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Fri, Jul 11, 2008

NASA, ESA Complete Comparative Exploration Architecture Study

Space Agencies Look At Possible Joint Operations On Moon

Over the last six months, representatives from NASA and the European Space Agency, or ESA, have been engaged in a detailed assessment of potential programs and technologies that when conducted cooperatively could one day support a human outpost on the moon.

Findings from the study included a significant mutual interest in the potential development of lunar cargo landing systems, communication and navigation systems, lunar orbital infrastructures, and lunar surface systems, such as habitats or mobility systems. The study also identified the significant value gained from redundant human crew transportation capability.

"We are very pleased to have worked with ESA on this comparative architecture assessment," said Geoff Yoder, director of NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Integration Office in Washington. "Since the announcement of the US Space Exploration Policy, NASA has sought and welcomed input from its international partners on NASA's lunar architecture plans in areas of mutual interest. As future exploration plans mature around the world, it is becoming increasingly important that we seek compatibilities between NASA's plans and those of its potential future partners. The work we did with ESA will serve as a model for discussions with other potential partners as we begin to implement this very exciting mission."

NASA and ESA experts briefed the results of their Comparative Architecture Assessment this week during an ESA sponsored integrated architecture review held at ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

"ESA is preparing itself for a round of decisions that will mark Europe's role in human spaceflight and exploration for the decades to come," said Bruno Gardini, manager of ESA's Exploration Program. "After the satisfaction of the successful deployment of the Columbus module and Automated Transfer Vehicle, we are looking forward to enhancing our role in the partnership for a sustained and robust space exploration program, where human spaceflight is the cornerstone. The moon is surely an important case study and useful test bed to thoroughly prepare for more distant destinations. This architecture work is very useful to prioritize our proposals to European decision-makers and define a European strategy."

The study assessed the degree to which NASA and ESA's lunar exploration architecture concepts could complement, augment, or enhance the exploration plans of one another. Technical teams from each agency engaged in a series of joint, qualitative assessments of the potential scientific and exploration benefits from collaboration between the ESA capabilities under study and NASA's space transportation systems and lunar surface exploration architecture concepts.

NASA is studying lunar surface exploration architecture concepts to support humans returning to the moon before 2020. Consistent with the principles of the Global Exploration Strategy -- a framework for coordinating space exploration plans of 14 participating agencies from around the world -- NASA is pursuing its lunar exploration plans under an "open architecture" approach. This approach will maximize opportunities for international and commercial participation. NASA's architecture concept calls for the transportation of astronauts and hardware to the moon using the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles, the Orion crew exploration vehicle, and the Altair lunar lander, which are all currently under development by NASA.

ESA is studying scenarios and associated architectures for human space exploration, building upon its extensive human space flight experience, including its contributions to the International Space Station program. While ESA's studies are currently at a conceptual stage, some of the scenarios assessed as part of this joint study included potential future use of an automated, Ariane 5-based lunar cargo landing system; European developed communication and navigation systems; and ESA-developed human-rated systems, such as a crew transportation system and orbital outposts.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/exploration, www.esa.int

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