NASA is a 1/6 partner in the two 10-m telescopes of the William M. Keck Observatory. Access to NASA’s share of this time on the Keck telescopes, approximately 90 nights per year, is available to all astronomers resident at U.S. institutions. Proposals are submitted twice a year to the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) which runs the selection process on behalf of all science disciplines in NASA’s Astrophysics and Planetary Science Divisions. Observing time is awarded on the basis of scientific merit and the degree to which the proposed program supports NASA missions and/or NASA’s strategic goals.
Starting in 2016, NASA set aside 1/3 of its allocation for Key Strategic Mission Support programs (KSMS). These programs were required to demonstrate a critical need for ground-based data in direct support of an on-going or a future space mission. In the 2016A semester, NASA selected three KSMS projects for a 2 year duration: follow-up of transiting exoplanet candidates found by the K2 mission (Andrew Howard, PI, Hawaii/Caltech, 40 nights over 2 years); calibration of photometric redshifts for the EUCLID mission using spectroscopic redshifts of over 1,000 galaxies (Dan Stern, JPL, PI, 10 nights over 2 years); and a search for evidence of water and active generation of plumes in support of the Europa Clipper project (Lucas Paganini, U. Catholic/GSFC, PI, 10 nights over 2 years). All three programs come to an end at the completion of the 2017B semester.
In the expectation that NASA’s 5-year Cooperative Agreement with William M. Keck Observatory will be renewed for the period 2018-2022, NASA is planning to release a new call for KSMS projects to begin with the 2018A semester. Details of the opportunity and the proposal process will be announced when the 2018A Call for Proposals is released early in August 2017 with non-binding notices of intent due shortly thereafter. All proposals for the 2018A semester will be due on September 14, 2017. A KSMS project is typically multi-semester, spanning 10-60 nights over a time period of up to three years. The KSMS opportunity will be open for all topics/missions in astrophysics and planetary science.