Precursors to Pathways: Science Enabling NASA Astrophysics Future Great Observatories

Status Report From: NASA Science Mission Directorate
Posted: Friday, January 28, 2022

Dear Astronomy and Astrophysics community members, ​

​The Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 Decadal Survey (Astro2020) outlines an ambitious program of Future Great Observatories that will address fundamental questions about our universe in the coming years. 

Designing missions that will best address Astro2020’s audacious science goals require clear and well-justified connections among science goals and objectives and mission technology and architecture. Future Great Observatory mission costs can be controlled by having well-defined science goals that minimize cost, scope, and risk. To enable this, NASA will invest in Precursor Science: science investigations that will inform mission architectures and trades with the goal of reducing mission design and development cost, scope, and risk where possible.


NASA will hold a virtual Precursor Science Workshop April 20-22, 2022, open to the entire community, to engage the community on this new concept. NASA intends to fund precursor science through a new element of ROSES 2022. The Precursor Science research element will fund precursor science investigations for all three great observatories recommended by Astro2020. 

The three-day Precursor Science Workshop will feature presentations from decadal survey panel members, large mission study teams, and other speakers to frame our current understanding. Breakout sessions on day two for each of the three recommended great observatories will help focus discussions appropriate to each mission. On day three we reconvene as a group to report on the focused discussions. This workshop and subsequent reports can serve as starting points for further community participation and analysis to develop the future great observatories. We currently anticipate holding a second, 2-day workshop in July 2022 to facilitate continued conversation.


The community precursor science discussions will inform the ROSES-2022 call, with details to be released later in September of 2022.


We will post further information about the April workshop at by the end of March. For urgent queries, please contact Eric Smith and/or Terri Brandt ​


We look forward to discussing precursor science with you over the next several months! 

Wishing you all the best, 

Paul Hertz 

Director, Astrophysics Division 

Science Mission Directorate, NASA HQ


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