The European Space Agency (ESA) has revealed plans that will see humans return to the moon before the end of the next decade.
The ESA’s plans will be undertaken through international partnership and collaboration, with other space agencies, the private sector and industry all working together towards a common goal.
That goal, at least initially, will be to search previously unexplored regions of the lunar surface for resources that will ensure a sustainable long-term strategy for the mission.
These plans will begin to come to fruition in the early 2020s, starting with the deployment of robots – to be controlled by astronauts from orbit – to the moon’s surface.
The robots will pave the way for the humans who will follow. Looking to the future, the partnership envisages “humans exploring the polar regions hand-in-hand with robots”, according to a press release issued by the ESA.
Exploration will take in “the extreme and unknown landscapes of the south pole, the highlands and the far side of the moon”.
The first landing involving the ESA will take place in 2020, supplying a precision-landing and hazard-avoidance system – PILOT – that will be instrumental in helping the Russian Luna 27 to land safely near the moon’s south pole. This will be Europe’s first access to the lunar surface.
The ESA is also working on a drill for retrieving samples and a communications system, and teams are developing lunar rovers, telerobotics and hybrid surface power systems to support early missions.
Crucially, though, these plans only mark a stepping stone in humankind’s exploration of space. According to the ESA press release, “the space community sees the moon as a springboard to continue human exploration of the solar system, with Mars as the next goal”.
One small leap for mankind…
Main image via Project Apollo Archive/Flickr