Press Release

Space researchers gather in Paris

By SpaceRef Editor
July 25, 2004
Filed under , ,
Space researchers gather in Paris

At the invitation of ESA and CNES, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) is
holding its 35th Scientific Assembly in Paris from 19 to 25 July. As happens
every two years, scientists from all over the world are attending to take stock
of their research findings.

Set up in 1958 at the dawn of the space age, COSPAR is an interdisciplinary
science committee focusing on all research activities that deploy space systems
— from balloons to satellites. With some 4000 scientists registered as
Associates, this is one of the largest autonomous scientific organisations in
the space sector, making it a key contributor to the development of
international cooperation.

The 2004 Assembly already looks set to yield an exceptionally good COSPAR
vintage, providing a wealth of topical attractions. The unprecedented harvest of
data gathered by Mars probes — ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, NASA’s Spirit and
Opportunity rovers — provide stimulating input for many of the presentations
and discussions, as do the first results from the Cassini-Huygens duo entering
orbit around Saturn and those of Europe’s Smart-1 probe heading for the Moon.

Over a fortnight before the opening day, over 2000 researchers had already
registered to attend. “This is a record”, says Jean-Paul Paillé, ESA’s
coordinator for the event. “We are going to beat the figures for Houston 2002,
when the Scientific Assembly had actually been twinned with the IAF’s
International Astronautical Congress”.

This year’s participants include two Nobel Prize winners, Paul Crutzen and
Riccardo Giacconi, respectively honoured for their achievements in Chemistry
(1995) and Physics (2002), along with heads of space agencies from around the
world and representatives of industry.

ESA programmes in the spotlight

The space research results yielded by many ESA missions are being highlighted in
numerous presentations during the ninety-four science sessions that proceed in
parallel throughout the week. During Earth observation sessions, Nadine Gobron,
of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre at Ispra (Italy), will be
providing an assessment of the ongoing deployment of the Medium Resolution
Imaging Spectrometer (Meris) onboard ESA’s Envisat satellite monitoring
vegetation. Alain Hauchecorne, of the aeronomy unit at the Centre National de la
Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at Verrières-le-Buisson, will be presenting the
results of the Global Ozone Monitoring by Occultation of Stars (Gomos)
spectrometer also onboard Envisat, with atmospheric profiling of concentrations
of ozone and nitrogen dioxide / trioxide at altitudes of 15 to 100 km.

Concerning solar system exploration, Jean-Pierre Bibring, of the Space
Astrophysics Institute at Orsay, will be reporting on the observations performed
to date by the Omega spectrometer on ESA’s Mars Express mission, including the
first data on the composition of the Red Planet’s surface. Bernard Foing, chief
project scientist on ESA’s Smart-1 mission, will be reporting the first results
provided by the science and technology payload instruments onboard this small
European probe currently heading for the Moon powered by its plasma thruster
engine. Philippe Lamy, of the CNRS Space Astronomy Laboratory at Marseille, will
be addressing Hubble Space Telescope visible/infrared-region observation of the
core of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, in preparation for ESA’s Rosetta
mission which is due to reach its target in ten years’ time. François Raulin,
CNRS exobiology research director, will be reporting the
exo/astro/cosmobiological prospects for the ongoing Cassini-Huygens mission. The
focus here is on studying the chemistry of Saturn’s moon Titan. This could be
very similar to that of the Earth at the dawn of life, the emergence of which is
thought to have been frozen by temperatures of around –180 C.

Deep space astronomy is also being covered. Professor Hans Böhringer, of the Max
Planck Institute, will be explaining the results obtained by ESA’s XMM-Newton
observatory and NASA’s Chandra mission, investigating the elements at the heart
of galactic clusters.

Nor are the life sciences being forgotten. Several presentations will cover the
impact of the space environment — whether in orbit or on the surface of other
planets — on living organisms. Professor Roberto Marco of Madrid University
will be reporting the results of experiments done during the Cervantes mission
onboard the International Space Station concerning the effects of weightlessness
on ageing and the drosophila fly’s genes.

Space science the world over

With the Academy of Sciences of forty-two countries and twelve international
scientific bodies among its members, COSPAR and its Assembly traditionally
provide the perfect meeting place for researchers, from the major space powers
but also from up-and-coming players of the space age, including a number of
developing countries. Apart from the customary presentations of national
initiatives, the event also provides an opportunity for rapprochement, exchanges
and dialogue between researchers from highly diverse backgrounds, thus prompting
innovative ideas for further international cooperation.

This year, a major delegation is expected from China, the venue for the 2006
Assembly being Beijing. This will provide an opportunity to take stock of
China’s advances in space in areas as diverse as crewed flight (less than a year
after its very first national mission), the material sciences and near-Earth
studies. And as the COSPAR proceedings draw to a close, China will be preparing
to launch its second Tan Ce satellite flying ESA instruments under the joint
Double Star programme, adding to the observation being done by ESA’s Cluster
constellation in the terrestrial magnetosphere.

The general public is also being courted, with free interdisciplinary opening
sessions daily on major topical issues: Mars exploration, x-ray astronomy, Earth
observation with Envisat, the search for signatures of life elsewhere in the
universe, solar radiation and climate, and space oceanography. In addition,
daily closing sessions allow open debates featuring the biggest names in space
research, addressing the major space policy issues of our time: the space
programmes of the future and international cooperation, space science in Europe,
the future of crewed space flight, Mars exploration and global climate change.

COSPAR 2004 is being organised by the European Space Agency and the French space
agency CNES. For ESA, this marks a kind of homecoming, as it was chiefly the
European scientific community that was behind the establishment of its precursor
European Space Research Organisation, ESRO, some forty years ago.

For more information, please contact:

ESA – Media Relations Service

Tel. : 33 (0) 1 53 69 72 99

Fax : 33 (0) 1 53 69 76 90

Jean-Paul Paillé

ESA representative, COSPAR 2004 Local Organising Committee

Tel.: 33 (0) 1 53 69 72 57

Related Link

* Cospar 2004 * Cospar IMAGE CAPTIONS:

[Image 1: ]
J. J. Dordain, ESA Director General, addresses the audience.

Official opening ceremony of the 35th COSPAR Scientific Assembly, Paris, Palais
des Congrès, Monday 19th July 2004. More than 2000 people attended this ceremony
which has held under the Presidence of Mr. François D’Aubert, French Research

Credits: ESA-P. Sebirot

[Image 2: ]
Y. D’Escatha, President of CNES, F. D’Aubert, French Minister of Research and
J.J. Dordain, ESA Director General.

Credits: ESA-P. Sebirot

[Image 3: ]
COSPAR opening ceremony.

Credits: ESA-P. Sebirot

SpaceRef staff editor.