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Post by jsmaje »

Does anyone know the current status of the 2000/1 European Space Agency (ESA) proposal for what was billed as "the next logical step beyond NASA's Stardust mission", initially called 'Galactic DUNE' and which is what I presume morphed into 'Cosmic DUNE'?

DUNE in these cases stands for 'DUst Near Earth', but googling the term brings up yet another (?2006/7) French/ESA DUNE proposal, meaning this time 'Dark UNiverse Explorer' with quite different scientific objectives.

All very confusing - can anyone, particularly from the team, enlighten?
I just hope Frank Herbert's getting royalties!

PS. This brief article references as many as 10 previous, current & proposed dust-collection missions.
Stardust@home Team
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Post by ZackG »

Hi jsmaje,

Long time no talk! So DUNE, and DUNE are completely different missions. The one you're talking about is the dust explorer. It's a really cool mission idea -- essentially a mission whose sole purpose is to study the dust in our system. Since you asked about it, I passed your question onto the folks in Heidelberg who are responsible for it, and basically it boils down to this: they proposed it; it was well received by ESA, but when you cut down 60 missions to 2, almost all of them get cut. So DUNE missed the final funding, and so obviously never launched. What they are working on now is including dust experiments on other missions (for example, these are the same people who put the dust telescope on Cassini and the CIDA instrument on Stardust). The idea being that if they include appropriate dust instruments on each of the other missions coming up (to Titan, or Jupiter, or whatever) then we get most of the goods except sample return.

Of course, in the future, no doubt, it will be proposed again. Budgets will change and we'll learn more about dust from other missions in the meantime. This will mean a better mission in the long run. For example, if DUNE had launched when it was first proposed, they wouldn't have been able to include all the cool instrumentation they just developed. Of course, that's always the case, so there's no sense in holding a mission off just because it *will* be better. But all the same, the decision up top at ESA was that the money was better spent chasing other science objectives for a while.

Personally, I hope we do launch a DUNE like mission in the near future, WITH sample return. Maybe Obama will allocate some more funds to NASA? [Send him and your congressman your opinion!]

Unfortunately Frank Herbert gets no royalties unless we find spice.
Zack Gainsforth
Space Sciences Laboratory
UC Berkeley
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