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ESA moves forward with your ideas for 11 pioneering missions

Written by: Leonard Parker | Solar News | 03rd December

You spoke, we listened. Last September, we asked for your ideas for future space missions. Our goal was to tap into the insight, expertise and creativity of European citizens, companies and academia to help us plan for the future. Based on over 200 ideas, ESA Discovery and Preparation is now launching 11 new activities over the course of the coming year, that will together shape the future of space.

From meeting our energy needs on Earth with satellites that generate solar power in space, to developing a new method of entering orbit around the Moon, the 11 activities cover an exciting range of innovative concepts. Many of them venture into realms not yet covered by ESA.

Some will demonstrate new technologies, such as a huge foil to monitor tiny pieces of space debris, or new tech needed for floating platforms on Venus. Others will help us understand other planetary bodies and learn how to live away from Earth, for example by lighting up and mapping the Moon's permanently shadowed regions, or by constructing a self-contained biological system that provides everything astronauts would need for long-term interplanetary missions. A detailed list of the activities can be found at the end of this article.

"This was the first ever attempt to solicit ideas for new missions across all space activities from not only industry, but also academia and the public," says ESA's Moritz Fontaine, who was part of the team that ran the call for ideas.

"It was a completely public, open forum that aimed to get several proposals for new space missions that ESA could analyse in parallel. It's safe to say that we have achieved this goal!"

ESA will open up eight of the activities to industry and academia, who will be invited to apply for funding to develop the mission concepts further. Of the remaining three, two are planned to be explored in ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF), a facility dedicated to bringing together experts from different domains to assess the feasibility of future space missions.

The concepts to be studied in the CDF are monitoring asteroid Apophis as it makes an Earth flyby in 2029 and developing a technology demonstration mission for floating platforms on Venus. The final activity will analyse a new initiative to develop Europe's capability to provide space-based sustainable energy.

ESA interacts with the wider space community
The 11 activities came out of a set of 13 'scoping sessions' - virtual meetings that investigated 47 of the most promising proposed ideas. Each session focused on a specific theme, with each idea fitting into one session. The people behind the ideas presented their mission concepts and ESA experts considered how the ideas fit into the Agency's broader strategy. Themes covered were:

Next steps for onboard intelligence
New propulsion in very low-Earth orbit
Next generation space debris mission
Space resources and infrastructure
Long distance intersatellite communication
Next steps for near-Earth objects
Preparing human interplanetary travel
Next steps towards Mars
Novel planetary atmosphere platform
Novel Earth atmospheric monitoring steps
Laser accelerometer instruments
Mars space situational awareness
Lunar landing site mapping

Related Links
Discovery and Preparation at ESA
The latest information about the Commercial Satellite Industry

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