Aschbacher and Nelson

ESA and NASA team up on Earth sciences and moon mission – SpaceNews

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA and the European Space Agency have announced agreements to collaborate on Earth sciences and a moon mission on June 15, but agency leaders said they are still discussing a more substantial partnership on the Artemis program and the exploration of Mars.

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

The other agreement is a memorandum of understanding relating to Lunar Pathfinder, a commercial lunar communications spacecraft being developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. with ESA as anchor customer. It is planned to be ready for launch in late 2024 or early 2025. NASA will control the launch of Lunar Pathfinder through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program and gain access to the spacecraft’s 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, at the ESA Council meeting. The agencies said it was the first time a NASA administrator attended a meeting of the board, the governing body of ESA.

At a media briefing after the council meeting, Aschbacher and Nelson discussed further cooperation between the agencies, such as the role NASA could play in helping ESA respond to the impact of sanctions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That includes the ExoMars rover mission, which was due to launch in September but has now been postponed indefinitely after ESA cut its partnership with Roscosmos.

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

However, he said ESA is still evaluating options to continue ExoMars, including those involving NASA assistance. Aschbacher and other ESA officials have said: they could seek from NASA new descent engines for the ExoMars lander, radioisotope heating units to keep the rover warm at night, and perhaps a mission launch

Aschbacher said NASA provided “assistance to conduct studies” for ExoMars, including a “very strong” letter of support from Nelson, but that ESA had yet to decide how to proceed with the mission. He said there are no plans to combine ExoMars with NASA and ESA’s Mars Sample Return campaign to return samples from the planet to Earth stored in the Perseverance rover’s cache.

“There are still a lot of intense discussions going on,” he said. “Things are going in the right direction and I am confident that we will find a good partnership at ExoMars. Of course, the final decision rests with our member states.”

“That’s being discussed and considered,” Nelson said of a NASA role on ExoMars. ‘That’s what we want to say today. Given the circumstances, we really want to help ESA.”

Another problem is the collaboration between ESA and NASA on the Artemis initiative of human lunar exploration. ESA is contributing elements such as the service module for the Orion spacecraft and, with the Japanese space agency JAXA, modules for the Moon Gateway.

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

Nelson said there is no set timetable for selecting ESA astronauts for Artemis missions, but an ESA astronaut will be included on an Artemis landing some time after Artemis 3, currently scheduled for 2025. be worked out and negotiated,” he said. “We look forward to having an ESA astronaut on the moon with us 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 not planned to land on the moon, but to deliver European and Japanese components for the moon. Gateway to install. “It is absolutely our intention for an ESA astronaut to support those missions to Gateway,” she said.

“This is all in the hands of NASA,” Aschbacher said of getting an ESA astronaut to the lunar surface. “Of course I would hope it would be before the end of this decade, but this is my wish, which Bill is well known for.”

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