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ESA and NASA deepen collaboration on Moon and Mars exploration

on 16 June 2022

The next steps in exploring and using space for the benefit of European citizens were this week on the agenda at ESA’s Council meeting in ESA/ESTEC, the Netherlands on 14 and 15 June. The possibility of the first-ever European astronaut to set foot on the Moon, a telecommunication satellite for lunar exploration and a mission to return precious rock samples from Mars were all discussed.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined the meeting with ESA Member States in a decisive gesture to advocate for Europe’s strong role in multiple projects which reinforce the enduring partnership between the two leading space agencies.

“From understanding our changing planet to exploring Mars, I hugely value the cooperation we have with NASA” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.  “By contributing key European hardware and services to exciting programmes such as Artemis and Mars Sample Return, we are building Europe’s autonomy while also being a reliable partner.”

“Europe plays an essential part in returning humans to the Moon. It is an exhilarating feeling to know that our modules are set for not just one, but several lunar trips before this decade is out,” adds Josef Aschbacher.

ESA’s long-term provision of service modules for the Orion spacecraft ensures that NASA’s Artemis programme can send astronauts to the Moon and beyond. Already, ESA provides service modules as part of its contribution for the International Space Station programme, and there is now an agreement in place to fly three ESA astronauts aboard Orion to the deep space outpost that the international partners are now building and known as the Gateway.

But this strategic partnership is now setting the path for the first-ever European astronaut to land on the Moon.

A ride to the surface of the Moon for a European could be the benefit of fresh ESA contributions to Artemis.  European contributions could include delivery of cargo and infrastructure to the Moon by the European Large Logistic Lander (EL3) to be named Argonaut, communication and navigation services through the proposed Moonlight programme as well as science and technology for surface exploration. These projects among others will be on the table for discussion at the ESA Council of Ministers in Paris later this year.

More details here

Image credit: NASA