Jonathan O’Callaghan in Nature:
The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved a new mission, called Comet Interceptor, which will launch without any specific target in mind — instead lying in wait for a visitor from the outer Solar System, or even from another star. Comet Interceptor could give researchers a first glimpse of pristine material from far beyond the Sun’s reaches, or even unveil the chemical make-up of alien worlds.
It will be the first probe to be parked in space, ready to fly to a target at short notice. “We are taking a significant risk,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA’s director of science. “But it’s a high reward.”
The mission, first put forward in 2019, will launch in 2028 along with a new telescope, Ariel, designed to study the atmospheres of exoplanets.