Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The Dark Side of the Moon: German Lunarlander Shelved by European Ministers
The news emanating from Europe was disappointing inasmuch as European Space Agency (ESA) will not be pursuing the lunar lander. Governments around the globe (save China) appear to be ceding the Moon to the commercial sector in this decade.
According to German space officials, European robotic lunar lander has been shelved during a budget-setting meeting of senior government ministers which began Tuesday, November 20, 2012, opting instead to fund a new launcher development, Earth observation, space station operations, and the joint ExoMars mission with Russia, reported SpaceflightNow.
Moonlander had been on shaky ground from the start. With few other nations willing to take part in the initial studies, noted SpaceNews.
As previously noted, the first proposed ESA mission was going to Shackleton crater and was designed to address human exploration issues articulated by NASA. Some architects within NASA were hoping that lander (and perhaps others like it) would be ESA’s contribution to an integrated robotic and human exploration program.
"Alas, Europe is setting that mission aside for other priorities," notes a disappointed David A. Kring, Ph.D. from the Center for Lunar Science & Exploration. Moonlander project managers had estimated that the total cost of the mission, including the lander’s launch and operations, would be 500 million euros or about 650 million USD.