Voyage 2050: Planning for Europe’s future in space from the point of view of three early career researchers
Post by Eleni Maria Ravanis, Hans Huybrighs and Ottaviano Ruesch on behalf of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Future Research Working Group.
Space missions take a long time. From the initial idea, to financing the spacecraft and making its journey to a target body, and finally to the acquisition and analysis of data, the process can last several decades. This means that space agencies managing missions for the scientific community have to start planning decades in advance, which is why the European Space Agency (ESA) engages in long-term planning of its ‘scientific priorities’. But how does ESA define these future priorities? Enter ‘Voyage 2050’.
Voyage 2050 is the most recent iteration of ESA’s long-term planning of science priorities, for which ESA requests input from the scientific community. In March 2019, ESA led a Call for White Papers, where scientists were asked to submit papers focusing on scientific themes that could be addressed from 2035-2050, the period covered by Voyage 2050. In October 2019, scientists from across Europe and the world gathered in Madrid to present and discuss their ideas, and now throughout to 2020, topical teams within ESA have been meeting to discuss these scientific priorities. Their recommendations will be made to the Director of Science later this year, and will shape the next 3 decades of space exploration for astronomy and planetary science, and thereby shaping the careers of many EPEC members.
Here at the EPEC Future Research Working Group, we talked with 3 early career planetary science researchers who are lead authors on these white papers to find out more about how they got involved and what they think planetary science will look like in 2050. We hope that their insight will also prove useful to any early-career researchers looking to get involved with NASA’s Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023-2032.