European Large Logistic Lander enables a series of proposed ESA missions to the Moon that could be configured for different operations such as cargo delivery, returning samples from the Moon or prospecting resources found on the Moon.
Credit: ESA/ATG-Medialab

Key steps are underway in Europe to develop its first ever lunar lander.

Set to launch on an Ariane 64 rocket later this decade and return to the Moon on a regular basis, the large lander idea comes hot on the heels of the European Space Agency (ESA) signing an agreement to start building the third European Service Module for NASA’s Artemis program. This module will drive the spacecraft that ferries the next astronauts to the Moon.

Autonomous access

The European-led large lunar lander program provides autonomous access to the Moon, delivering 1.5 tons of material from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

The program, currently known as the European Large Logistics Lander or EL3 for short, is designed to incorporate different types of uncrewed missions, from supply runs for Artemis astronauts, to stand-alone robotic science and technology demonstration missions and even a lunar return mission to bring samples to laboratories on Earth.

Unloading cargo frp, European Large Logistic Lander.
Credit: ESA/ATG-Medialab

Configured for different operations

“This European lander will be able to access locations all over the Moon from the equator to the poles, from the near side to the farside, opening up tremendous opportunities to deliver science, research technology and infrastructure,” says James Carpenter, ESA’s Exploration science and research coordinator. “Developing this capability is a hugely important strategic step for Europe. It will allow us to take a lead in future robotic missions and support international activities at the Moon’s surface.”

The EL3 enables a series of proposed ESA missions to the Moon that could be configured for different operations such as cargo delivery, returning samples from the Moon or prospecting resources found on the Moon.

Credit: NASA/GSFC

Lunar south pole

An EL3 sample return package, for example, could be sent to a previously unexplored region near the lunar South Pole – an interesting area for researchers.

Other goals of the missions include testing new hardware, demonstrating technology and gaining experience in operations while strengthening international partnerships in exploration. Its development will provide an Ariane 64-based lunar cargo lander available for potential future commercialization by European industry, according to an ESA statement.

“The lunar lander program is not a one-shot mission,” ESA says, “but promises regular launches starting in the later part of this decade and continuing into the 2030s.”

This 8-minute film gives an overview of the past, present, and future of Moon Exploration, from the Lunar cataclysm to ESA’s vision of what Lunar exploration could be.

https://youtu.be/Xe_nuRMH30c

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