Last December, over 200 experts from 25 countries representing communities of academia, space agencies, industry and private sector gathered at ESA’s technology centre in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, to discuss the future of lunar exploration in the next decade.
A number of sessions were organized to promote discussion of lunar exploration, including an initial phase of robotic precursor missions followed by the return of human explorers to the surface of the Moon.
The participants from the diverse community base provided valuable recommendations to ESA that will be helpful for advancing its lunar exploration planning in the near and mid-term:
- Maximise the use of lunar orbit infrastructure already planned by space agencies
- Work with the private sector to establish areas where commercial services can improve efficiency
- Invest in near-term surface missions with an emphasis on scientific research, resource prospecting and relevant technology demonstrations
- Prioritise research into enabling technologies such as navigation sensors, power and thermal systems, teleoperations and shared autonomy
There was broad international consensus regarding the high strategic value and benefit of investment in cis-lunar infrastructure as an intermediate step towards sustainable human lunar surface access and missions to more distant destinations.
Importance was also given to analysing, documenting and communicating the broader societal benefits of human lunar exploration.
Participants also agreed on a core message:
Together, grow towards sustainable and affordable human lunar exploration for the benefit of science, economy, and society by implementing missions of increasing capability and without artificial barriers between exploration communities. The decade 2020-2030 lays the foundation for human exploration of the Moon. The participants support space agencies making significant progress towards implementing a significant international programme of lunar exploration.
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