archive: SETI [ASTRO] A Little More Money And A Lot More Challenge For ESA's

SETI [ASTRO] A Little More Money And A Lot More Challenge For ESA's

Larry Klaes ( )
Mon, 24 May 1999 15:51:49 -0400

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender
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>Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 19:20:10 GMT
>From: Ron Baalke <>
>Subject: [ASTRO] A Little More Money And A Lot More Challenge For ESA's
Science Programme
>Reply-To: Ron Baalke <>
>ESA Science News
>21 May 1999
>A little more money and a lot more challenge for ESA's Science Programme
>ESA's Scientific Programme Committee (SPC), which met in Bern on 19-20
>May, took an optimistic view of the decisions taken at Ministerial level in
>Brussels on 11-12 May.
>The SPC judged that the level of resources was sufficient to proceed with
>the approved projects of the Science Programme. After review of the
>available means and of the Council's assumptions, the SPC confirmed in
>particular Mars Express, scheduled for launch in 2003. "Following the
>conditional approval of Mars Express in November 1998, and given the
>Executive's assessment that the conditions are fulfilled up to the end of
>2001, the SPC confirms that Mars Express can proceed", the text of the
>Resolution states.
>Intended to give Europe a substantial role in the exploration of the Red
>Planet, Mars Express brings together senior scientists representing ESA's
>14 Member States. A stipulation was that there should be sufficient
>resources and no adverse effect on other projects already approved.
>Figures available at that time suggested that Mars Express might be
>affordable only with a delay to the FIRST and Planck astronomical
>missions. The Council of Ministers addressed this potential conflict in
>making a small adjustment to the budget for space science, which allowed
>the SPC to give the go-ahead to the mission.
>Discussions about the Science Programme implementation plan led to
>unanimous agreement and reconfirmation of the future targets in the
>medium term plan. In particular it was agreed that a constant purchasing
>power of 370M EUROS was a reasonable objective to be obtained in 2001
>for the following years, and a figure on which planning could be based. A
>new appointment was fixed for September to discuss carefully the whole
>medium-term implementation plan.
>The schedule of expected launches of major science missions is now as
>1999 XMM for X-ray astronomy
>2000 Cluster II for solar-terrestrial physics
>2001 Integral for gamma-ray astronomy
>2003 Rosetta for close inspection of Comet Wirtanen
>2003 Mars Express for an orbiter and lander on Mars
>2007 FIRST for far-infrared astronomy
>2007 Planck for microwave astronomy and cosmology
>The launch date of FIRST and Planck was of particular concern to both
>the Council and the SPC and the budget adjustment was made on the
>understanding that both Mars Express and FIRST/Planck are preserved as
>planned. Clearly, the precise date for FIRST/Planck will critically depend
>on the decision that will be taken at the next ESA Council meeting at
>Ministerial level, in 2001. As the budget increase granted by Council barely
>covers one third of Mars Express cost, the challenge to ESA planners is
>now much greater. However, the SPC re-asserted its confidence in ESA's
>managers to find solutions to the problem.
>Uncertainty surrounds smaller missions during the 2001-2007 period, and
>major missions beyond FIRST and Planck. The smaller projects include a
>series of SMART missions, with SMART-1 in preparation for a proposed
>launch in 2001 to test solar-electric propulsion. Nevertheless, the technical
>need of the Agency for SMART-1 is fully endorsed by the SPC: the question
>will be revised at the next meeting in September 1999.
>STEP, with a possible launch date in 2004, would be a joint project with
>NASA to test severely a fundamental principle of the law of gravity.
>Looming too are ESA's participation in the Next Generation Space Telescope
>(2007) and possible new Flexi missions on the scale of Mars Express. ESA's
>science planners and Europe's space scientists also wish to see a major
>Cornerstone mission, comparable with XMM or Rosetta, before the end of
>the next decade. The outlook for these projects, within the overall science
>programme Horizons 2000, will depend on decisions about long-term funding
>due to be made by the Council of Ministers in two years' time.
>The present state of affairs arises from a ruling by the Council of Ministers
>in 1995, that ESA's annual space science budget should be fixed in cash
>That led to a steady decline in the budget in real terms, because of
>ESA responded with wide-ranging economies and new methods of managing
>scientific projects. Classes of smaller and cheaper missions, Flexi and
>SMART, were introduced to prevent a loss of flexibility and innovation that
>could result from the budgetary squeeze.
>Mars Express is the first Flexi mission. Its future is now secured by small
>cash additions that, in effect, reduce the rate of decline in the science
>budget. Other major missions (those listed above) are also provided for in
>current budgetary planning. It will be for Ministers to reconsider in 2001
>how the future science budget should be set. That will determine what
>further space science will be affordable up to 2010.
>[NOTE: An interview with Prof. Hans Balsiger, chairman of ESA's Science
>Programme Committee (SPC), is available at
> .]