Jupsat Pro Astronomy Software

Secrets of the Deep Sky

Get Instant Access

Universe and mankind's place in it.Young scientists and aspiring students are especially fortunate to be living at a time when answers to such basic questions may be within their grasp.What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life? How does the Solar System work? What are the fundamental physical laws of the Universe? How did the Universe originate and what is it made of? Chapters 1 to 4 propose ways of answering these questions and possible space tools to be developed to tackle them. Chapter 5 lists the technology challenges that are raised and suggests the necessary technology development programme. Chapter 6 suggests possible implementation strategies.

To implement Cosmic Vision 2015-2025, it is suggested to ESA's Science Programme to issue Announcements of Opportunities for missions in the coming years. Indeed, for the first mission of the plan, to be launched in 2015, the first Call for Mission Proposals ought to happen early in 2006 if the construction phase is to start by 2008 at the latest. It should be noted that some of the required tools to answer a specific question can probably be fulfilled as a single instrument on a mission. Others will require a full mission development and yet a few more will require a full programme to be defined.

In parallel to all of the above, as outlined in Chapter 5, ESA will have to make substantial efforts on key technological developments, in the frame of its Technology Development Plan, to make Cosmic Vision 2015-2025

feasible. Crucial technologies have already been identified in that chapter that in some cases will benefit several themes.These include lightweight mirror optics, formation flying, autonomous deployment of a swarm of micro-satellites, solar sailing and radiation-tolerant lightweight components. Substantial progress has been made on some of these technological developments under ESA's Payload and Advanced Concepts Office and needs to be actively continued to meet a realistic schedule. In all cases, key technological developments are necessary before missions can be considered for implementation.

We have not explicitly addressed the all-important question of what will have to be done to analyse and exploit scientifically the veritable flood of data to be generated by Cosmic Vision 2015-2025. Already with the current generation of orbiting observatories and probes, ESA and national initiatives are, jointly in some cases, organising ad hoc centres and services. An order-of-magnitude increase in the data analysis effort will be required into the next decade, with many missions entering the Terabyte information flow. It goes beyond the scope of the present document to address this issue in detail. However, we want to draw attention to it and we recommend that Europe take prompt initiatives to ensure that the science return of the programme be commensurate with ESA's programmatic effort.

Our plan will be placed in the framework of the worldwide space science context, taking into account possible synergies and

collaborations with science programmes from ESA's international partners (the United States' NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Russian Roskosmos, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Chinese Space Agency, etc.). Indeed, European space science has a long tradition of collaboration with NASA, with which some of the most successful missions have been developed (Hubble Space Telescope, SOHO, Ulysses, Cassini-Huygens) and others are being developed for the 2005-2015 decade (JWST, LISA). A very close collaboration with JAXA will happen for the first time with the BepiColombo mission to Mercury and collaboration with the Chinese Space Agency was inaugurated with the Double Star mission. Even the most successful ESA-only missions (Giotto, Hipparcos, XMM-Newton, Cluster, Integral, Mars Express, Rosetta,Venus Express, Planck, Herschel, Gaia and Solar Orbiter) have some involvement from international partners.

Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 should also continue to mesh creatively with the national space science and technology programmes in ESA's Member States. Furthermore, several countries in the enlarged European Union that have not yet joined ESA are already participating, through valued co-investigators, in ESA's science missions.They and all other EU members will obviously be welcome to participate in our new long-term programme.

Within Europe, there are other important cultural, scientific and technological partners with which constructive interactions along the lines of this plan have to be thoroughly explored.The European Southern Observatory (ESO), for example, is pushing ground-based astronomy to the limit.Techniques pioneered at its big observatories in Chile, including interferometry at visible wavelengths, will sooner or later be transferred to space projects. Also directly relevant to the fundamental physics in Cosmic Vision 20152025 is the experimental and theoretical work of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. Its Large Hadron Collider is due to be switched on in 2007. Experiments on quark-gluon plasmas, for example, produced by colliding nuclei of lead atoms, are complementary to ESA's investigations of 'matter under extreme conditions'in the natural laboratories of neutron stars.

Within ESA itself, added strength and creativity will be gained by the interaction of the science programme with ESA's optional programmes, most notably the 'Aurora' Programme, and other more application-oriented programmes.

ESA's Science Programme is also a strong supporter of European space industry. As much as 80% of ESA's space science budget is channelled, directly or indirectly, to Europe's aerospace industry, and this represents a massive investment in technological innovation. Industrial engineers have played a highly creative part in implementing Horizon 2000 (1984) and Horizon 2000 Plus (1994-1995), putting unrelenting effort into novel hardware and software and finding ingenious solutions to the difficulties expected in the hostile environments of space. In a word, space engineers enjoy the unprecedented challenges that space science repeatedly throws up.With every novel tool required for ESA's Science Programme, the technological competence of Europe's space-related industries will grow.

Above all, Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 is being presented to the new European Space Council in the context of the institutional European Union presence in space activities. In the European Commission's White Paper Space: A New European Frontier for an Expanding Union (November 2003), space science is described as 'essential to Europe's identity and leadership as a knowledge-basedsociety'.The Commission also notes that the recent erosion of funding for ESA's space science programme has reached a point where it disrupts the balance of the programme and misses the chance to optimise costs and flexibility.The White Paper calls for 'urgent corrective action'.

Our plan is presented as an act of confidence by a vast and multi-faceted community, who gladly collected in it their best ideas and confidently expects to obtain the necessary support for the timely implementation of an exciting programme aimed at responding to the White Paper call. How much of the promising projects presented in Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 can be accomplished will, naturally, depend on the Level of Resources of the Science Programme.

Last but not least for the future of Europe, ESA's successes in space science is to encourage students to pursue studies and careers in science and engineering.The programme also helps to stem a potentially disastrous brain-drain of scientific and engineering talent to the USA and other parts of the world with active space programmes.

For their part, the European space science community and the ESA Science Programme Executive pledge their continuing effort for the maintenance and reinforcement of Europe's leadership in space science.With the enthusiasm of a space industry which, among many other achievements, has taken us to Saturn and to its moon Titan, this is the right way of realising a knowledge-based and competitive Europe.

Space science gives modern society a window on the infinite. Although astronomy from the ground and work in Earth-bound laboratories have their parts to play in decoding how our planet was formed out of the cosmos, indeed how we came to be, only in space can we observe without the disruption of our atmosphere right across the electromagnetic spectrum. Only in space can we experiment outside Earth's gravitational pull and, of course, only by travelling through space can we investigate directly other parts of our Solar System.

This document is proof, if proof were needed, that European scientists have a 'Vision' worthy of the epithet Cosmic. With eyes tuned by a knowledge of what our technical potential can be, the scientists who wrote it start from the peak of present scientific understanding of where we are and, from there, look ahead to a vista of the territories for exploration that lie before us and what is doable. It lays out what scientific questions remain and the paths that need to be followed to obtain answers.

The key, the fundamental driver to the programme proposed, is very simple and can be expressed as 'Science for the sake of science'; in Latin,'Sc/entia gratia scientiae'. Translated back into English, one would have Knowledge for the sake of knowledge'. A science-based society is a knowledge-based society. A strong programme for exploring the Universe should be part of Europe's 'Lisbon agenda'to become the leading knowledge-based society on the planet.

What is proposed here is not just idle curiosity.What is remarkable at this point is that very basic questions, simple questions that everyone can understand, that scientists would have put on one side a few decades ago, now are coming centre stage for study. Are we alone in the Universe? Why is the Universe the way it is? What is special about the Earth? What were the critical features in determining Earth's habitability (and how long may it remain so)? The discovery in the last decade of extra-solar planets has opened a new perspective and new questions. But it is not just from astronomy that the advances of the last decade or so have come.The reopening of planetary exploration, both Earth's neighbours and the giant planets in the outer Solar System, has provided a cornucopia of issues for research and speculation.This is truly a great time to be a space scientist.

Does Europe deserve such a vision? This question is not one for the scientists to answer. For centuries, Europe did lead the world in astronomy and it has recently regained that lead with the European Southern Observatory's telescopes in Chile. Could Europe also lead in exploring the Universe from space? Technically, it is clear it could; financially, things need to change. European space industry has shown itself up to the most extreme challenges set by the scientists so far.The scientists show here what is the vision.The only issue clouding the speed at which the vision is realised is the budget.The challenge is to the political leaders of Europe to respond in order that at least a substantial part can be realised by 2025.

For now, Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 will serve as a map of the terrain ahead to be tackled by Europe's space scientists. It is not a firm plan. However, using the map as a guide, ESA will make priorities for long-term technology development. Nonetheless, the actual progress and directions taken across the terrain ahead should remain, as far as possible, in the hands of the science community. Because the themes will be the dominant factor, it may well be that missions not foreseen now will materialise before long, that mission foreseen now will vanish, that the sequences outlined here might be changed.The themes outlined here will be realised by the community responding to a phased series of announcements of opportunity.This process, constrained by the budgets available in years to come, will eventually give birth to the actual missions that will build the programme. After a competitive phase, during which several missions will be studied in parallel and the technological requirements will be examined, selected missions will emerge. Probably, as has proved effective in recent years, missions will be grouped to exploit commonality in technical requirements.

Europe will not do it alone.The map will also serve as a guide for seeking future cooperation with the science programmes of the other space-faring nations, such as the USA, Russia, Japan, China, India and Canada. Europe has a greater Gross Domestic Product than any of these and it should aspire to a leading role at the international level.

ESA's Science Programme will not do it alone. Some targets may be met using the International Space Station. Moreover, Mars exploration and, in the future, lunar exploration will fall under the ESA Aurora programme designed to provide infrastructure that scientists can exploit. Hence the priority assigned in particular here to Mars exploration will be accomplished using this additional programme. Similarly, the individual Member States will continue to pursue scientific missions; examples right now are the French-led Corot (Theme 1) and Microscope (Theme 3) missions. It is certain that these should not be the last nationally-led missions, which will fit naturally within the grander plan.The challenge in both cases will be to the national authorities to ensure coherence in their investments.

These control not only the various ESA programmes through their ESA delegations but also the national programmes.

Europe's scientists have seized the initiative and put forward a comprehensive vision appropriate for and fit to inspire a dynamic and outward-looking society. Its realisation depends on budget.The challenge is once more to the political leaders and the national authorities of Europe to respond to make this happen.

David Southwood Director, ESA Science

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Telescopes Mastery

Telescopes Mastery

Through this ebook, you are going to learn what you will need to know all about the telescopes that can provide a fun and rewarding hobby for you and your family!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment