|Title||ESA's cosmic vision|
The current plans and future potential of the ESA space science programme will be described. Moreover, some of the social/political context will be explained. From fundamental aspects of the origin of our Universe to searching for why life occurred where it did, the science to cover is broad. However, the programme must try to square several circles. Not only has it to satisfy the aspirations of a diverse community across Europe but also it should pursue the best science possible on a limited budget. It should also challenge industry on the technology front whilst at the same time ensuring a balanced industrial return for Member States. Lastly, it must always be able to make the case that fundamental science will lead to social benefit.