|Proposed European lunar lander|
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Will Europe be involved in US Moon Effort?
The recent popular media reports that NASA may soon formerly announce missions to a gravitational sweet spot behind the Moon to develop the first deep space outpost raise questions as to whether the European Space Agency (ESA) and others around the world will be asked to participate.
The mission would not be to the surface but to a gravitational sweet spot behind the Moon that offers free parking for spacecraft and raises the possibility of the outpost being a stagging point for lunar robotic and human surface operations, the first human mission to an asteroid, and perhaps the first stagging point for human missions to the moons of Mars and/or the surface of the Red Planet.
Known as a Lagrangian point, such balance points occur naturally because of the interplay of Earth's gravitational field with the Moon's. To send a mission there would allow NASA to test its Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle in deep space before committing it to longer missions, such as Obama's plan to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, The Guardian reports.
Journalist Stuart Clark notes that posisble European participation in a return to the moon would most likely center around a decision to proceed with a European lunar lander. Proposed for launch in 2018, it would study conditions at the Moon's south pole, collecting data to prepare for eventual manned landings. European ministers will begin to set the direction in meetings November 21, 2012.