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http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=39292SOHO Mission ExtensionEuropean Space Agency24 May 2006At the Science Programme Committee (SPC) meeting on 15-16 May, anextension of the SOHO mission was approved, pushing back the missionend date from April 2007 to December 2009. The new funding ensures thatSOHO plays a leading part in the fleet of solar spacecraft scheduled for launch over the next few years.Since its launch on 2 December 1995, The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has provided an unprecedented view of the Sun - and not just the side facing the Earth. Two teams have now developed techniques for using SOHO to study the conditions on the far side ofthe Sun.After a ten-year lifetime in space, SOHO continues to perform well,monitoring the activity on the Sun and also allowing scientists to seeinside the Sun by recording the seismic waves that ripple across itssurface.More than 2300 scientists have used data from the solar observatory toforward their research, publishing over 2400 scientific papers inpeer-reviewed journals. During the last two years, at least one SOHOpaper has been accepted for publication every working day.During the next two years, five new solar spacecraft will join SOHO inorbit. ESA is involved in two of these spacecraft. The JapanAerospace Exploration Agency (ISAS/JAXA) has built Solar B, which is scheduled for launch later this year. ESA will supply the use of a ground station at Svalbard, Norway in exchange for access to the data.Next year, ESA will launch Proba-2, a technology demonstration satellite that carries solar dedicated instruments. In particular, it will carrya complementary instrument to SOHO's EIT camera. Whilst EITconcentrates on the origin and early development of solar eruptions,Proba-2's camera will be able to track them into space.NASA plans to launch the STEREO pair of spacecraft later this year, andthe Solar Dynamics Orbiter in 2008. Far from making SOHO obsolete,these new solar satellites embrace it as a crucial member of the team.SOHO will provide a critical third point of view to assist the analysisof STEREO's observations. Also, SOHO's coronagraph will remain unique.The instrument is capable of blotting out the glare from the solardisk so that the tenuous outer atmosphere of the Sun becomes visiblefor study.This fleet of spacecraft will advance the International Living With aStar programme (ILWS), an international collaboration of scientistsdedicated to a long-term study of the Sun and its effects on Earth andthe other solar system planets.ILWS will possibly culminate in the launch of the advanced ESAsatellite, Solar Orbiter, around 2015. It is designed to orbit closeto the Sun, to gain a close-up look at the powerful processes at the heartof our Solar System.