NEXT ESA SCIENCE DIRECTOR DISCUSSES PROSPECTS FOR EUROPEAN SPACE SCIENCE
As he prepares to take up his new post, Professor David Southwood, European Space Agency Director of Science Designate, will be giving his views on the prospects for European space science at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Cambridge on Friday 6 April.
During his talk, Professor Southwood will be looking forward to the Edinburgh meeting of the European Space Agency's Council of Ministers in November 2001 and addressing the options facing the European scientific community.
"ESA has an enviable record of delivering ground-breaking science from its missions, once governmental approval has been given," he says. "Furthermore, after wide consultation with the scientific community, an ambitious programme which plans new advances on a broad front has been drawn up in recent years. However, the ESA space science programme stands at a critical juncture."
In addition to its previously committed programme, ESA has recently declared its intention to go ahead with a number of exciting new missions: · LISA, a space observatory to make the first detection of gravitational waves (in cooperation with the USA). · Bepi-Colombo, a lander and two orbiters to explore Mercury (with Japan). · GAIA, a mission to map 1 billion stars with unprecedented accuracy. · the Next Generation Space Telescope (with the USA). · Solar Orbiter, a spacecraft to observe the Sun continuously at close quarters.
Last autumn, this set of new missions was approved by the agency's Science Programme Committee (SPC), based on the assumption that the overall programme will maintain its purchasing power. Although the programme is now the baseline for future planning, the SPC has already expressed concern that the programme lacks flexibility and that there are important gaps in the coverage of certain disciplines.
"There are no doubts that there have been big gains in efficiency but one cannot assume that this can continue indefinitely," says Southwood. "It is not a time for complacency if the present exciting plans are to be converted into realities in a timely way."
Prof. Southwood will take over from Prof. Roger-Maurice Bonnet as ESA Science Director on 1 May 2001.
Southwood was born on 30 June 1945. He holds a BA in Mathematics and a Ph.D in Physics from Imperial College, London. He has spent most of his career at Imperial College, apart from two periods at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), as Postdoctoral Fellow and later as Visiting Professor. In 1997 he joined ESA as Earth Observation Future Programme Strategy Manager.
Prof. Southwood has received five awards/honours and held many chairmanships, including those of the Science Programme Committee and Space Science Advisory Committee at ESA.
His most recent project involvement has been as Principal Investigator for the Magnetometer experiment on the Cassini spacecraft that will go into orbit around Saturn in 2004. He has been active in public outreach on space science, both in Europe and in the United States. He has around 200 publications and 100 invited papers to his name.
Issued by: RAS Press Officers Peter Bond
Dr Jacqueline Mitton