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Got a bright idea for a space mission? European Space Agency wants to hear it

If there’s an area of space you’ve always dreamed of exploring, now is your chance to make it happen: The European Space Agency (ESA) is inviting researchers, private companies, and even citizen scientists to submit proposals for future space missions.

Every three years the ESA council meets to decide on new missions for the next years and to consider various proposals for what should be funded. The next meeting is coming up at the end of this year, and proposals for new missions will be accepted up to October 4, 2020.

The proposals can be about any area of space, from solving an open scientific question, to gathering new data about our planet from orbit. They can also include proposals for new ways to travel through space.

Examples given by ESA of the kinds of projects it is interested in include the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, an ESA spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars and gathering data on atmospheric composition to understand more about the mystery of methane on Mars, or the Space Rider project which aims to create an uncrewed orbital spaceplane which will make transporting payloads into orbit more affordable.

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter analyses the martian atmosphere
Visualization of a current ESA mission, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, analyzing the Martian atmosphere ESA/ATG medialab

There are some restrictions: A proposal can’t cover ground already covered by a current ESA space mission. ESA also says it will not consider missions that are purely commercial, missions that aim to launch before 2025, or mission concepts that have already been studied or proposed. But everything else is fair game.

Once mission ideas have been received, the proposals will be whittled down to the top 10 which look most promising and these will be scoped out in more detail with the authors. Then, three to five proposals will be selected to begin missions studies, which should happen early next year.

“It’s time to plant the seeds for new programmatic decisions on new missions and new space projects,” ESA Director General Jan Wörner said in a statement. “This time we’re tapping into the insight, competence, and creativity of industry, academia, and private citizens to identify the best ideas for new space missions beyond our current planning or scope.”

If you’d like to submit a proposal, you can do so through ESA’s Open Space Innovation Platform.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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