Four missions were shortlisted in late February 2011 for the missions M3 of the ESA's Cosmic Vision programme.
- EChO (Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory): spectroscopic study of the extrasolar planets' atmospheres;
- Loft (Large Observatory For X-ray Timing): study of the high energy fast phenomena, in particular near black holes and neutron stars;
- MarcoPolo-R: mission to bring samples back from a asteroid near from Earth;
- STE-QUEST (Space-Time Explorer and Quantum Equivalence Principle Space Test): study the gravity effect on matter and time and test the principle of equivalence at the atomic level.
The feasibility studies will last between 18 and 24 months. Then, only one mission will be selected with targeted launch of around 2022-2023.