Earth science community wants more Earth Explorers

21 September 2005
 
Following the Call for Ideas for the next
Earth Explorer Core missions, a total of 24 proposals had been
submitted by the deadline in August. This clearly shows that there is
massive interest from the scientific community in ESA’s Living Planet
Programme and that Earth Explorers are providing the community with a
host of new tools to forward their scientific agenda.
 
Earth Explorer missions are designed to
address critical and specific issues that have been raised by the
science community whilst demonstrating breakthrough technology in
observing techniques. The science community is involved right from the
beginning in the definition of new missions, which leads to the
efficient development of a mission and provides the exact data required
by the user.
 
Currently, there are six approved Earth
Explorer missions under development: CryoSat, GOCE, SMOS, ADM-Aeolus,
Swarm and EarthCARE. CryoSat will be the first of these missions to
launched, with lift-off scheduled for 8 October this year. With close
to one launch per year these satellites will provide the science
community with new and unique observations that will enable significant
scientific progress in a number of areas. This is in addition to the
broad observational capabilities already offered by the ERS satellites
and Envisat over the last 15 years.
 
For the current Call the Agency’s Earth
Science Advisory Committee elaborated scientific priorities in order to
take full account of what has already been achieved and what the
current Earth science agenda considers to be central issues needed to
be addressed, leading to the following set of priorities:
* The global water cycle
* The global carbon cycle
* Atmospheric chemistry and climate
* The human element as a cross-cutting issue
 
The proposals submitted reflect these
priorities, although there are also proposals that cover broader
issues. Some proposals tackle more than one area, whilst the Earth
system approach is clear in the way the scientific issues are
addressed.
 
The evaluation process is being set up,
and during the first half of 2006 the Agency’s Programme Board for
Earth Observation will decide which of the missions will be selected to
undergo feasibility study. Final selection of missions to be
implemented is planned for 2008, with launch during the first half of
next decade. During the Ministerial Conference in December this year,
ESA’s Member States and Canada will decide on the level of funding that
will be available to respond to the Earth science community’s strong
interest in the Earth Explorer missions.
 
(Credits at ESA


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