Monday 8 March, the CNES Board of Directors’ Science Programmes Committee (CPS) met remotely by videoconference in strict accordance with social distancing measures. The CPS advises the Board on matters relating to space science research and helps it to shape the agency’s science priorities.
CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall began with a review of the main events since the last meeting of the CPS. He naturally pointed to the arrival in February of three new Mars missions launched last summer: the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft, China’s Tianwen-1 satellite and of course NASA’s Perseverance rover, to which France is making a key contribution with the SuperCam instrument and its three LIBS, Raman and infrared spectrometers, camera and microphone. The live event to watch the Mars landing organized jointly by CNES and the national scientific research centre CNRS, attended by President Macron and two of the government’s ministers at CNES’s Head Office in Paris, was followed on line by some 1,400,000 people in France. Never before has a space event attracted such strong media and public interest in France.
Jean-Yves Le Gall then hailed other science results and technological feats accomplished in recent weeks, with the recovery of samples returned by the Hayabusa-2 mission from asteroid Ryugu on 5 December inside Australia’s Woomera outback desert range 100 kilometres north of Adelaide, now set to be subjected to detailed analyses with the close involvement of the French science community, and the collection of samples from the Moon by China’s Chang’e-5 mission.
CNES’s President underlined the adoption last 17 December of the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027 and the United Kingdom’s intention signalled in the Brexit agreement to contribute to Copernicus and Horizon Europe. These elements are to be viewed in the context of France’s forthcoming presidency of the EU in the first half of 2022 and the ESA Ministerial Conference set to be organized the same year by ESA’s new Director General Josef Aschbacher, who took up his post on 1 March.
Lastly, Jean-Yves Le Gall emphasized the ambitions for space under the competitiveness strand of the government’s stimulus plan, which CNES will be leading with a budget of €365 million in new subsidies to support the space sector.
The CPS was then given a detailed progress report on CNES’s scientific programmes in the fields of universe sciences, space exploration and Earth sciences.