NASA Receives Findings From WFIRST Independent Review Team

Image Credit: NASA

October 20, 2017 – NASA has received the report from an independent, external review of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project. The review was commissioned by NASA to help ensure that the mission is well understood in terms of scope and required resources, and is executable.

In response to the report’s findings, NASA is studying modifications to the WFIRST project. The results of the external review and the modifications being considered are summarized in a memorandum, available here:

Memo: Next Steps for WFIRST Program

“NASA thanks this prestigious and highly-experienced team for their work; this report is as thorough and thoughtful as we hoped,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters, Washington. “We are taking the report’s findings and recommendations very seriously as we think about the future of this exciting mission.”

WFIRST is the top priority of the National Academy of Sciences’ 2010 Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics. It is designed to conduct groundbreaking investigations in dark energy and exoplanet research. NASA initiated the project in 2016 with a mission design that would be as sensitive as the Hubble Space Telescope, but have 100 times its field of view. The National Academy’s 2016 Midterm Assessment Report affirmed WFIRST’s scientific promise, and cautioned NASA against allowing the cost of the mission to affect the balance of projects and research investigations across NASA’s astrophysics portfolio. Accordingly, the Midterm Assessment Report recommended that “NASA should commission an independent technical, management, and cost assessment” of the project.

The review was initiated in April 2017, with an independent team consisting of senior engineers, scientists, and project managers external to the WFIRST project. After their first meeting in July, the team members conducted several site visits and scrutinized NASA’s approach to WFIRST in great detail, before presenting NASA with their report.

Key conclusions of the report will be presented to the Space Studies Board’s Committee on Astronomy & Astrophysics (CAA) on October 25, 2017.