Photo of Peter Lawson
It was a pleasure in January to be part of the Exoplanet Observatory (ExO) presentation in Huntsville at the NASA Workshop on the Study on Applications for Large Space Optics (SALSO). The separate presentations by Olivier Guyon, Mike Shao, John Trauger, and Doug Lisman made a strong and unified case for the use of the 2.4-m telescope for exoplanet science. The strength of the exoplanet presentations is reflected in the post-workshop summary that highlighted ExO as one of seven concepts retained in the portfolio for future study. Those studies have been put on hold at least until May, pending the completion of the WFIRST-AFTA study.

Paul Bierden (Boston Micromachines Corp.) and Michael Helmbrecht (Iris AO, Inc.) have been busy planning their milestones in deformable mirror (DM) technology. In the 2010 round of the solicitation on Technology Development for Exoplanet Missions (TDEM), they separately proposed and were awarded funds to environmentally test their micro-electo-mechanical (MEMS) DMs and bring them closer to flight readiness. MEMS DMs are particularly appealing because they use less power to operate and are significantly smaller and more lightweight than the DMs that have been used for years in the Program’s High-Contrast Imaging Testbeds. The Program has been working with Paul and Michael to derive standards for their environmental tests, including standards for random vibration, acoustic, and shock testing. This standard, along with Paul and Michael’s Whitepapers will be subject to review by our Technology Assessment Committee in the next few months. Completing these long-anticipated tests will be a major step forward for the Program.