To follow up on the previous post, Russia also lost out on launching the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid spacecraft. Russia was supposed to launch it on a Soyuz-ST/Fregat rocket this December, but the country’s invasion of Ukraine led to a change in plans. SpaceX will now be launching the spacecraft next year.
Euclid was designed to study dark energy and dark matter, and make a 3D-map of the Universe. The project includes scientists from 14 countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Romania, the UK, and the US.
Euclid hopes to answer the following questions:
- How did the Universe originate? What were the conditions just after the Big Bang, and how did these give rise to the large-scale structures we see today?
- Why is the Universe expanding at an accelerating rate today?
- Is dark energy – a term often used to signify the mysterious force behind this cosmic acceleration – real? If so, is it a constant energy density intrinsic to and spread throughout space, or a new force of nature that slowly evolves as the Universe expands?
- What is the nature of dark matter, and how do neutrinos possibly contribute? Are there other as-yet-undetected massive particles in the Universe?
Once launched, Euclid will operate in the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2 (L2), which is where the James Webb Space Telescope is located as well as ESA’s Gaia spacecraft. Gaia, launched in December 2013, is currently mapping the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. It seems L2 is the place to be.
NASA is contributing infrared flight detectors for one of Euclid’s two science instruments. You can read more about the NASA contribution here.