Friday, January 15, 2010

Europe offers space station as platform for climate science

Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse: The European Space Agency is looking at proposals for using the International Space Station as a platform for climate science, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said on Thursday. Seventeen proposals so far have been received "from the climate change community" for using the ISS as a basis for study, Dordain told a press conference. The "call for ideas" issued by the 18-nation agency last November expires on Monday, he added.

The ISS is scheduled to be completed this year, "offering a multi-purpose research facility in low orbit until at least 2015 and possibly beyond," ESA says on its website. "Potentially, the ISS can be used as an observation platform for instruments and experiments relevant to global change studies, supplementing ongoing and planned observations from dedicated platforms," it says.

Conceived as a manned outpost in orbit, the US-led ISS has run into huge cost overruns, with some estimates putting the final bill at around 100 billion dollars, and construction delays caused in part by the loss of two US space shuttles. Some space scientists are critical of the project, describing it as a cash burner that provides negligible value for money compared with unmanned missions.

Dordain was speaking at a New Year's meeting with reporters to sketch the agency's work programme in 2010. Highlights include the launch on February 7 of two more ISS modules, including a "cupola" that will provide the station's six crew members with a panoramic view of space….

NASA shot of the International Space Station

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