ESA is to fly a 355-kg externally mounted payload on the re-entry capsule of the Russian Foton spacecraft in a mission scheduled for the second half of 2002. The aim is to offer scientists an opportunity to increase understanding of the effects of the solar atmosphere and re-entry on biological materials. Research will mainly be in the field of exobiology, but experiments in radiation biology/radiation dosimetry, meteoritics/geochemistry and material exposure to space environment will also be considered.
Biopan, a multi-user exposure facility for space biology and Stone, a set of sample holders for artificial meteorites will be used to carry out experiments. Biopan is equipped with thermometers, UV sensors, a radiometer, a pressure sensor and an active radiation dosimeter and has already been used in missions in 1994, 1997 and 1999 to carry out research on exposure to solar irradiation, space radiation, space vacuum and microgravity.
Stone consists of a three-piece set of annular sample holders mounted in the heat shield of the Foton re-entry capsule. ESA used Stone in 1999 for the first artificial meteorite experiment in space. Samples are directly exposed to temperature, pressure, velocity and surface boundary interactions during re-entry.
This Announcement of Opportunity for Research Proposals in Exobiology is coordinated by ESA’s Science Directorate and the Manned Space Flight and Microgravity Directorate. If you have research proposals or would like further information please contact the sites given on the right.