Why Horizon 2061 ?
- 2061 will be the centennial of the first human space flight and of President Kennedy’s Moon address to Congress
- 2061 will see the return of comet P/Halley in the inner solar system, reminding us of the international fleet of spacecraft which flew by it in 1986 !
Thus, 2061 is a symbolic date choice
which allows us to connect
robotic and manned exploration
in the same, single perspective !
"Planetary Exploration, Horizon 2061" is a long-term foresight exercise initially proposed by the Air and Space Academy and led by scientists, engineers and technology experts heavily involved in planetary sciences and in the space exploration of the Solar System. Its ultimate objective is to draw up to the 2061 horizon a long-term picture of the four pillars of planetary exploration:
- our major scientific questions on planetary systems;
- the different types of space missions that we need to fly to address these questions;
- the key technologies we need to master to make these missions flyable;
- the ground-based and space-based infrastructures needed in support to these missions.
The year 2061 symbolically represents our intention to encompass both robotic and human exploration in the same perspective. Its distant horizon, located well beyond the usual horizons of the planning exercises of space agencies, avoids any possible confusion with them and is intended to "free the imaginations" : imaginations of planetary scientists, who are invited to formulate what they think are the most relevant and important scientific questions independently of the a priori technical possibility of answering them ; imaginations of engineers and technology experts, who are invited to contribute to the exercise by looking for innovative technical solutions that will make it possible to fly the challenging space missions that will allow us to address these questions.
Four main objectives can be reached via this dialogue between scientists and engineers:
- Identify the technologies and infrastructures that will be needed to address our major scientific questions;
- provide a broad spectrum of national space missions of diverse sizes and complexity levels all contributing to address these questions;
- inspire coordination and collaborations between the different players of planetary exploration to better meet technology challenges and fly these missions;
- share with the public and public/private leaders the major scientific questions and technological challenges of planetary exploration.
The "Horizon 2061" exercise involves three successive steps designed to progressively build the three pillars. Its third step, the "Horizon 2061 synthesis workshop", will be hosted by IAS in Toulouse from September 11th to 13th, 2019. Its tentative conclusions will be presented for discussion at the joint EPSC-DPS meeting in Geneva (September 15th to 20th, 2019), and later for discussion and final approval at the COSPAR General Assembly (Sydney, August 15th to 23rd, 2020).