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Esa to choose among four potential Earth science missions


European Space Agency mulling missions on icy regions, solar radiation, the Mediterranean and space weather

The European Space Agency has selected four new proposals that it will now assess to decide which should become its next Earth-observation mission.

Esa received 17 proposals for the 12th explorer mission from an open call in early 2023 and has now narrowed them down to four that will undergo further assessment over the next 18 months, it announced on 17 April.

Within the four proposals, CryoRad would use a radiometer to measure ice shelves, sea-ice thickness and sea-surface salinity in cold waters to better understand key processes in the polar regions.

Eco would measure the difference between Earth’s incoming solar radiation and outgoing radiation, which controls its climate system, to help predict climate changes.

For Hydroterra+, a satellite would be placed in a static orbit of the Earth, from which it would deliver data twice a day on Europe, the Mediterranean and northern Africa to help researchers better understand the water cycle and tectonic events in these regions.

Finally, Keystone would provide the first direct observations of atomic oxygen at a certain altitude, which could be used to study solar cycles and space weather.

Esa’s Earth observation director Simonetta Cheli said that decisions on which proposals to choose “are always challenging”, and that on this occasion “the quality of all the proposals that were submitted was very high”.

She added: “The mission ideas that will now be further assessed each address key areas of science that would advance knowledge of our Earth system.”