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ESA Confirms 2-Year Extensions for 9 Space Missions

Nov 28, 2016 04:54 AM EST

The future of space is looking brighter than ever for Europeans, as the European Space Agency (ESA) announces that nine of its missions will be extended until 2018 through an official statement.

According to ESA's Science Programme Committee (SPC), they have decided to extend the operation of six ESA-led missions (Cluster, INTEGRAL, Mars Express, PROBA-2, SOHO and XMM-Newton) from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018. The decision came after a thorough review of the space agency's present operational status and the possible scientific return from each mission.

In the same statement, ESA also confirmed that it will continue to contribute to the operations of three international collaborative missions: the Hubble Space Telescope and the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS), which are both led by NASA, as well as Hinode, a Japanese-led mission.

Through the two-year extension for each mission, ESA aims to make sure that the sun is monitored closely as it continues to head towards an unusually weak minimum of sunspot and flare activity (SOHO, PROBA-2 and Hinode, and the continued contribution to IRIS); to explore new regions of Earth's magnetosphere and operate simultaneously with other solar-terrestrial missions via the Cluster quartet; to further study of the Red Planet's atmosphere, surfaces, and moons through the Mars Express; and to make more profound discoveries about the Universe and the Solar System (XMM-Newton, the Hubble Space Telescope and INTEGRAL), Space Daily writes.

Giving the public an idea on the process of determining grant and extensions for missions, ESA said that twice a year, the Science Directorate's advisory structure checks all missions whose approved operations end within the following four years. If the mission meets the criteria for operational status and science return, subject to the level of financial resources available in the science program, it will be granted an extension, which is valid only in the next four years and will undergo a mid-term review and, once again, a confirmation after two years.

Decisions for year 2019-2020 have been put off until the meeting of the ESA Council at Ministerial Level at Lucerne, Switzerland on December. Among many things, the meeting will determine ESA's long-term budget.

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