Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

Europe’s reach for the Moon is loud and proud.

That’s evident in new details following a European Space Agency (ESA) led meeting, an international symposium on “Moon 2020-2030 – A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration.”

The meeting was held December 15-16 at ESA/ESTEC in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

Upshot: The Moon is viewed as a springboard to push the human exploration of the Solar System — with Mars as the horizon goal.

Comeback to the Moon

“A new lunar adventure is rising over Europe’s space exploration horizon,” declares a preliminary summary of the program that brought together over 200 scientists, engineers, astronauts, and space leaders from all over the world.

“ESA is teaming up with international key players to make possible the return of humans to the Earth’s natural satellite by the end of the next decade,” the document provided to Inside Outer Space explains.

In addition, private sector and industry are acting as a catalyst towards “a common and open lunar exploration architecture.”

Intercontinental teams at the meeting joined efforts to design plans for a lunar a space habitat and a combination of robotic and human landings.

Calling it a “comeback to the Moon” ESA envisions a series of human missions to the lunar vicinity, starting in the early 2020s, coordinated and interacting with robotic systems on the ground.

The European Space Agency and Russia are working jointly on the Luna 27 Moon lander. Credit: ESA

The European Space Agency and Russia are working jointly on the Luna 27 Moon lander.
Credit: ESA

Robots will land first, paving the way for human explorers that will set foot on the Moon.

Russian lander

This “rebirth of lunar technology and science,” adds the document, includes Europe supplying a precision-landing and hazard-avoidance system called PILOT.

That system would be onboard the Russian lander, Luna 27, to get the craft down safely near the Moon’s south pole.

A drill to retrieve samples and a communication system are also in the making.

New Moon

A major driver of renewed interest in the Moon is the hunt for lunar resources – in the form frozen volatiles – including water ice – known to be lurking within permanent shadows at the lunar poles.

“Their distribution in different regions is not yet clear. Understanding where they are and its uses are key for a sustainable long-term strategy,” the meeting summary explains.

Inside look at one idea the European Space Agency is exploring to fabricate a lunar habitat. Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

Inside look at one idea the European Space Agency is exploring to fabricate a lunar habitat.
Credit: ESA/ Foster + Partners

A “new Moon” awaits the document concludes. “The extreme and unknown landscapes of the south pole, the highlands and the far side of the Moon lie along the road. Some secrets to how life began on Earth more than three billion years ago are well-preserved in these unexplored areas…”

NOTE: An eight-minute video gives an overview of the past, present, and future of Moon exploration, from the lunar cataclysm to the European Space Agency’s vision of what lunar exploration could be. Why is the Moon important for science? What resources does the Moon have? Is there water? Why should we go back and how will we do it?

To view the video, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe_nuRMH30c

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