Details of M-class Cosmic Vision candidates now available
2 December 2009A series of formal presentations on the 6 medium-class candidate missions in the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan was made to a large gathering of Europe's scientific community on 1 December. This meeting marks the end of the assessment phase and the start of the down-selection process. The assessment study reports are now available.
The Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan is the current embodiment of ESA's long term scientific programme. The plan, which has been defined following consultation with the European scientific community, identifies the major scientific questions to be addressed by ESA' s future space science missions.
The consultation process was followed by the selection, in October 2007, of 6 medium sized (M-class) missions for further assessment. In the intervening period each of these missions has been studied in some detail by ESA and by two independent industrial consortia, with particular emphasis on payload, cost and risk. The results of the assessment phase were presented to more than 400 representatives of the European scientific community, as well as to members of the advisory bodies of the ESA Science Programme, at a public meeting held on 1 December at the Institut Océanographique de Paris, France.
Six diverse, medium class candidate missions
The missions under study as M-class candidates for a launch in 2017 and 2018 are:
Cross Scale – Performing detailed in situ multi-spacecraft exploration of universal plasma phenomena occurring in near-Earth space in order to address fundamental questions such as: how shocks accelerate and heat particles; how reconnection converts magnetic energy and how turbulence transports energy.
Euclid - Mapping the geometry of the dark Universe by investigating the distance-redshift relationship and the evolution of cosmic structures through two complementary methods: baryonic acoustic oscillations measurements and weak gravitational lensing, by means of a visible/near-infrared survey of all galaxies and clusters of galaxies out to a redshift of about 2.
Marco Polo - Returning a sample from a primitive Near-Earth asteroid which will allow the study of the origin and formation of the Solar System and the planets, characterisation of a Near-Earth asteroid as a representative of a primitive Solar System body, and contribute to the field of astrobiology.
PLATO – Detecting and characterising exoplanetary systems of all kinds, by providing a full statistical analysis of exoplanetary systems around stars that are bright and nearby enough to allow for simultaneous and/or later detailed studies of their host stars.
Solar Orbiter - Approaching the Sun as close as 48 solar radii, Solar Orbiter will view the solar atmosphere with high spatial resolution and combine this with measurements made in situ. Over the extended mission periods Solar Orbiter will deliver images and data that will cover the polar regions and the side of the Sun not visible from Earth.
SPICA - Probing galaxy, star and planetary system formation, as well as the evolution of dust and gas in the interstellar medium of our own and distant galaxies, with imaging and spectroscopy spanning mid- to far-infrared wavelengths.
Next step: down-selection to 3 to 4 M-class missions
In mid-January the advisory bodies will convene to prepare a recommendation for which of these M-class mission concepts should be carried forward to the definition phase. On the basis of this recommendation the Executive will present a proposal to the Science Programme Committee in February 2010.
Assessment Study Reports – now available
The outcome of the assessment study phase for each mission is published as an Assessment Study Report. Each report provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific objectives and resulting requirements of each mission, along with details of the proposed payload, mission design and operations. These reports are now available to download (see links in the right-hand menu).
For further information:Fabio Favata
Head of ESA Science Planning and Community Coordination Office