The European Union and China are currently proposing a joint project to explore the “Dark Ages” of the Universe, aimed to launch 2021. The proposed mission is called Discovering the Sky at the Longest Wavelengths, or DSL, and it involves a series of satellites around the moon to essentially look back into time, before the first stars were even born. How that exactly will be achieved is beyond my elementary level of understanding the celestial bodies (and eons beyond the scope of this course). That being said, it still holds significance when examining EU-China relations.
This is not the first time that China and the EU have collaborated on a space mission – EU scientists helped fund China’s Double Star mission back in 2003 – but this will be the first to be jointly-run from its inception. The DSL project is actually one of 15 proposals by the European Space Agency and the Chinese Academy of Scientists. Others include an X-Ray imager to study Earth’s magnetosphere and an extreme-ultraviolet telescope to observe “hot objects” in the Milky Way.
One challenge faced by the DSL project is the strict export regulations of US-made parts for Chinese space missions. Because of this, Heino Falcke, an astrophysicist at Radboud University in the Netherlands and principal investigator for the DSL mission, said that “a Chinese–American mission would have been impossible.” Another limit to the mission is funding. Currently, the ESA plans to contribute more than €50 million, and China plans to match that investment. All 15 of the proposed projects will be reviewed and evaluated based on their feasibility and scientific merit. By the years’ end the projects will be narrowed down to a select few, which will then undergo another two-year phase of study. Ultimately, the green light will be given to the winner in 2017.
Source (article and picture): http://www.nature.com/news/china-and-eu-pore-over-proposals-for-joint-space-mission-1.17133