The duties of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD, will be expanded to include the management of science operations for the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST), NASA officials announced today.
The Space Telescope Science Institute, located at the Johns Hopkins University, has been operating the science program for the Hubble Space Telescope since 1983.
"We looked through a microscope to decide who would operate the Next Generation Space Telescope," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. "NASA and the scientific community had to determine who had the right facilities, who had the right experience, who was the best. The clear choice was Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute."
"The Space Telescope Science Institute has greatly served the interests of the global astronomical community, while producing a steady stream of impressive new discoveries," added Dr. Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., Associate Administrator for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. "With its selection as the Next Generation Space Telescope Science Institute, we can now count on at least a seven-year continuation of their outstanding efforts, rather than closing the doors to the facility after the Hubble mission ends in 2010."
The NGST is one of the cornerstone missions of the Astronomical Search for Origins and Planetary Systems, one of the major thrusts of NASA's Space Science program. The NGST will provide a critical follow-on to the Hubble Space Telescope, and continue to deliver world-class optical and infrared science well into the second decade of the new millennium.
A goal of the Next Generation Space Telescope is to observe the first stars and galaxies in the Universe to further our understanding of how it formed following the Big Bang. NGST will have capabilities currently unavailable in existing ground-based or space telescopes.
NGST studies are underway and NASA plans to start formal development of the NGST in 2003, with a projected launch in 2007. NGST has a planned operational lifetime of ten years, and NASA expects that the operations cost for NGST will be in a range from $15 million to $25 million per year. The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) currently operates the Space Telescope Science Institute under contract to NASA. Possible adjustments to the existing contract, and the means by which selection and award will be made for NGST work, are under review.
NASA learned from its development of the Hubble that it was important to involve scientists early in the major mission science and operations planning. "We felt it was imperative to identify an NGST Science and Operations Center as soon as possible," said Huntress. "Through our analysis and consultation with our advisory committees, it became apparent that the most cost-effective and scientifically sound way to proceed was to expand the Institute's responsibilities to include the management of NGST."
The Space Telescope Science Institute presently has a combined staff of approximately 470 people, including 143 Ph.D. astronomers and scientists from the U.S. and the European Space Agency. Additional information about the NGST is available on the Internet at: http://www.ngst.nasa.gov/
Doug Isbell/Don Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301 /286-8982)
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD