Aschbacher and Nelson

ESA and NASA to cooperate on Earth science and lunar mission – SpaceNews

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA and the European Space Agency announced cooperative agreements on Earth science and a lunar mission on June 15, but agency leaders said they are still discussing cooperation more substantial on the Artemis program and the exploration of Mars.

Following an ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, NASA and ESA announced two new cooperation agreements. One, titled Framework Agreement for a Strategic Partnership in Earth System Science, outlines cooperation between the agencies on topics such as measurement continuity and data exchange. It builds on a joint statement of intent the agencies signed in July 2021.

The other agreement is a memorandum of understanding for Lunar Pathfinder, a commercial lunar communications spacecraft developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. with ESA as the main customer. It is expected to be ready for launch in late 2024 or early 2025. NASA will arrange for Lunar Pathfinder to launch through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program and will have access to spacecraft communications services. ESA and NASA will also collaborate on a navigation experiment using the spacecraft.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson signed the agreements with his ESA counterpart, Director General Josef Aschbacher, during the ESA Council meeting. The agencies said it was the first time a NASA administrator had attended a meeting of the board, ESA’s governing body.

At a press conference after the board meeting, Aschbacher and Nelson spoke more about continued cooperation between the agencies, such as the roles NASA could play in helping ESA respond to sanctions impacts resulting of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This includes the ExoMars rover mission, which was due to launch in September but is now postponed indefinitely after ESA severed cooperation with Roscosmos.

“Since February 24, we have to say that this partnership has intensified,” Aschbacher said of ESA’s relationship with NASA. “In space, the hand extended to us by NASA has been very welcome and much appreciated.”

He said, however, that ESA is still evaluating options for continuing ExoMars, including those that involve NASA assistance. Aschbacher and other ESA officials said they can ask NASA for new descent engines for the ExoMars lander, radioisotope heater units to keep the rover warm at night, and maybe a launch of the mission.

Aschbacher said NASA “has offered its help in conducting studies” for ExoMars, including a “very strong” letter of support from Nelson, but ESA has not yet decided how to proceed with the mission. He said there were no plans to combine ExoMars with NASA and ESA’s Mars Sample Return campaign to return samples of the planet cached by the Perseverance rover to Earth.

“There are still a lot of intense discussions going on,” he said. “It’s going in the right direction and I’m very confident that we will find a good partnership on ExoMars. Of course, the final decision on our side rests with our Member States.

“It’s being discussed and is being considered,” Nelson said of a NASA role on ExoMars. “That’s what we’re ready to say today. We really want to help ESA given the circumstances.

Another issue is the cooperation between ESA and NASA on the Artemis human lunar exploration initiative. ESA provides items such as the service module for the Orion spacecraft and, with the Japanese space agency JAXA, modules for the Lunar Gateway.

These contributions come with the hope that European astronauts will be assigned to Artemis missions, including the moon landing. No ESA astronauts have yet been announced for the Artemis missions.

Nelson said there was no specific timeline for the selection of ESA astronauts for Artemis missions, but an ESA astronaut would be included on an Artemis landing sometime after Artemis 3, currently scheduled for 2025. be worked out and negotiated,” he said. “We look forward to having an ESA astronaut with us on the moon in the future.”

NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, who also attended the meeting, suggested that an ESA astronaut could be assigned to Artemis 4, a mission currently scheduled not to land on the moon but to install European and Japanese components for the Lunar Gateway. “We absolutely intend for an ESA astronaut to support these missions at Gateway,” she said.

“It’s all in NASA’s hands,” Aschbacher said of sending an ESA astronaut to the lunar surface. “Certainly I hope it would be before the end of this decade, but it is my wish, which is well known to Bill.”

#ESA #NASA #cooperate #Earth #science #lunar #mission #SpaceNews

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *