European Space Agency (ESA) is planning to expand its collaboration with Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for space missions, according to ESA's senior scientific advisor Mark McCaughrean.
Impressed with Isro's historic precision launch of 104 satellites at one go, placing satellites at the least cost, the ESA official said ESA is planning to expand its collaboration with Isro.
ESA, which has sent its Gaia satellite mission on a multi-dimensional space probe, mapping a billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, is planning 15 more space missions, including Bepe Colombo to Mercury in 2018 and JUICE to Jupiter in 2022.
On his first visit, McCaughrean, who is scientific advisor in the Directorate of Science and Robotic Exploration (responsible for communicating the scientific results from ESA's astronomy) and noted astrophysicist is reported to have said that the ESA plans to expand cooperation with India in space missions.
"ESA plans further collaboration with ISRO in various space missions. Had an informal discussion with former Isro chairman UR Rao at Bangalore. The current Isro chairman, AS Kiran Kumar was in a meeting in Delhi that day. Earlier, ESA had collaborated with ISRO on Chandrayaan-1 mission to Moon," The Times of India quoted him as saying in an interview.
ESA has collaboration with 22 countries, including the US, Russia, China, India and Japan, in its space missions. It is expected to increase with the commercial launches.
Speaking on ESA's plan for 15 space missions, he said, Bepe Colombo will be the first probe to Mercury in 2018. It is a joint mission between ESA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Sun's enormous gravity poses a challenge to place the spacecraft into a stable orbit around Mercury, he said.
Another is the ambitious Jupiter Icy moons Explorer (JUICE) to Jupiter in 2022, where it will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons - Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. "The ice crust is much deeper and there may be forms of life in these moons," he said. Missions to Neptune and Uranus haven't been planned yet as it would take about 20 to 30 years to reach there, he said.
Meanwhile, plans are afoot by NASA and SpaceX to colonise Mars to help humanity establish a permanent colony in Mars in the next 50 to 100 years. On ESA's human space flight to Mars, he said, it could be after 10 to 20 years. Now it plans robotic exploration to Mars with NASA.
On ESA's Gaia, he said, "it's an ambitious space mission to scan a six-dimensional map of our Milky Way galaxy of about one billion stars, which is about one percent of the Galactic stellar population. ESA is also preparing for Euclid mission to observe billions of galaxies, to map and measure dark matter and dark energy which constitutes roughly about 80 per cent of the mass of the Universe. Studies on dark matter reveal that the universe today is expanding faster than in the past. Such expansion is possible only if the universe contained enough energy to overcome gravity (the dark energy), he said.
ISRO is getting due recognition after its precise launch of 104 space probes in a systematic manner (See: Isro leaps into history with launch of 104 satellites in one go). The recent detection of gravitational waves and the proposal to set up a LIGO detector by the Indian government will help unravel the mysteries of the black holes and the universe (See: India to play important role in LIGO project).
"ESA has a program to build a gravitational wave detector by 2030, it's the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission to observe and measure gravitational waves directly by using laser interferometry," he said.
Asked whether the expansion of the Universe would spell its doom, he is reported to have said, "we didn't ask to be born and we have no control over nature's way, though humans fantasise to conquer universe and fathom even its eventual dissolution five billion years from now. It is remarkable to be a piece of the universe, to look into the mirror of the Universe," he said. When such questions go unanswered, humans found religion as a solace and inventing Gods for the fine reasons, he added.