Wednesday 23 June, CNES’s Science Programmes Committee (CPS) held a hybrid meeting in strict accordance with social distancing protocols, with members in attendance at the agency’s Head Office in Paris Les Halles and by videoconference. The CPS advises the CNES Board of Directors on matters relating to space science research and helps it to shape the agency’s science priorities.
After introducing himself to the members of the CPS and exchanging views with them on the key stakes of space and the importance of science, CNES Chairman & CEO Philippe Baptiste gave the customary review of the main events since the committee’s last meeting. He began by pointing to the success story of Thomas Pesquet’s Alpha mission and his recent extravehicular activities. He also underlined ESA’s selection of the EnVision mission to study Venus, the validation by ESA Council of the draft Financial Framework Programme Agreement (FFPA) between the European Commission, the new European Space Programmes Agency (EUSPA) and ESA aiming to establish guidelines for the governance of Europe’s space programmes, and lastly the excellent performance of the Sentinel 6A Michael Freilich/Jason-CS mission.
After the presentation of the ATHENA and ARIEL missions selected for ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme, the members of the CPS approved:
⦁ The B/C/D/E1 development phase of ARIEL, which aims to characterize exoplanet atmospheres and for which France is supplying an infrared spectrometer, a key element of the mission developed by the Astrophysics Department of CEA, the French atomic energy and alternative energies commission, as prime contractor.
⦁ Phase B of ATHENA (Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics), Europe’s future X-ray space observatory designed to study the most extreme observable phenomena in the Universe, like galaxy clusters and supermassive black holes, at unprecedented levels of detail and sensitivity.
The CPS also considered that the results of phase A for Taranis-2 presented by CNES did not support a project that is sustainable in the short term without major programmatic science impacts. As the science goals remain relevant, the CPS recommended a fresh assessment covering the objectives of Taranis.
The CPS was then given a detailed progress report on CNES’s scientific programmes in the fields of universe sciences, with the recommendations of the CERES space research and exploration committee, exploration and Earth sciences, with the recommendations of the TOSCA Earth, oceanography, land surfaces and atmosphere committee, and a status check on the recommendations arising out of the 2019 Science Survey Seminar.
In conclusion, Philippe Baptiste confirmed his commitment to working with the CPS to organize a mid-term science survey seminar in the autumn of 2022 to reaffirm or refresh science goals and lay the groundwork for them now.