Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious ship which will peer far and wide…

The European Space Agency is being very sensible and mapping out its schedule for large and medium science missions for the medium term, under the Cosmic Vision program.

In particular, the first of the large missions, L1, has been chosen and is JUICE, Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – a Jovian orbiter scheduled for launch in 2022, to study the three outer Galilean Moons.

The other mission concepts which competed for the L1 mission slot were Athena, a reformulated large X-ray observatory – Athena is revisit of the IXO concept; and, LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, aka The Coolest Mission Concept Evah!

LISA transmogrified into NGO, UGH, which then became eLISA [sic].

Much as Athena came from IXO which sprang from XEUS which was Con-X…

So, ESA has to decide what to do after JUICE, there are two more launch slots for large missions in the Cosmic Vision, L2 and L3, aimed for nominal launch dates in 2028 and 2034 respectively…

The Science Themes for the L2 and L3 missions meeting was last month in Paris.
White Papers for concepts were solicited in the spring of 2013 and some of the 30 submitted were selected for presentation at the meeting.
At this meeting were (some) members of the Senior Survey Committee, the ominously named SSC.

The SSC is to recommend to the ESA Science Programme Committee (SPC) two science themes for the L2 and L3 slots, by the end of October.
October ends tomorrow.
Then the SPC makes a choice next month.

I hope you are keeping track of the TLAs, there will be a quiz later.
There is a good summary of this process at the Planetary Society blog here.

High stakes stuff, whole careers hinge on these decisions.

Well… my fbiends are gossiping, and the word on the street is that Athena is the SSC recommendation for the L2 slot in 2028, and that eLISA is tentatively recommended for the L3 slot in 2034.

Or, to be specific, the themes of a high energy astrophysical observatory, and a low frequency gravitational radiation detector are recommended, respectively.

This is not official, and not final, and still has to go to ESA’s Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC natch), the Director of Science (D/SRE – don’t ask) and then the SPC.
Which implies none of the 28 new concepts were selected.

I was at the 1st International LISA Symposium at the Rutherford Lab outside Oxford, in 1997.
We thought there was a good chance LISA would have launched by now.
That was a good meeting.

“But the gods embrace men of sense and abhor the evil.”


  1. #1 andy
    October 31, 2013

    Good to see a return to the Jovian satellites: in a sense Cassini showed very well the kind of things we missed thanks to the Galileo antenna malfunction.

    But is anyone at all planning to send a mission out to the ice giants? I’m getting resigned to the fact that Voyager 2 may be the only close-up view of them available during my lifetime :(

  2. #2 Steinn SigurĂ°sson
    October 31, 2013

    The other 28 proposals included outer planets, including at least one Uranus mission.

    Politically this is Planets/Astronomy/Physics – always unlikely there’d be 2 out of 3 Planets L class missions

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.