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Next stop Moon: ESA's exploration program Terrae Novae has launched a call for ideas - Finland has a broad opportunity for participation

Publication date 26.9.2023 16.41 | Published in English on 26.9.2023 at 17.25
News item

As part of its "Terrae Novae" exploration program, the European Space Agency has launched a call for ideas, which welcomes small mission proposals with a focus on lunar exploration. The call for ideas also provides a broad participation opportunity for Finnish research institutions, schools and companies. Mission proposals can be submitted during a period of twelve weeks.

What is the call for ideas about?

The European Space Agency's (ESA) exploration program Terrae Novae envisions to advance humanity's progress in the solar system through both crewed and robotized spaceflights. The program is also known as "Human Spaceflight, Microgravity and Exploration" and aims to expand its exploration activities to the Moon and Mars. Terrae Novae's strategy further includes a commitment to the societal utilization of space exploration.
During last year's ESA Ministerial Council, Finland has joined the Terrae Novae program and participates in the funding of its ExPeRT program. The ExPeRT program conducts technical-scientific research for the exploration program and is Terrae Novae's most extensive expertise program.
One of Terrae Novae's first milestones is lunar exploration - in this context, ESA recently initiated a call for ideas aimed at soliciting proposals for small missions exploring the Moon, scheduled for 2026-2028. The mission proposals are expected to contribute to ESA's exploration and science goals. Proposals should thus be related to at least one of the following priority areas (as directly adopted from ESA's webpage):

  • Understanding environments in deep space and at the Moon and the effects on technology and biology of exposure to these environments
  • Observing, predicting and mitigating changes that human activity will introduce to these environments
  • Finding, characterising and quantifying potential resources and understanding how local environments affect resource-extraction processes
  • Providing improved/higher resolution mapping of potential landing sites and locations of high interest for exploration

What is the designated budget and schedule for the small missions?

According to ESA's guidelines, the duration of small missions should not exceed 4.5 years, with a target duration of 4 years. The maximal budget for small missions is set at 50 million euros, including launch costs. ESA mentions the possibility of participation in shared launches and encourages applicants to consider other forms of cooperation, such as subcontractor agreements. One potential shared launch opportunity mentioned by ESA is the Ariane 6 launcher. More information on shared launch opportunities is available through the link.

Who can participate?

The call for ideas is part of ESA's innovation activities, which encourage everyone interested in space to participate in shaping ESA's activities through mission proposals. The ongoing call for ideas is particularly interesting for ESA member states which participate in the Terrae Novae program with a low or medium funding, such as Finland. The aim of the small missions is to increase the visibility of smaller actors and promote their impact opportunities in ESA's exploration program.
The ongoing call for ideas is particularly interesting for Finland: "We encourage both companies and research and educational institutions to participate in the call for ideas. This is a great opportunity for Finland to actively participate in the European Space Agency's exploration program", says Tuija Ypyä, Finnish delegate in Terrae Novae's program board. The application form for the call for ideas can be found through the link.

Which criteria will be used to evaluate the mission proposals?

In their evaluation, ESA pays special attention to how well the ideas advance the scientific and technical exploration goals of the Terrae Novae program. Amongst other criteria, mission proposals will be evaluated based on their scientific and economic innovation potential. ESA's detailed evaluation criteria can be found in the attachment "ESA - Small Missions Evaluation Criteria".

How does the application process work?

The call for ideas started on September 21 and will remain open for twelve weeks. ESA will hold an information session related to the call for ideas on October 5, 2023, from 14:00 to 16:30. The event is intended for all those interested in the call for ideas and will be held as a hybrid event. The registration to the information session occurs through the link.
At the end of September, ESA will provide answers to frequently asked questions on the OSIP website.

For more information, refer to ESA's website or contact the Finnish delegates of Terrae Novae's program board or ESA:

Pauli Stigell: pauli.stigell(@)
Tuija Ypyä: tuija.ypya(@)

Contact person for ESA's Terrae Novae strategy: explorationstrategy(@) 


©ESA: Space exploration yields a wide range of benefits to humans (on the left) and industry (on the right).


©ESA: Finland has joined Terrae Novae's ExPeRT program. Explore the program's content through the link.