The European Space Agency (ESA) has extended the operational life of eight missions, including its billion-star-mapping Gaia project and its Mars Express orbiter.
The Gaia spacecraft launched in December 2013 on a five-year mission to help create a detailed, 3D map of the Milky Way galaxy. This mission has received a 17-month extension, from July 2019 to December 2020, ESA officials announced Thursday (Dec. 7).
Mars Express, which arrived at the Red Planet in December 2003, got a two-year extension, as did the XMM-Newton space telescope and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint ESA-NASA mission. All three missions are now funded through at least the end of 2020.
The INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory, or INTEGRAL, received a one-year extension, through the end of 2019. This mission, a collaboration with Russia and NASA, launched in October 2002 to study high-energy space radiation.
In Thursday's announcement, ESA officials also confirmed that the agency will continue to contribute to the Japan-led Hinode sun-studying mission and the Hubble Space Telescope and Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph missions, both of which are led by NASA.
These extensions were approved by ESA's Science Program Committee during a meeting at the agency's headquarters in Paris on Nov. 21 and Nov. 22, officials said in the announcement.