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What we've done -- and it's really cutting our coat to suit our cloth -- is that our tight budget has forced us to try to do things in different ways and we've become fairly efficient. So from a technical approach, Mars Express was riding on Rosetta, and Venus Express rides on Mars Express. So there has been a burst of planetary activity which will continue for a little while, and then the agency will switch back for a few years to astronomy where again we'll use the same kind of synergistic approach.
That's really why I'm very anxious to see an Aurora* type program get going on the planetary side, so you don't get the swings-and-roundabouts approach where you're swinging from planets back to astronomy, which my program has to do because I can't simply declare that we're not going to do astronomy anymore. Nor do I feel one should. Planetary science without astronomical investigations of planets elsewhere, the chemistry of the formation of stars and planets, etcetera, doesn't make sense. Frankly, it's no use finding out we have life on Mars if we haven't a clue how it got there.
For me, the whole story begins with the Big Bang and so I'm really conscious of the fact that I've got to advance on multiple fronts. However, the only way I can do it efficiently is to allow the planetary people to take the centerstage for a few years, and then allow the astronomers to move to centerstage for awhile, then the planetary [focus] will come back. It's a frustrating aspect of the level of budget we have.
[*ESA established the Aurora program in 2001 as a key part of Europe's strategy for space, endorsed by the European Union Council of Research and the ESA Council. It calls for Europe to explore the solar system and the Universe, stimulate new technology, and inspire the young people of Europe to take a greater interest in science and technology.The primary objective of Aurora is to create, and then implement, a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of the solar system, with Mars, the Moon and the asteroids as the most likely targets. ]
So when will this transition in focus take place?
We can see it coming. Venus Express launches this year and it will be the last planetary launch for some time, until Bepi-Colombo around 2010, 2011; whereas, we will have a whole series of astronomical launches --
* Herschel will be the largest space telescope of its kind when launched in 2007;
* Planck, which we hope to launch in the first quarter of 2007, will look back at the dawn of time, close to the Big Bang, and will observe the most ancient radiation in the Universe, known as the 'cosmic microwave background' to analyze it for clues about how clusters of galaxies and even individual galaxies formed;
* Corot, will be launched in early 2006, will be the first mission capable of detecting rocky planets, several times larger than Earth, around nearby stars;
* The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and will be almost three times the size of Hubble, and should be launched well inside the decade; and
* Gaia, which will be developed on a similar time scale, will chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, to reveal the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy.
By the time Gaia gets launched, we'll be going back into solar system science I trust. But that will be 6, 7 years from now. If we get the go-ahead for an Aurora program -- and I'm really absolutely convinced Europe has to do it -- we will then have a core activity of Martian exploration going on in a parallel with the astronomical exploration, and at the same time it will allow me to concentrate on non-Martian planets. You see, I believe that Mars is not the only planet. I do think that you've got to look at the other members of the family that maybe didn't turn out so well, as well as those that did.
Originally posted by ShadowXIX
The thing that I dont understand is where is the Mission to Europa. I dont see any upcomming ones from either NASA or ESA. Europa likely has a liquid ocean and is IMHO the best chance for life in our solar system and nobody is in a rush to get under that ice.
Granted it will not be a easy mission but nothing worth doing ever is. Europa should be at the top of everyone list forget Titan,Mars,Venus head for Europa
the mission would not launch before the middle of the next decade
Have you ever heard word budget?
Originally posted by Vajrayana
I would think they would be a lil more anxious after Galileo's findings(or limited but intriguing for that matter).