The Adaptive Optics Development Program (AODP) is a response to the recommendation of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee panel on Optical and Infrared Astronomy from the Ground (Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, National Research Council, 2001) that an adaptive optics (AO) effort associated with the development of a Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope (GSMT) should be supported by funding on the order of $5M per year for the next ten years. The panel also noted that AO development work would enhance dramatically the power of existing large telescopes, allowing them to work at the diffraction limit at shorter wavelengths, thereby greatly increasing their scientific power. Through the AODP, the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO) will solicit proposals for AO development and implementation from the community, organize and provide administrative support for peer review meetings, and-subject to final NSF approval-make awards and disburse monies to successful proposers. To eliminate any conflicts of interest, NOAO is not eligible for funds under the AODP.
The AODP is structured into two components: development awards and implementation awards. Development funds will be awarded on the basis of technical promise, with a goal of demonstrating the viability of approaches that offer prospectively significant advances in performance, robustness, and cost-effectiveness for extremely large telescopes such as the GSMT. The AODP is also intended to make implementation awards to observatories operating large telescopes. All results, findings, and documentation obtained from the AODP will be available to the entire U.S. community to ensure that all can benefit from the experience gained by individual groups.
In order that the community, as a whole, can derive benefit from the proposed AODP investment, the following arrangements will be adopted. AODP development awards will require the recipients to provide detailed technical reports on the results achieved and these will be made available to the entire U.S. community. Development studies should be verified (where practical) on the sky, either through prototype examples or otherwise. AODP implementation awards to observatories operating large telescopes will require the observatory receiving the funds to make observing time available to the community on the same basis as in the TSIP program. It is anticipated that all awards during the first few years of funding will be for AO system development.