Europe has given the final go-ahead to a space mission to investigate the “dark universe”.
The Euclid telescope will look deep into the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy.
These phenomena dominate the Universe, and yet scientists concede they know virtually nothing about them.
European Space Agency (Esa) member states made their decision at a meeting in Paris. Euclid should be ready for launch in 2019.
Esa nations had already selected the telescope as a preferred venture in October last year, but Tuesday’s “adoption” by the Science Programme Committee (SPC) means the financing and the technical wherewithal is now in place to proceed.
The cost to Esa of building, launching and operating Euclid is expected to be just over 600m euros (£480m; $760m). Member states will provide Euclid’s visible wavelength camera and a near-infrared camera/spectrometer, taking the likely cost of the whole endeavour beyond 800m euros.
The US has been offered, and will accept, a junior role in the mission valued at around 5%. The American space agency (Nasa) will pay for this by picking up the tab for the infrared detectors needed on Euclid. A memorandum of understanding to this effect will be signed between the agencies in due course.
“We have negotiated a detailed text with Nasa, which both parties consider final, and it is ready for signature,” said Dr Fabio Favata, Esa’s head of science planning……
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