Budget ax falls on planet finder, Mercury lander
SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: November 7, 2003

Budget pressures have forced the European Space Agency to kill the Eddington mission to discover Earth-like planets and a planned robotic lander to explore the surface of Mercury.

The Science Programme Committee (SPC) made the decisions this week "due to the current financial exigencies and an outlook with no budget increase or other relief."

From ESA:

Eddington had two aims, both remarkable and very pertinent to front-line astronomical interests. The first aim was to look for Earth-like planets outside our solar system - one of the key goals in the search to understand how life came to be, how we came to live where we do in the universe and whether there are other potential life supporting environments 'out there'. At the same time it was going to follow on the path blazed by the ESA-NASA mission SOHO had taken with the Sun of using astroseismology to look 'inside' stars. In the longer term, the loss of this one mission will not stop us pursuing the grand quests for which it is a step.


An artist's concept of Eddington. Credit: ESA
 
The loss of the BepiColombo lander is also scientifically hard to take. ESA, in conjunction with the Japanese space agency, JAXA, will still put two orbiters around Mercury but the 'ground truth' provided by the lander is a big loss. However, to land on a planet so near the Sun is no small matter and was a bridge too far in present circumstances, and this chance for Europe to be first has probably been lost.

The origins of the problems were recognized at the ESA Council, held in June 2003. Several sudden demands on finance occurred in the spring, the most obvious and public being the unforeseen Ariane 5 grounding in January. A loan of 100 million Euro was temporarily granted, that must be paid back out of present resources by the end of 2006.


An artist's concept of BepiColombo orbiters. Credit: ESA
 
ESA's SPC were therefore caught in a vice. Immediate mission starts had to be severely limited and the overall envelope of the programme kept down.

By making today's decision, the SPC has brought down the scope of the Cosmic Vision programme to a level that necessarily reflects the financial conditions rather than the ambitions of the scientific community.

A long and painful discussion during the SPC meeting resulted in the conclusion that only one new mission can be started at this time, namely LISA Pathfinder. The mission is the technical precursor to the world's first gravitational wave astronomical observatory, LISA. The LISA mission itself (to be made in cooperation with the United States) is scheduled for launch in 2012.

ESA's Cosmic Vision, set to last until 2012, is a living programme. It has to be able to constantly adapt to to the available funding as well as respond to the expectations of the scientific community, to technological developments. Within these boundaries, the decisions made by the SPC try to maximize the outcome of Cosmic Vision across disciplines, keeping it at the same time challenging and affordable. Nonetheless, there are many European scientists with ambitions that exceed the programme's ability to respond.

Mars Rover mission patch
A mission patch featuring NASA's Mars Exploration Rover is now available from the Astronomy Now Store.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

New Station
Crew Patch


Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The Expedition 38 embroidered crew patch for the International Space Station is now available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE


Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Ares 1-X Patch
The official embroidered patch for the Ares 1-X rocket test flight, is available for purchase.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Project Orion
The Orion crew exploration vehicle is NASA's first new human spacecraft developed since the space shuttle a quarter-century earlier. The capsule is one of the key elements of returning astronauts to the Moon.
 U.S. STORE


Fallen Heroes Patch Collection
The official patches from Apollo 1, the shuttle Challenger and Columbia crews are available in the store.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Gemini 12
Gemini 12: The NASA Mission Reports covers the voyage of James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin that capped the Gemini program's efforts to prove the technologies and techniques that would be needed for the Apollo Moon landings. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 12 tribute DVD set

New! Featuring the jovial crew of Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and Alan Bean, the Apollo 12 mission was struck by lightning shortly after liftoff but proceeded on the second successful exploration voyage to the lunar surface. This three-disc DVD brings the mission to life with extraordinary detail.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Fallen Heroes special patch
This special 12-inch embroidered patch commemorates the U.S. astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice, honoring the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Women in Space
Women of Space: Cool Careers on the Final Frontier is for girls, young women, and anyone else interested in learning about exciting careers in space exploration. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
 Choose your store:
U.S.

Soviet Space
For the first time ever available in the West. Rocket & Space Corporation Energia: a complete pictorial history of the Soviet/Russian Space Program from 1946 to the present day all in full color. Available from our store.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Viking patch
This embroidered mission patch celebrates NASA's Viking Project which reached the Red Planet in 1976.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Apollo 7 DVD
For 11 days the crew of Apollo 7 fought colds while they put the Apollo spacecraft through a workout, establishing confidence in the machine what would lead directly to the bold decision to send Apollo 8 to the moon just 2 months later.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Gemini 12
Gemini 12: The NASA Mission Reports covers the voyage of James Lovell and Buzz Aldrin that capped the Gemini program's efforts to prove the technologies and techniques that would be needed for the Apollo Moon landings. Includes CD-ROM.
 Choose your store:
U.S. - U.K. - E.U. - Worldwide

Get e-mail updates
Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed direct to your desktop (privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose).
Enter your e-mail address:

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.