The Big Topics
- Cosmic Dawn or "the Dark Ages" - the period of the universe of the first stars and galaxies.
- New Worlds - the search for extrasolar planets, especially earth-like planets
- Fundamental Physics - using the universe as a way to study basic physics like inflation, dark matter/energy, general relativity, etc.
The Space Missions
- The Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST): Formerly known as JDEM, this wide-field IR telescope will be able to do everything from dark energy to exoplanet observations and will launch in 2013. Think of WISE on steroids.
- More Explorer Class Missions: More small- and medium-class missions such as WISE, NuSTAR, and IBEX.
- The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA): The gravitational wave detector in space, LISA should launch by 2016 assuming that LIGO finds gravitational waves and the pathfinder mission in 2012 doesn't crash and burn. Drs. Nelson and Hirschmann must be cheering.
- The International X-ray Observatory (IXO): The successor to XMM-Newton and Chandra wasn't seen as ready for launch yet and would currently cost $5B. Don't hold your breath for this one.
The Ground Telescopes
- The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST): The next big survey telescope, this bad boy will take images of the entire sky every 3 nights and generate a 100 Peta-byte archive over 10 years. Absolutely no one was surprised by this.
- A Mid-Scale Innovations Program: This new program would found smaller, faster telescopes. The recommendation is for 4 to 7 of them over the next 10 years, the first one being CCAT.
- A Ginormous Telescope: Without taking sides in the debate between GMT and TMT, they endorsed a 30-meter-class telescope to be built around the end of the decade.
- The Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope Array (ACTA): Someday the NSF will fund the successor to VERITAS and the Pierre-Auger Observatory, but don't hold your breath.