Season's Greetings from ESA's Science Director
20 December 1998In offering my best wishes to all visitors to the ESA Science web site, I recall some memorable events of 1998:
- ISO finished its historic examinations of the Universe by infrared light. As astronomers work through more than 26,000 observations of galaxies, stars, planets and comets, discoveries are still continuously pouring out.
- Ulysses completed the first grand orbit which took it over the poles of the Sun in 1994-1995. Its second orbit will place it well for unique polar observations of the solar wind during the Sun's most active phase, in 2000 and 2001.
- SOHO, the world's best equipped solar spacecraft ever, discovered comets diving into the Sun, tornadoes and an amazing seismic shock on the Sun. We had a shock of our own when SOHO went missing in space last summer, but after a remarkable recovery operation we look forward to several more years of discovery from SOHO.
- NASA's Cassini, with ESA's Huygens probe on board, gathered speed in a successful flyby on Venus, as it continued its long, roundabout journey towards Saturn. While sleeping like a baby asleep, Huygens remains in good shape for its eventual descent by parachute onto Saturn's enigmatic moon, Titan.
We are busy preparing to launch five ESA scientific spacecraft in 2000. One is the great X-ray observatory XMM. The others are the quadruplet satellites of Cluster II, which we need to clear up the mysteries about the Earth's own space environment.
I think that the world scientific community and all Europeans can be proud of the science programme of ESA We have a competent and dedicated staff, which assists a first class European space science and technology community to produce good scientific results for the past missions, leading edge technologies for the missions under development, exciting projects for the future.
In 1999 the destiny of ESA and the Science Programme as we know it will probably be defined at the Ministerial Conference which will take place on 11-12 May in Brussels. The request we make is moderate, the funds we ask for are negligible with respect to those involved in all other decisions regarding ESA, and in return we promise nothing less than excellence. I hope that the Ministers of the Member States will accept this good bargain and allow Europe to remain on the map of world space science.
May the Ministers be inspired by our old spacecraft Giotto, which, now dormant after surviving the dust storms of Halley's comet in 1986 and the encounter with Comet Grigg-Skjellerup in 1992, will pass close to the Earth in July 1999. This is not just a sentimental occasion, but a good time to reflect on what ESA space science has achieved in 14 years since Giotto's launch, and to look forward to new challenges.
This is the warmest wish I can formulate for 1999.
During the next year this web site will enable you to remain up to date about all our science missions, past, present and future. So I thank you for your interest - and please keep in touch!
Dr. Roger M. Bonnet
Director of Scientific Programme