Greece set for liftoff to space

Greek scientists are joining other European experts in preparing the European Space Agency’s (ESA) planned launch in 2015 of a satellite expected to probe the innermost regions of the solar system, it was revealed yesterday. A Solar Orbiter will be reach one-fifth of the distance between the Earth to the sun in order to gather groundbreaking data, Greece’s ESA representative Kanaris Tsiganos told Kathimerini at an Athens hotel where European scientists were discussing the intended journey. «We will reach a point that no one has reached before where sunlight is 25 times stronger than we feel it on Earth,» said Tsiganos, who is a professor of astrophysics at Athens University. The Solar Orbiter mission has attracted the interest, and possibly the funding, of US space agency NASA, which is planning to put four satellites into orbit around the sun in 2015. «NASA is interested in participating in the Solar Orbiter mission,» NASA adviser and chief of the US Navy’s space research unit Spyros Antiochos said. «The cost of the mission exceeds 500 million euros so we are examining the possibility of a US-European cooperation,» he said. According to ESA experts, the unmanned mission will make use of the latest technology, including intensive heat-proofing for all instruments and equipment such as telescopes that are 15 times more powerful than those used to date. These instruments will help scientists investigate the dynamics of solar wind, the sun’s magnetic field and the way in which all this affects the Earth and the satellites surrounding it, Antiochos said. «Our planet is located within the sun’s atmosphere and every second, the sun launches one billion tons of matter into this atmosphere,» Antiochos said. ESA members have already started creating sections of the satellite with Italy working on the telescope, Tsiganos said. «We are participating in the working groups to find out how we can contribute. Greece is new to the European space club and is searching to finds its role within it,» he said. So far Greece has provided 8 million euros in funding to the ESA as compared to 10 million euros from Belgium and more from other members, Antiochos said.