Launches: NASA and ESA look to the moon
In a signing ceremony that got little attention at the time, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a joint statement formalizing the two agencies’ intention to work together closely as humanity moves forward toward a permanent human presence on the moon. ESA Director General, Josef Aschbacher, and NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson, signed the agreement on September 19, 2022, at the 2022 International Astronautical Congress in Paris, France.
Although ESA and NASA signed the agreement in September, it didn’t receive much public recognition until Aschbacher posted the following tweet.
Last night I signed a Joint Statement on Lunar cooperation activities with NASA administrator @SenBillNelson, a valuable contribution to the preparations of #CM22 as we get closer to ensuring our cooperation on and around the Moon. pic.twitter.com/7aUWsv5q8k
— Josef Aschbacher (@AschbacherJosef) September 20, 2022
An ongoing partnership
The joint statement noted NASA and ESA cooperation on human space flight activities such as the International Space Station, Gateway, and the ESA-provided European Service Module for the Orion capsule, and highlighted ongoing discussions on future collaboration on the moon.
All of these projects are components of the Artemis moon mission.
The Orion capsule is the crew capsule, to be rocketed away from Earth via NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), and set on a course to the moon.
The European Service Module will serve as a primary power and propulsion component for the Orion crew capsule, until it’s discarded at the end of each mission.
Gateway will be a small, human-tended space station that’ll orbit the moon, providing support capabilities during the Artemis campaign.
ESA’s part of the job
ESA is currently constructing the ESPRIT (European System Providing Refueling Infrastructure and Telecommunication), its portion of the Lunar Gateway station that will eventually act as a way station between Earth and the moon.
ESPRIT will have two components: the HALO-Lunar Communications System will provide communications on and around the moon, and the European Refueling Module will provide cargo and fuel storage at the Gateway.
ESA will also put the first European on the moon, part of its participation in the Artemis 3 moon landing, currently scheduled for 2025.
Bottom line: NASA and ESA reaffirmed their intent to cooperate on lunar missions during the 2022 International Astronautical Congress held in September in Paris, France.