CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall kicked off the meeting by reviewing the highlights of the end of 2015, underlining in particular the success of the COP 21 climate conference in Paris in December, which confirmed space’s crucial role in monitoring climate change, and the signature of the agency’s ‘Innovation & Inspiration’ objectives and performance agreement for 2016-2020. The agency’s new organization in place since 1 January was also presented, notably the new Directorate of Innovation, Applications and Science (DIA).
Jean-Yves Le Gall then turned to the key challenges facing the agency over the year ahead, notably the next ESA ministerial conference in Lucerne, Switzerland, at the end of the year, where the main items on the agenda will be launchers, Europe’s continued participation in utilization of the International Space Station (ISS), ExoMars, Earth-observation science programmes and funding for ESA’s mandatory scientific programme.
CPS members and its chair Jean-Loup Puget were given an update on the progress of the MERLIN project (Methane Remote sensing LIdar missioN) designed to measure atmospheric concentrations of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. France and Germany reaffirmed their intention at the COP 21 conference to develop this project being conducted jointly by CNES and the German space agency DLR. The CPS unanimously recommended that CNES should go ahead with this programme.
The meeting also reviewed the status of the agency’s Earth Observation and Universe science programmes and looked back at the launches of Jason-3 on 17 January and Sentinel-3A on 16 February, and ahead to the forthcoming launches of ExoMars on 14 March, Microscope on 22 April (with Sentinel-1B) and Sentinel-5P this autumn, as well as the departure of French astronaut Thomas Pesquet to the ISS on 16 November.