(ORDO NEWS) — According to the ambitious plans of the European Space Agency (ESA), in 2030 a European astronaut will set foot on the surface of the Moon , and in 2040 – Mars.
In 2016, ESA launched the European Exploration Envelope Program (E3P) with the aim of compiling a roadmap for the European manned space program, which was put on hold after the Hermes project was canceled in the 90s.
Terrae Novae – a fresh look into the future
In 2021, the E3P project was named Terrae Novae – “New Worlds” in Latin – and just a few days ago, the Terrae Novae 2030+ document was published , which is the same road map.
Terrae Novae does not contain much technical detail, but it does clarify the goals of the ESA space program.
And while robotic exploration of the solar system remains a priority, the roadmap specifies that missions of this nature will be the forerunners of manned flights.
ESA’s manned space program targets are low Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars. On the one hand, it is strange that nearby asteroids are not considered as possible targets for manned missions, and on the other hand, the dreams of the Red Planet certainly stand out.
For the first time, the ESA has made clear its intention to send a European citizen to the surface of Mars. The mention of the Moon is not a surprise, since ESA is already working with NASA on the Artemis lunar program, delivering service modules for the Orion spacecraft and elements of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (English Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway abbreviated as LOP-G, also known as the Gateway ).
ESA hopes this collaboration will provide space for European astronauts to fly after the Artemis 3 mission (the first moon landing mission since 1972 (NASA Apollo 17), scheduled for 2025). In addition, ESA wants to develop a large logistics lander.
European Large Logistics Lander abbreviated as EL3) called “Argonaut” to deliver supplies and equipment to the south polar satellite base, which NASA wants to build around 2031.
The Terrae Novae program is certainly inspiring and exciting, but it suffers from the same systemic problem as previous programs, which is ESA’s heavy dependence on NASA.
Chronic ESA problems
ESA lacks its own manned spacecraft – certainly an essential element of any manned space program – and a super-heavy rocket capable of launching the huge amount of payload needed for manned missions to the Moon or Mars.
In other words, ESA will continue to rely on NASA’s SLS launch vehicle – and likely the SpaceX Starship system in the making – to send humans to the Moon and, in the future, Mars. Russia was excluded from the long-term cooperation equation.
Over the next decade, ESA will deliver service modules to the Artemis program, building one a year and sending them in turn to the lunar surface and Gateway station.
Some of these missions will include European astronauts who will visit not only the orbit of the Moon, but also its surface.
In parallel, ESA also hopes to build and send four EL3 cargo modules to the satellite, as well as develop a reusable transport system between the Earth and the Moon (Moon Cycler or Cis-Lunar Transfer Vehicle).
For Mars, the idea is to first build a robust network of communications and navigation satellites, deliver a meteorological orbiter and a network of small landers.
A probe capable of burrowing into Martian ice will then be sent to demonstrate technologies for turning ice into drinking water or extracting oxygen and hydrogen from it.
In addition, the report talks about an MLE (Mars Life Explorer) mission that NASA and ESA could collaborate on after the Mars Sample Return Mission.
The Terrae Novae program is an initiative that highlights the importance of the human space program for ESA and aims to inspire the next generations of Europeans. The question, of course, is whether the agency’s budget will be enough to make these big dreams come true.
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