Space Agencies Around the World Aim to Explore the Moon by 2030

Wednesday, 30 December 2015 - 3:28PM
ESA
Wednesday, 30 December 2015 - 3:28PM
Space Agencies Around the World Aim to Explore the Moon by 2030
Europe is increasingly looking towards the Moon as the next major frontier in space exploration. At a recent international symposium on the future of lunar exploration called for "a new era of coordinated human and robotic missions enabled by broad international cooperation," culminating in the exploration of the Moon by 2030 as a stepping stone to a mission to Mars.

The symposium, called "Moon 2020-2030 – A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration," saw more than 200 scientists from 28 countries congregate to discuss the "international vision for lunar exploration." At the conference, it was reportedly taken for granted that the Moon should be the next stop in space exploration.

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"The decade 2020-2030 will see a renewed and sustained international effort to explore Earth's only natural satellite," ESA said in a statement. "The ESA exploration strategy considers the Moon as the next destination for humans venturing beyond Low Earth Orbit and an integral element of the roadmap towards humans missions to Mars."
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ESA plans to take advantage of blossoming partnerships with the ISS and Russia to enable lunar missions that are feasible and sustainable. The meeting elucidated many of the challenges associated with lunar missions, particularly regarding the development of necessary technology. This would include precision landing of probes, the return of samples from robots, and cryogenic sampling, caching, return and curation. Clive Neal, professor at the University of Notre Dame, said that before moving forward, we need to ensure that the Moon's natural resources would be as useful to further space exploration as scientists predict:

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"We keep talking about lunar resources, but we still need to demonstrate they can be used … [that] they are, in fact, reserves," Neal told Space.com. "So ground truth verification of deposit size, composition, form and homogeneity requires a coordinated prospecting program. A successful program would then clearly demonstrate that lunar resources can enable solar system exploration."
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And, of course, there was talk of establishing a manned lunar base. Although this is more theoretical at this point than the notion of lunar exploration in general, there was serious discussion of making humans an interplanetary species within the next two to three decades.

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"The ESA space-exploration strategy sets the moon as a priority destination for humans on the way to Mars, and the recent talk of a 'Moon Village' certainly has generated a lot of positive energy in Europe … [of] Europe playing a role in a global human exploration scenario," said NASA's Kathy Laurini, co-chair for the Exploration Roadmap Working Group for the Global Exploration Roadmap"The timing is right to get started on the capabilities which allow Europe to meet its exploration objectives and ensure Europe remains a strong partner as humans begin to explore the solar system."
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