Saturday, March 14, 2009

ISECG to study three scenarios for international manned and unmanned lunar exploration

Representatives of ten international space agencies, operating together as the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) met in Yokohama March 10-12, and resolved to study three scenarios for coordinated robotic and human lunar exploration.

Chaired by JAXA, the meeting examined past progress of ISECG activities work "in the spirit of the Global Exploration Strategy (GES)."

The three lunar scenarios under study include short and extended duration missions and six months at the proposed Shackleton-Armstrong station at the lunar south pole. Scenarios cover development of infrastructure in space and on the lunar surface.

The ISECG conference discussed standardization of mission-critical system interfaces. Participants expect the scenarios discussed to ensure accomplishment of co-operative lunar exploration objectives while accomplishing individual national goals and expressed interest in building upon success to define an international architecture.

Meeting participants, claim reports, also made significant progress in other areas., including achieving GES objectives through cooperation, development of tools for sharing information on exploration capabilities and mission plans across agencies.

The ISECG issued its 2008 annual report describing world-wide exploration activities and a summary of the three scenarios.

The 3.0 Lunar Exploration Scenarios Workshop participants examined architectures for three major types of lunar exploration: (1.) establishment of a polar outpost (2.) sortie and (3.) extended-stay missions.

Each scenario requires provisions for crew and cargo transportation, ground communications from the Moon to Earth and support for extravehicular activity. Participants discussed key architecture elements.

3.1 Polar Lunar Outpost Scenario

A human lunar outpost at one of the poles can be described as the build up of capabilities and elements that enable the opportunity for continuous presence of astronauts on the Moon, with individual stays of up to 180 days. It is envisioned that a completed outpost can be accomplished with a relatively small number of missions. An outpost can begin satisfying science, public outreach and other objectives during its construction phase and upon completion. A major attribute of a lunar outpost is to allow the international community to develop the systems and capabilities with sufficient reliability to consider undertaking an international mission to Mars.

3.2 Lunar Sortie Mission Scenario

A lunar sortie mission can be described as one or more short duration flights to any location on the moon. These missions will satisfy a range of science objectives as well as public engagement and others. The main characteristic of this type of mission is that the crew lives out of the NASA Altair lander (or another human lunar lander) and can conduct up to seven days worth of scientific or other activities with the resources brought with them. Pre-deployment of resources is not necessarily precluded in this scenario.

3.3 Extended-Stay Mission Scenario

The participants recognized that significant enhancement of sortie mission scenarios can be achieved if elements in addition to a human lunar lander are in-place on the lunar surface. The participants characterized an extended-stay scenario by the pre-deployment of elements that may extend the sortie mission crew time, provide additional capability for crew habitation, science or demonstration of capabilities and technologies necessary for human missions to Mars.

Agencies involved in ISECG include ASI (Italy), BNSC (UK), CNES (France), CNSA (China), CSA (Canada), CSIRO (Australia), DLR (Germany), ESA (European Space Agency), JAXA (Japan), KARI (Republic of Korea), NASA (United States of America), NSAU (Ukraine), Roscosmos (Russia).

The Global Exploration Strategy, framework for Coordination (Framework document) was released on May 31, 2007 based upon the common interest of fourteen international space agencies to create a shared framework for space exploration to “enhance mutual understanding among partners and to identify areas for potential cooperation. To work collectively towards the further development and implementation of the global exploration strategy set out in the Framework document, the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) was established in Berlin, Germany on November 6, 2007.

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