Thursday, October 6, 2011


ESA has announced the selection of its next two science missions.  The Solar Orbiter, which will be a partnership with NASA, will study the sun from as close at 42 million kilometers from its surface.  (NASA's Solar Probe Plus, which is in the definition phase (Phase A), will approach the sun as close as 3.7 million kilometers.)  The Euclid mission will launch a space telescope to study dark energy and dark matter in the universe.  (BBC article)

To follow up on my previous post, the heads of NASA and ESA met to discuss the redefinition of their joint Mars program without success.  Unless NASA's budget problems can be resolved fairly quickly, this will leave NASA with no means to collect and cache samples for an eventual Mars sample return mission.  As I understand ESA's budget, this also leaves ESA without sufficient funds to fly it's ExoMars rover.  ESA apparently will seek new partners to share the financial burden and enable the mission (Russia has been mentioned).  (Aviation Week and Space Technology article)

To highlight NASA's budget problems, the agency apparently is considering ending the Cassini mission at Saturn without completing it's current mission planned to end in 2017.  This tidbit comes from the meeting announcement for the next Outer Planets Analysis Group (OPAG) meeting: "NASA has entered an era of strong fiscal constraints, and is struggling to maintain its commitments to missions in development and in flight. Community input will be vital in preserving robust Outer Planets Exploration. This OPAG meeting accordingly will focus on threats to the Cassini Solstice mission, implementation of the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, an update on European plans, and studies of potential missions to Europa." (

1 comment:

  1. Article from Lou Friedman, former head of the Planetary Society :

    The end of Europa Orbiter and SIM were just the beginning of the end.