The scientific and public face of exoplanets must be beaming. Daily announcements of new findings, characterizations and theories keep the field vibrant; and, the public fascination with what may be out there continues unabated. On March 7, Kepler was awarded the Laureate of the Year award in the Space category by Aviation Week. Exoplanets even made it into Dilbert. However, with the release of the President’s FY13 Budget Request, we have also been handed some programmatic surprises. The good news is that we will continue efforts to prepare for future exoplanet missions by completing the Kepler mission (This just in: NASA's Kepler mission has just been approved through the Senior Review process to continue on an extended mission to find even more exoplanet candidates on increasingly long orbits), and by obtaining key measurements of exozodi environments of target stars through the LBTI collaboration with University of Arizona. A call has been issued for key science team members to work with the PI. Also, efforts to refine key starlight suppression technology will continue, although skipping the 2012 selection cycle due to budget constraints.
We have cancelled plans to issue an RFI for a broad range of mission concepts, as many studies done in the run-up to the 2010 decadal survey have pretty well staked out the possibilities. We intend to proceed with our plans to solicit Science and Technology Definition Teams for 2 or 3 concepts deemed feasible in the $300M – 1B range, to start in FY13, and are now replanning the scope and schedule of this activity to be consistent with available funds. These teams, supported by ExEP, will be charged with defining the science capability and the technology needs for missions with a life-cycle cost cap, for assessment by the mid-decade NRC review. We expect to discuss these plans at the next ExoPAG meeting this fall. By the way, the next ExoPAG meeting will be held October 13-14 in Reno, NV, in conjunction with the DPS annual meeting.