The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) pathfinder mission has come to an end via the final commanding of the spacecraft. The 16 month mission, has provided the tools for a future mission that may take place – probably not until the 2030s – having successfully demonstrated the technology required to operate a space observatory tasked with studying gravitational waves.
Conceived as a precursor mission to primary Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) – which was to be a joint mission between ESA and NASA, LISA Pathfinder was designed to prove a concept which scientists believe will allow gravitational waves – a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity but which has never been proven – to be observed by studying differences between perturbations in the orbit of a constellation of satellites.
NASA pulled out of the LISA mission due to funding challenges, placing the future mission in doubt. However, just last month, the primary mission received its clearance goal for the 2030s, and was approved as one of the main research missions of ESA. NASA continues to show some interest in being a minor partner.
LISA Pathfinder’s main experiment, the LISA Technology Package (LTP), contained two test ...