Budget cuts have forced Europe's "frustrated" scientists to make "drastic" decisions to amend the European Space Agency's (ESA) science programme, the agency's science chief Roger Bonnet said yesterday.

Despite the cuts and the cancellation of some long-term plans, the programme still retains some exciting missions and has even introduced new ones, including the Mars Express to be launched in 2003.

This mission has been made possible by linking two others, the Plank and First astronomical telescopes, to save money. The Mars Express will orbit and land a small craft on the Red Planet to analyse the soil.

ESA has also proposed new small technology demonstration missions to prepare for future flights.



The first, called Smart 1, will be launched to test ion propulsion technologies.

The agency's last "big" mission will be the Cassini/Huygens to be launched to Saturn this October. The ESA Huygens lander will explore Saturn's moon, Titan.

Source: Flight Daily News