Official word on the IXO x-ray mission now, with rumours from Europe on what the European Space Agency has in mind.

LISA must be rebranded, quick!

IXO News

This is an update on the discussions with the European Space Agency (ESA) at the recent ESA-NASA bilateral meeting.

ESA has ended consideration of IXO and the other concepts as partnerships at the scale proposed in the New Worlds New Horizons decadal survey (NWNH) and EJSM/Laplace in Visions and Voyages for Planetary Science.
Instead, ESA has begun a rapid definition effort that includes the formation of a new science team (to be announced shortly). That effort will identify science goals and a mission concept that can be implemented as part of an ESA-led mission launching in the early 2020´s for a cost to ESA of about 800M Euro. Revised mission concepts from the three science areas will be considered in a selection process tentatively foreseen in February 2012.

NASA HQ will NOT disband the current NASA IXO (and LISA) teams immediately, but will follow a deliberate path towards redirecting the NASA efforts in the context of the decadal survey recommendations. NASA’s Astrophysics Division plans to continue base funding (assuming not-larger-than-anticipated cuts from Congress) for the IXO (and LISA) study team(s) through FY11 to continue the technology development and so that NASA can support any effort requested by ESA through the NASA representative. The HQ Astrophysics Division may at some point in the future engage the community about strategic investments in X-ray astrophysics and possible solicitations for new concept studies in the context of the NWNH priorities.

It is expected that in about one year´s time NASA will ask the NRC to prioritize possible NWNH investments for the rest of the decade, including funding possible NASA participation in an ESA L1 mission – which we hope will be the X-ray mission. This would be in the context of not only the ESA L1 mission selection, but also the M1 and M2 mission selections, and the JWST re-plan.

Looks like current version of the final Congress 2010-11 budget resolution will not cut NASA science further, so the science teams are continued till october in current form.

So, ESA just had a meeting in Paris to consider their candidates for the next L-class (large) mission.
ESA: Cosmic Vision L-class mission presentation

The candidates for the next L-class mission were:
IXO, the large x-ray mission;
LISA, the low frequency gravitational radiation mission
and, EJSM/Laplace, the Jovian moon mission.

IXO is gone. ESA pulled the trigger, NASA event lead to the decision.

I now hear that the European reconcept for IXO is:

ATHENA – which clearly sprung whole from the head of XEUS!
There is an e-mail circulating, which I am sure some kind reader will send me Real Soon Now, and the mission is [DELETED].
OK, I got the e-mail for “Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics”, but I can’t share it and the concept is more open than I had been lead to believe.
Very short timescale for science case and instrument baseline.

EJSM/Laplace can be elegantly cut in two, with the NASA part cut off – the common launch savings are lost, but there weren’t even any common launch savings, so the mission is separable. And, might I add, totally dead from the NASA side.

Clearly it should be renamed HERA! Since it will be going to Ganymede…

So… since the decision are made by Paris,
LISA’s only chance is to rename itself as APHRODITE!

Then, clearly, LISAAPHRODITE will get the golden applewin.

Of course, then Paris must get HELEN (and wtf will HELEN be?) and, er, I hope that doesn’t make me Cassandra, ’cause she got whacked… not to mention the whole decades of war, wandering lost in the wilderness etc.
Nah, inconceivable.


  1. #1 andy
    April 14, 2011

    That still leaves IPHIGENIA, the necessary sacrifice that must be made to launch everything else…

  2. #2 PM
    April 14, 2011

    I don’t suppose we could try all three goals together in a

    Combined High-energy International Mission to Explore Really Anything

    Such a thing is likely to be ugly and dangerous, and would probably get fried by any strong point source in Pegasus.

  3. #3 Steinn Sigurdsson
    April 14, 2011

    IPHIGENIA clearly has to wait on APHRODITE selection and then Paris getting HELEN.
    I feel sorry for HECTOR.

    Hm, I suspect some DoE project, a favourite of the great war leader.

    But who is the Ulysses who will break the stalemate?
    Our petulant Achilles?
    Aenas who lays the seed for resurgence?

  4. #4 Steinn Sigurdsson
    April 14, 2011

    CHIMERA! I like it.
    It does AGNs, GRBs, W and lensing!

    Or how about: Multi-Energy Dual Use Spacecraft for Astrophysics!
    Never get past JASON review I guess.

    Reminds me of a concept Brad and Mike and I came up with a few years ago…

  5. #5 Phil Uttley
    April 14, 2011

    According to the Phoenicians (according to Wikipedia anyway) Athena was the daughter of Kronos, which was a previous MIDEX proposal – in which case the mission should be doing multiwavelength monitoring of variable sources…

  6. #6 Michael Khan
    April 14, 2011

    I don’t get it. You mention a common launch of the European and NASA elements for EJSM/Laplace. Was that ever considered? I never heard of that and always thought that both elements were so large/heavy they required dedicated launches. Did I misunderstand you, perhaps?

  7. #7 Steinn Sigurdsson
    April 14, 2011

    @MK – probably my misunderstanding, I thought they were joint missions precisely because they could share a launch on a heavy with common orbit injection. Otherwise they are just two separate missions going to approximately the same place at about the same time and there is no savings in being joint.

    But I just checked, the spec indeed calls for separate ESA and NASA launches, so they really have nothing in common and no real cost savings – maybe just wanted to do a cross-buyin as insurance or something…

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