Just as the Nobel prize in physics is awarded for the discovery that points to dark energy, Europe’s space agency has announced that it will go ahead with it’s mission to map out the effects of dark energy on the distribution of galaxies over time. The mission christened EUCLID will be scheduled to launch in 2019 and will map the positions of galaxies out towards the edge of the observable universe. EUCLID was one of two missions that ESA announced yesterday under the banner “Dark and Bright“, the other being Solar Orbiter to launch in 2017.
The news comes shortly after doubt was cast on the future of WFIRST a similar mission planned by NASA. The problem faced by the American Space Agency is that JWST, its ambitious next generation space-telescope, is over budget and absorbing funding from other projects.
The status of big science in the US has recently taken some big blows. With the Tevatron bowing out to the superiority of Europe’s Large Hadron Collider and NASA’a manned space capability ending with the demise of the shuttle while China build’s up for a spectacular new space program, the days of US superiority in science seem to be fading into night. Many hopes now rest with the James-Webb Space Telescope which has the potential to be a ground breaking observatory especially for the exploration of the early universe, but the risk is high. The JWST is a complex instrument that will be sent to the Lagrange points far away from the Earth. Even if the US had a manned space program there would be no hope of servicing the mission as they did for the Hubble Space Telescope. It has to work first time and keep working. At least the American’s can still say they are bold.