Monday, March 2, 2009

ESA input sought on multi-purpose lunar lander

An autonomous lunar lander, which is capable of delivering payload to the lunar surface in support of a human presence on the Moon, as well as payloads directly supporting European exploration objectives. - ESA

The European Space Agency is seeking input from industry, engineering and science interests on the design of what may be the backbone of the middle range of NASA's lunar precursor robotics mission, the International Lunar Network.

Last July, NASA and ESA completed a comparative architecture study on the next generation of unmanned lunar landers. This latest requests builds on such "comparative architecture analysis studies recently conducted in cooperation with NASA," according the the ESA's announcement.

"They helped to define the multiple and varied building blocks needed to return humans to the Moon, and to support a sustained presence there."

At Ministerial Level, "funding was approved for ESA to work towards launching a lunar lander in the 2017–20 timeframe within the European Transportation and Human Exploration Preparatory Activities program and the Global Exploration Strategy (GES)."
This mission builds on lunar exploration comparative architecture analysis studies recently conducted in cooperation with NASA. They helped to define the multiple and varied building blocks needed to return humans to the Moon, and to support a sustained presence there.

Key elements identified in these studies include:
  • fixed and mobile habitation units with integrated life support systems, to give human explorers a safe living environment
  • robotic systems that can act autonomously to prepare for human exploration, and can later work alongside crews during surface operations
  • power generation and storage systems of varying scales to support the energy needs of surface activities, and potentially a human lunar base
  • in situ resource utilization systems that can produce consumables needed by a human crew, such as oxygen and water, from material available on the Moon’s surface
  • delivery of cargo and logistics to the lunar surface to support human excursions, mobile surface missions and possibly base operations
The latter was identified by both ESA and NASA as a possible European contribution to a future international programme of lunar exploration and would take the form of a lunar Cargo Lander.

This Cargo Lander would deliver items such as food, water, oxygen, fuel and equipment to the Moon, in order to enable astronauts to stay for extended periods. It could also be useful during the construction of a permanent human lunar base.
In addition, ESA is also studying a precursor Lunar Lander mission, for which different mission options are under consideration, to develop and demonstrate the required capabilities. The primary goal is the advancement of European human exploration capabilities for contribution to the international lunar exploration effort. The mission also provides an opportunity to characterize the lunar environment and the landing site, as well as a platform for scientific research.

Request for Information

In order to ensure a robust mission definition and to draw on the wealth of relevant experience available, ESA invites the science, technology and industrial community (including non-space industries) to provide inputs to the project through a Request for Information (RFI).
In particular, ESA is interested in learning about technologies, instruments, techniques and experiments that could be accommodated on the Lunar Lander and are in keeping with the mission objectives:
  1. To advance European technological capabilities for future human exploration of the Moon.
  2. To characterise the lunar environment and potential in situ resources to identify their implications for future human exploration.
  3. To progress in the definition of tools, interfaces and operational techniques for surface exploration.
  4. To increase our understanding of the formation, history and evolution of the Moon.
These inputs will be used in the early design phases of the mission, in advance of a formal Announcement of Opportunity.

The RFI began on the Monday 2 March 2009 and remains open for six weeks until 10:00 CEST (08:00 UT) on Tuesday 14 April. Further information on the RFI, including a concept submission template and the review and selection process, can be found in the links on the right side of the page. Responses to the RFI should be sent to:

For more information contact:

James Carpenter
Tel: +31 71 565 3540

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