities. Our call is based upon two fundamental principles that are well accepted by policy makers in both political parties.

The federal investment in scientific research is vital to four national goals: our economic competitiveness, our medical health, our national security and our quality of life.

Scientific disciplines are interdependent; therefore, a comprehensive approach to science funding provides the greatest opportunity for reaching these goals.

We strongly believe that for our nation to meet the challenges of the next century, agencies charged with carrying out scientific research and education require increases in their respective research budgets in the range of 7 percent for Fiscal Year 1998. These agencies include, among others, the NSF, NIH, DOE, DOD, and NASA. The increases we call for strike a balance between the current fiscal pressures and the need to invest in activities that enable long-term economic growth and productivity. Such increases would only partially restore the inflationary losses that most of these agencies suffered during the last few years.

Prudent planning argues for strengthening the respective activities of major research agencies, as already recognized in pending legislation. To constrain still further federal spending on their scientific programs would jeopardize the future well being of our nation."

Signatories to the statement were:

  • American Association of Physicists in Medicine
  • American Astronomical Society
  • American Chemical Society
  • American Geological Institute
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences
  • American Institute of Physics
  • American Institute of Professional Geologists
  • American Mathematical Society
  • The American Physical Society
  • American Society of Engineering Education
  • Association for Women in Mathematics
  • Association for Women in Science
  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific
  • Council on Undergraduate Research
  • Engineering Deans Council
  • Federation of Materials Societies
  • Geological Society of America
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
  • Materials Research Society
  • Mathematical Association of America
  • Optical Society of America
  • Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics

On the Future of Kitt Peak National Observatory Optical Telescopes

Adopted 9 June 1996, Madison, WI

"The Council of the AAS notes with concern the recent announcement by AURA that budgetary pressures at NOAO may result in closing or privatizing most of the national telescopes at KPNO. This course of action promises to disenfranchise astronomers who do not belong to private telescope consortia, and who will lose access to telescopes of small aperture. There is important research that is most effectively done with such telescopes.

We urge AURA and NOAO to find a way to provide an appropriate complement of national telescopes that would best serve the health and vitality of a profession whose concern is the entire universe, near and far, bright and faint."

On the Priority-Setting Role of NASA's Office of Space Science

Adopted 11 June 1995, Pittsburgh, PA

"NASA has developed and operated space missions that have provided the opportunity for exciting discoveries in Astrophysics, Planetary Sciences, Solar Physics and Space Plasmas. These missions have brought major public attention to, and support for, NASA. NASA's Office of Space Science is now considering reorganizing in ways that may eliminate the divisions of Astrophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Space Physics. While the Council of the American Astronomical Society does not wish to comment on the OSS organizational structure, it urges that OSS retain the important functions of setting priorities within and among these disciplines, in accordance with long range plans developed by the community, and that scientists within NASA be identified to be responsible for setting priorities and advocating programs within these scientific disciplines."