ESA identifies new science ideas for future space missions
21 April 2017Last year, ESA called on the scientific community to propose new and innovative science ideas that could be relevant for future space missions within the Science Programme. From the proposals that were received three key areas of interest have been selected for further investigation.
The call for ideas was issued on 6 February 2016. The purpose of the call was to drive innovation by stimulating new ideas possibly based on technologies that are not yet sufficiently mature.
In total, 26 proposals were received, addressing a variety of science topics. These were assessed under the responsibility of ESA's Science Advisory Structure, and three key themes of potential interest and impact were identified:
- Quantum physics, with a focus on the boundaries of and relationship between quantum and classical physics, in particular investigating the aspect known as quantum decoherence.
- Planetary science, with a focus on small-platform missions to rocky planets and small bodies, which could enable new opportunities for scientific research.
- High-accuracy astrometry, with a focus on compiling a global, near-infrared view of the Milky Way. By observing in the infrared, reddening effects (caused by starlight scattering off intervening material in our galaxy) would be reduced, allowing scientists a clear view of our galaxy's central bulge, core, and 'hidden' regions.
In each case, ESA will soon begin discussions with the relevant science communities to develop and refine the requirements and objectives for possible mission scenarios. This will be followed by preliminary technical studies to better understand the feasibility of these scenarios. The results of these studies, which will be made available to the scientific community, could be used in future mission proposals for the Science Programme.