Space Project for Astrophysical and Cosmological Exploration ( SPACE ), an ESA stand-alone mission and a possible contribution to the Origins Space Telescope

Denis Burgarella, Andrew Bunker, Rychard Bouwens, Laurent Pagani, Jose Afonso, Hakim Atek, Marc Audard, Sylvie Cabrit, Karina Caputi, Laure Ciesla, Christopher Conselice, Asantha Cooray, Giovanni Cresci, Mirko Curti, José Miguel Rodríguez Espinosa, Marc Ferrari, Chiaki Kobayashi, Nadège Lagarde, Jesus Gallego Maestro, Roberto MaiolinoKatarzyna Malek, Filippo Mannucci, Julien Montillaud, Pascal Oesch, Chris Pearson, Agnieszka Pollo, Céline Reylé, David Rosario, Itsuki Sakon, Daniel Schaerer, Ray Sharples, David Sobral, Frédéric Zamkotsian

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We propose a new mission called Space Project for Astrophysical and Cosmological Exploration (SPACE) as part of the ESA long term planning Voyage 2050 programme. SPACE will study galaxy evolution at the earliest times, with the key goals of charting the formation of the heavy elements, measuring the evolution of the galaxy luminosity function, tracing the build-up of stellar mass in galaxies over cosmic time, and finding the first super-massive black holes (SMBHs) to form. The mission will exploit a unique region of the parameter space, between the narrow ultra-deep surveys with HST and JWST, and shallow wide-field surveys such as the Roman Space Telescope and EUCLID, and should yield by far the largest sample of any current or planned mission of very high redshift galaxies at z > 10 which are sufficiently bright for detailed follow-up spectroscopy. Crucially, we propose a wide-field spectroscopic near-IR + mid-IR capability which will greatly enhance our understanding of the first galaxies by detecting and identifying a statistical sample of the first galaxies and the first supermassive black holes, and to chart the metal enrichment history of galaxies in the early Universe – potentially finding signatures of the very first stars to form from metal-free primordial gas. The wide-field and wavelength range of SPACE will also provide us a unique opportunity to study star formation by performing a wide survey of the Milky Way in the near-IR + mid-IR. This science project can be enabled either by a stand-alone ESA-led M mission or by an instrument for an L mission (with ESA and/or NASA, JAXA and other international space agencies) with a wide-field (sub-)millimetre capability at λ > 500 μm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-660
Number of pages36
JournalExperimental Astronomy
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jul 2021


  • Original Article
  • Extragalactic astrophysics
  • Cosmology
  • First stars
  • First dust grains
  • First galaxies
  • Reionization


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