If there's an area you've always dreamed of exploring, now is your chance to make it a reality: the European Space Agency (ESA) invites researchers, private companies and even citizen scientists to submit proposals for future space missions.
The ESA Council meets every three years to decide on new missions for the next few years and to consider various proposals as to what should be financed. The next meeting is scheduled for the end of this year and proposals for new missions will be accepted by October 4, 2020.
The proposals can relate to any area of space, from solving an open scientific question to capturing new data about our planet from orbit. They can also contain suggestions for new routes through space.
Examples given by ESA for the types of projects it is interested in are the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, an ESA spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars collecting data on atmospheric composition, to more to learn about the secret of methane on Mars, or the Space Rider project's goal is to create an unscrewed orbital spaceplane that will make it more affordable to transport payloads into orbit.
Visualization of a current ESA mission, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, to analyze the Martian atmosphere ESA / ATG Medialab
There are some limitations: A proposal cannot cover the area that is already covered by a current ESA space mission. ESA also says it will not consider purely commercial missions, missions scheduled to start before 2025, or mission concepts that have already been explored or proposed. But everything else is fair game.
Once the mission ideas are received, the suggestions are narrowed down to the top 10 that look the most promising, and these are worked out in more detail with the authors. Three to five proposals will then be selected to begin mission studies to take place early next year.
"It is time to lay the foundations for new programmatic decisions in new missions and new space projects," said ESA Director General Jan Wörner in a statement. "This time around, we are leveraging the insight, expertise and creativity of industry, science and private individuals to identify the best ideas for new space missions that are beyond our current planning or scope."
If you would like to submit a proposal, you can do so through ESA's Open Space Innovation Platform.