The European Space Agency (ESA) has cancelled a Cosmic Vision science mission and scaled back the scope of another for financial reasons.
The Eddington mission to look for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, due for launch in 2008, has been scrapped and the lander element of the Bepi Colombo mission to orbit Mercury, to be launched in 2011, has been axed. The budget problems were exacerbated by the 13-month delay to the Rosetta comet mission as a result of the failure of the first Ariane 5 ECA mission in 2002. Funding constraints resulted in ESA science programmes requiring an advance in June to keep some projects alive.
A lander capable of surviving the surface conditions on Mercury would have been "a bridge too far", says ESA. The agency will, however, start work on a smaller project with NASA to build the LISA Pathfinder, a prototype space-based gravity-wave detector.
Source: Flight International