Europlanet History

Europlanet links research institutions and companies active in planetary research in Europe and around the world. Planetary science covers the study of our solar system and those around other stars. It is an interdisciplinary field of research that covers astronomy and geophysics, robotic and human exploration of other planets, as well as the search for extra-terrestrial life.

Since 2005, Europlanet has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to:

  • exchange ideas and personnel
  • share research tools, data and facilities
  • define key science goals for the future
  • engage stakeholders, policy makers and European Citizens with planetary science.

Current status

The Europlanet Association was created in 2023 with the objectives of:

  1. Supporting the planetary science community through the activities of the Europlanet Society and its structures, including the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)
  2. Establishing strategic collaborations to support planetary science
  3. Developing and maintaining infrastructures to support planetary sciences. 

The Europlanet AISBL provides the legal structure for the sustainability of Europlanet activities, including the Europlanet Society, and gives Europlanet a framework in which to: 

  • Provide clear ownership of the Europlanet brand and assets, including EPSC
  • Directly participate as a beneficiary in EU funded projects
  • Join organisations as an independent entity
  • Sign contracts with service providers
  • Sign memoranda of understanding with other organisations
  • Act as a stakeholder in ventures. 

The Executive Board is the governing body of the AISBL and consists of the five officers elected by the membership of the Europlanet Society.

The founding members of the Europlanet Association were:

  • Nigel Mason (President)
  • Ann Carine Vandaele (Vice President), Angelo Pio Rossi (Vice President)
  • Anita Heward (Secretary)
  • Didier Moreau (Treasurer)

Europlanet Society launch.

The Europlanet Society was formed in 2018 to promote the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. Anyone with an active interest in planetary science (whether academic or industrial, professional or amateur) is welcome to join. The Society is the parent body of the annual Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) the largest annual meeting on planetary science in Europe. Find out more.

The first Executive Board of the Europlanet Society was elected in 2019. The first serving members were

  • Nigel Mason (President)
  • Ann Carine Vandaele (Vice President), Angelo Pio Rossi (Vice President)
  • Anita Heward (Secretary)
  • Maria Cristina de Sanctis (Member), Leigh Fletcher (Member), Livia Giacomini (Member), Ricardo Hueso (Member), Lora Jovanovic (Member), Ewa Szuszkiewicz (Member).

Nancy Hine was elected Treasurer in 2020 and served for one year. In 2021, Didier Moreau was elected Treasurer.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) is a €10 million project funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020 (grant agreement No 871149). The project launched on 1st February 2020 and will run until 31 July 2024. It has over 50 beneficiaries from 25 countries, and is led by the University of Kent, UK. Europlanet 2024 RI provides free access to the world’s largest collection of planetary simulation and analysis facilities, data services and tools, a ground-based observational network and programme of community support activities. Find out more.

Formation and evolution

Europlanet emerged from the collaboration between scientists involved in the Cassini-Huygens mission. Its primary aim is to overcome fragmentation and to share resources in Europe’s planetary science community.

Europe boasts one of the largest international communities of planetary scientists, with over 800 tenured academics and around 3000-4000 young researchers in more than 200 research groups/institutions, spread across nearly all Europe’s national states. Unlike other space agencies, which have responsibility for both space missions and the supporting the scientific communities, the European Space Agency is only responsible for building and operating the missions. Europe’s scientific community is supported by the national states and individual institutions, each with their own funding regimes and requirements. Fragmentation is, thus, a particular challenged in Europe. Since its foundation, Europlanet has forged a considerable degree of cohesion and unity of purpose amongst Europe’s planetary scientists.

2015-2019 – Europlanet Research 2020 Infrastructure

Europlanet received €9.95 million from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 654208) to address key scientific and technological challenges facing modern planetary science by providing open access to state-of-the-art data, models and facilities across the European Research Area. Europlanet 2020 RI ran from 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2019. The project was led by the Open University, UK, and had 33 beneficiary institutions from 19 European countries. 

2013-2018 – Europlanet Consortium

The Europlanet Consortium was a collegial organisation, linked by the Memorandum of Understanding, for research institutions and companies involved in planetary science that agreed to cooperate on an informal and mutually beneficial basis.

2009-2012 – Europlanet Research Infrastructure

Europlanet received €6 million under Framework 7’s Integrated Infrastructure Initiative programme to develop a distributed Research Infrastructure (RI). Europlanet RI enabled European researchers to access state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, planetary analogue field sites and virtual access facilities. It developed new tools and infrastructure, and consolidated the community through meetings, workshops and the sharing of resources, ideas, data and personnel.

2005-2008 – European Planetology Network (EuroPlaNet) Coordination Action

EuroPlaNet received €2 million under Framework 6 for networking activities to build a strong community for European planetary science through meetings and workshops, identify science goals, develop synergies between space missions and ground-based observations and lay the foundations for a Virtual Planetary Observatory.

Memories of Europlanet’s Birth

Find out more about the origins of Europlanet in this article by Michel Blanc, published in the Europlanet Magazine in June 2021.