NASA GW study report — Over the last year, the NASA Physics of the Cosmos (PCOS) program ran two studies to develop mission concepts in GW and X-ray physics that would meet some or all of the science objectives outlined in the decadal report. The GW study was conducted by a team of NASA scientists and engineers and of representatives from the U.S. science community, and it culminated in the analysis of several mission concepts by JPL's concurrent design facility, Team X. The concepts were selected to explore the greatest diversity of options, including SGO High (LISA's design, but implemented by NASA alone), SGO Mid (LISA-like, with shorter arms and mission life), LAGRANGE/McKenzie (designed to avoid drag-free test masses), and OMEGA (a geocentric design with a cost-aggressive schedule and design). The final study report concludes that scientifically compelling missions can be carried out for less than the full LISA cost, but none near or below "probe-class" levels, although NASA's share of a joint mission could be; that scientific performance decreases far more rapidly than cost; that no design choice or technology can make a dramatic reduction in cost without much greater risks. It emphasizes that the U.S. urgently needs a sustained program of technology development and science studies now to participate in the first space-based GW mission. For full details see the report available at http://pcos.gsfc.nasa.gov.
GW science analysis group formed, sessions at AAS, HEAD, APS meetings — At the August meeting of the Physics of the Cosmos Science Analysis Group (PHYSPag, http://pcos.gsfc.nasa.gov/physpag), a Gravitational-wave Science Analysis Group was formed that will take over some of the responsibilities of the former U.S. LISA International Science Team (LIST). Its main role will be to gather and distribute information within the community and between the community and the PCOS program office, to support their decision-making process. In contrast to the LIST, the GW-SAG is completely open: interested researchers should subscribe to the GW-SAG mailing list at http://pcos.gsfc.nasa.gov/sags/gwsag.php, and are encouraged to join the subgroups on Science, Technology, and Advocacy that are being set up. The GW-SAG has solicited posters for a GW session at the Long Beach AAS meeting (January 6-10, 2013); the session will be associated with the Monday Physics of the Cosmos Town Hall on GW and X-ray astronomy. At the Monterey HEAD meeting (April 7-11, 2013), the GW-SAG is sponsoring a special session on "Gravitational Wave Mission Plans," which will focus on the progress of LISA Pathfinder and on the science capabilities and mission design of eLISA. At the Denver APS meeting (April 13-16, 2013), the GW-SAG is co-sponsoring a special session (pending confirmation) on GW, X-ray, and dark-energy science.
eLISA consortium proposing to ESA Cosmic Vision -- In Europe, following the Cosmic Vision L1 selection of JUICE over eLISA (the European-led "evolved LISA") and the X-ray telescope Athena, the European Space Agency is preparing the next large-mission call, L2, which is expected in 2013 with selection in 2015/16. A new proposal is being prepared by the eLISA Consortium, which represents scientists and institutions from Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK (see http://elisa-ngo.org). The Consortium is having an open meeting in Paris on October 21 and 22 to discuss LISA science and technology, the division of work, the progress of LISA Pathfinder (a mission demonstrating the LISA drag-free control, scheduled for launch in mid 2014), as well as the prospects for international contributions. NASA representatives and several US-based scientists are attending. Currently NASA is focusing on the technology development needs for the U.S. to be a partner in eLISA or to move ahead with a NASA-led mission, depending on ESA selection and on the NASA mid-decadal budget and strategy.
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