The three proposals chosen to proceed are Euclid, PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO), and Solar Orbiter.
Europe is to lead the most ambitious space mission ever undertaken to study the behaviour of the Sun.Known as Solar Orbiter, the probe will have to operate a mere 42 million km from our star - closer than any spacecraft to date.The mission proposal was formally adopted by European Space Agency (Esa) member states on Tuesday.Solar Orbiter is expected to launch in 2017 and will cost close to a billion euros. Nasa (the US space agency) will participate, providing two instruments for the probe and the rocket to send it on its way.The Esa delegates, who were meeting in Paris, also selected a mission to investigate two of the great mysteries of modern cosmology - dark matter and dark energy. The Euclid telescope will map the distribution of galaxies to try to get some fresh insight on these dark puzzles. Like Solar Orbiter, Euclid's cost will be close to a billion euros. However, the mission still needs to clear some legal hurdles and formal adoption is not expected until next year. A launch could occur in 2019.