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Independence day

As NASA’s squeezed budget takes its toll on joint projects, Fabio Favata, head of science planning at the European Space Agency, talks to Elizabeth Gibney about Europe’s plans to go it alone—or look east.

In March, NASA pulled funding from the large-class missions, sending three competing proposals back to the drawing board. What happens now?

NASA was set to contribute roughly 50 per cent of the funding to L-class missions and we’re not sure we can do the exact same missions with a reduced budget. So we’re assessing what science, in each of the three areas—Jupiter systems science, X-ray astronomy, and gravitational waves—we can do as a Europe-only mission. We’ve been really impressed with the keenness of the groups to undertake the task [of redesigning the missions]. One said: “Now we have a 33 per cent change of getting a smaller but very good mission. We had started to feel there was a 100 per cent chance of never getting a mission.”

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