Decision time nears for M3 mission candidates
24 January 2014Decision time is nearing for the scientific community as the deadline for selection of ESA's third medium class scientific mission approaches.
Two years after they were shortlisted as candidates for the M3 slot, five international teams of scientists made their final oral presentations at the Institut Océanographique de Paris on 21 January. More than 300 representatives of the scientific community, industry, national funding agencies and other interested parties were invited to attend this event.
Over the next few weeks, only one of these proposals will be given the green light for full development.
The M3 selection process began with a call for proposals in July 2010. In February 2011, ESA selected four candidates (EChO, LOFT, STE-QUEST and MarcoPolo-R) for the M3 launch opportunity. Another proposal, called PLATO, was retained from the previous medium class mission selection round.
The candidates covered very different areas of scientific research, ranging from investigations of black holes and general relativity to near-Earth asteroid sample return and studies of planets orbiting distant stars.
With the completion of the two-year Assessment Phase, the time has come to decide which of these very different scientific projects should be recommended for further development within ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 Plan.
Immediately after the presentation meeting on 21 January, ESA's Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC) met to evaluate the candidate missions and to make a recommendation to the Science Programme Executive about which concept should be carried forward for Definition Phase activities.
The Executive will take into account the advice from the SSAC, along with the technical, programmatic and financial status of the preferred programme, before making their recommendation to the Science Programme Committee (SPC). The announcement of the SPC's final selection for the M3 mission slot is expected during their meeting on 19-20 February.