Professor in Astrophysics at Trinity, Peter Gallagher, will play a key role in landmark space missions that will take place over the next decade after being appointed as an adviser to the Director of Science at the European Space Agency (ESA).
In his role with the Space Science Advisory Committee (SSAC), Professor Gallagher will be charged with interpreting the views and needs of the European science community’s access to space experimentation and data exploitation in the mandatory science programmes. ESA will invest over €5 billion in space exploration in the coming decade.
The SSAC’s tasks include advising and making recommendations on the needs of the scientific community for access to space for their research; formulating and updating medium and long-term space science policy in Europe; prioritising the needs of the scientific community in selecting future space science missions, and laying the foundations for future missions based on recommendations and new discoveries.
Along with the 11 other members of the SSAC, Professor Gallagher will also implement a number of space missions under the ESA Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 strategy. Cosmic Vision will address four main questions that are high on the agenda of researchers across the world, namely:
- What are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life?
- How does the Solar System work?
- What are the fundamental physical laws of the Universe?
- How did the Universe originate and what is it made of?
Among ESA’s flagship missions is ‘Solar Orbiter’, which Professor Gallagher is directly involved in. This spacecraft will be launched in 2019 and then take approximately three years to make its way inside the orbit of Mercury to study the Sun and the inner Solar System. For more information on this mission, see here and here.
Professor Gallagher said: “Solar Orbiter will enable us to study the Sun in greater detail than ever before and to better understand solar activity and its effects on Earth. Due to the huge temperatures close to the Sun, the spacecraft is protected by a heatshield, which has been coated by an innovative Irish company called EnBio.”
“ESA offers unique opportunities for Irish scientists and companies to push the limits of Irish research and innovation, and I’m delighted to now play a role in shaping the future of ESA’s space exploration programme.”