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LISA and Changes in the Cosmic Vision Programme


Based on discussions with the European Space Agency (ESA) at the recent ESA-NASA bilateral meeting, we provide the following information concerning LISA. Readers are advised to refer to any ESA postings - when available - for details and clarifications regarding the Cosmic Vision Programme.

LISA was competing with x-ray and outer-planets missions for the L1 opportunity in ESA's Cosmic Vision Programme (2015-2025). The decadal rankings and NASA's constrained out-year resources, projected in the President's FY12 Budget Request, led ESA to conclude that none of the three mission concepts were feasible within the Cosmic Vision L1 schedule.

ESA has ended the study of LISA and the other concepts as partnerships at the scale proposed in the New Worlds New Horizons decadal survey (NWNH). ESA has begun a rapid definition effort that includes the formation of a new science team (to be announced shortly). That effort will identify science goals and a mission concept that can be implemented as part of an ESA-led mission launching in the early 2020's. Revised mission concepts from the three science areas will be considered in a selection process commencing in February 2012.

A future minor role for NASA in the ESA-led mission has not been ruled out. NASA will participate in the new ESA science team through a "NASA-HQ empowered scientist." That representative will be a civil servant scientists who will act as conduit for input from and information to the US science community.

NASA's Astrophysics Division plans to continue base funding for the LISA study team through FY11, assuming not-larger-than-anticipated cuts from Congress. The Division will engage the community about strategic investments in gravitational wave astrophysics and possible solicitations for new concept studies, in the context of NWNH recommendations and projected resources. A US science team will be asked to provide input from the community on the way forward in gravitational wave astronomy including scientific and technical assessments.

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