Wednesday, December 02, 2009

BBC discusses costs of ESA Cosmic Vision contenders

An article on the BBC by Jonathan Amos discusses the contenders for the two slots in ESA's Cosmic Visions program for 2017-2018 launches. Interestingly the article's focus is on the costs (see graph taken from article), but it also has a nice description of each mission (many of which I hadn't heard of).

The missions, and my shorter summary of their nature and aims, are:

  • SPICA: Joint ESA/JAXA infrared space telescope (5 to 210 micron wavelength range) with a 3.5m primary mirror.
  • Euclid: Map mass distributions using baryonic acoustic oscillations and weak lensing.
  • PLATO: A planet hunter with a particular emphasis on finding Earth-like and super-earth terrestrial planets using milli-magnitude accuracy photometry.
  • Solar Orbiter: Study the Sun and Solar wind from a relatively close-in orbit (as close as 48 Solar radii, it claims).
  • Marco Polo: Joint ESA/JAXA sample return mission from a near-earth asteroid. Note the high cost!
  • Cross-Scale: Study MHD plasma properties in the terrestrial magnetosphere and bow shock. 7 ESA spacecraft forming 2 nested tetrahedra with a shard corner. (International collaboration will produce the optimum fleet of 12 spacecraft in 3 nested tetrahedra.) High cost!

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