Rainer Kaltenbaek et al
EPJ Quantum Technology 3(5), doi: 10.1140/epjqt/s40507-016-0043-7 (2016)
Do the laws of quantum physics still hold for macroscopic objects – this is at the heart of Schrödinger’s cat paradox – or do gravitation or yet unknown effects set a limit for massive particles? What is the fundamental relation between quantum physics and gravity? Ground-based experiments addressing these questions may soon face limitations due to limited free-fall times and the quality of vacuum and microgravity. The proposed mission Macroscopic Quantum Resonators (MAQRO) may overcome these limitations and allow addressing such fundamental questions. MAQRO harnesses recent developments in quantum optomechanics, high-mass matter-wave interferometry as well as state-of-the-art space technology to push macroscopic quantum experiments towards their ultimate performance limits and to open new horizons for applying quantum technology in space. The main scientific goal is to probe the vastly unexplored ‘quantum-classical’ transition for increasingly massive objects, testing the predictions of quantum theory for objects in a size and mass regime unachievable in ground-based experiments. The hardware will largely be based on available space technology. Here, we present the MAQRO proposal submitted in response to the 4th Cosmic Vision call for a medium-sized mission (M4) in 2014 of the European Space Agency (ESA) with a possible launch in 2025, and we review the progress with respect to the original MAQRO proposal for the 3rd Cosmic Vision call for a medium-sized mission (M3) in 2010. In particular, the updated proposal overcomes several critical issues of the original proposal by relying on established experimental techniques from high-mass matter-wave interferometry and by introducing novel ideas for particle loading and manipulation. Moreover, the mission design was improved to better fulfill the stringent environmental requirements for macroscopic quantum experiments.