- Press Release
- Feb 6, 2023
Cosmic Vision 2015-2025: and the candidate missions are…
The first steps of the next great phase of European space science have been taken! At its meeting held on 17-18 October 2007 in Paris, ESA’s Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) selected the new candidates for possible future scientific missions.
“It has been an arduous process both inside ESA and in the community to get these winning groups into what I suppose can be said to be the quarterfinals of one of the ultimate competitions in world space science,” said ESA’s Director of Science, David Southwood. “We can now get glimpses of the future and it is going to be exciting!”
From a list of 50 proposals submitted by the scientific community last summer, the candidates which have made it to the next phase of selection are:
Laplace, studying the Jovian system
The Jovian System, with Jupiter and its moons, is a small planetary system in its own right. Unique among the moons, Europa is believed to shelter an ocean between its geodynamically active icy crust and its silicate mantle. The proposed mission would answer questions on habitability of Europa and of the Jovian system in relation to the formation of the Jovian satellites and to the workings of the Jovian system itself. The mission will deploy three orbiting platforms to perform coordinated observations of Europa, the Jovian satellites, Jupiter’s magnetosphere and its atmosphere and interior.
If finally approved, the mission would be implemented in collaboration with NASA.
Tandem, a new mission to Saturn, Titan and Enceladus
Tandem has been proposed to explore two of Saturn’s satellites (Titan and Enceladus) in-situ and from orbit. Building on questions raised by Cassini, the mission would investigate the Titan Enceladus systems, their origins, interiors and evolution as well as their astrobiological potential. The mission would carry two spacecraft – an orbiter and a carrier to deliver a balloon and three probes onto Titan.
If approved, the mission would be implemented in collaboration with NASA. It is expected that a first selection between Laplace or Tandem, i.e. Jupiter or Saturn targets will be made in consultation with foreign partners in the coming years.
Cross-scale, deeper study of near-earth space
Cross-Scale, proposed to employ 12 spacecraft, would make simultaneous measurements of plasma – the gas of charged particles surrounding Earth – on different scales at shocks, reconnection sites, and turbulent regions in near-Earth space. It will address fundamental questions such as how shocks accelerate and heat particles or how magnetic reconnection phenomena generate or convert energy. If approved, the mission would be implemented in collaboration with JAXA, the Japanese Space and Exploration Agency.
Marco Polo, an asteroid sample-return mission
A sample-return mission to a near-earth object, Marco Polo would characterise a near-earth object at multiple scales and return a sample. If approved, the mission would study the origins and evolution of the Solar System, the role of minor bodies in the process, origins and evolution of Earth and of life itself. It would consist of a mother satellite which would carry a lander, sampling devices, reentry capsule as well as instruments. If approved, the mission would be implemented in collaboration with JAXA.
A dark energy mission
Two proposals have been received (Dune, the dark universe investigator and SPACE, the new near-infrared all-sky cosmic explorer) addressing the study of dark matter and dark energy – a hot topic in astronomy. While they propose to use different techniques (Dune is proposed as a a wide-field imager, while Space is proposed as a near-Infrared all-sky surveyor), they address the same basic science goal. In the follow-up study phase a trade-off will be performed leading to the definition in the spring of next year of a proposal for a European dark energy mission to go forward in competition.
Plato, the new planet finder
The proposed next-generation planet finder is a photometry mission that will detect and characterise transiting exoplanets as well as measure the seismic oscillations of their parent stars. It will be capable of observing rocky exoplanets around brighter and better characterized stars than its predecessors. Observations of the mission will be complemented by ground- and space-based follow-up observations to derive the planet’s masses and study their atmospheres.
Spica, the next generation infrared observatory
Spica is a proposed medium- and far-infrared observatory with a large-aperture cryogenic telescope. The mission would address planetary formation, the way the solar system works and the origin of the universe. It would perform wide field, high sensitivity photometric mapping at high spatial resolution, spectral analysis as well as coronography of planets and planetary disks.
Spica is proposed in collaboration with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, with ESA providing the telescope and a contribution to the operations.