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Science

Europe to maintain current space missions until 2014

The European Space Agency has agreed to extend operations for four more years. Existing projects studying solar activity and cosmic radiation will still provide data.

ESA's Planck satellite

ESA's Planck satellite launched in 2009

In a statement posted to its website on Monday, the European Space Agency has decided to extend 11 space-based scientific missions for four more years.

In 2008, the ESA decided that as a cost-cutting measure, scientific missions would be re-evaluated every two years. The missions will subject to confirmation in late 2012 as part of the regular two-year cycle.

Some of the ESA's current missions include the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), which is a collaborative effort between the European agency and its American counterpart, NASA, to study the sun in detail.

The SOHO spacecraft is now ensured to be operational so that it can observe the sun during its next solar maximum in 2013, when it reaches the highest point in its cyclical magnetic activity.

'A good day for space science'

Another is the Planck satellite, which in 2009 began studying cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang approximately 14 billion years ago.

"It is not an easy time to make such commitments but we should not doubt the wisdom of the [Science Programme Committee] in squeezing even more return from the big investments of the past," said David Southwood, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, in the statement.

"The highest quality science will continue to flow from this armada of spacecraft. It is a good day for European space science. Europe will continue to play an important part in unlocking the mysteries of our universe."

Author: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn

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