Europe told to aim for a moon mission
Continent leads on just two of 100 moon missions planned up to 2030.
BRUSSELS — The European Space Agency should boost its human and robotic exploration quickly if it expects to keep pace with global rivals, a group of experts said Thursday, pushing capitals to zone in on a lunar mission.
The 12-strong independent advisory group includes ex-ministers, a comic book artist and leading consultancy CEOs, all led by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former Danish premier and NATO secretary-general.
“A bold mission would galvanize and revolutionize the whole European economy, well beyond the space sector, and inspire a generation of Europeans to build the future,” their report published Thursday says.
The group was given a brief last summer to define Europe’s strategic priorities for space, for which building out the capacity to launch astronauts and new uncrewed missions should be a critical priority, according to the report.
Of the more than 100 lunar missions that have been announced by agencies and companies for the years running to 2030, Europe is only leading two, according to the report. However, European countries are building hardware for NASA’s Artemis mission aimed at returning humans to the lunar surface this decade and the ESA is working to secure a seat for one of its astronauts on a future moon landing.
Despite ratcheting up space program spending to €16.9 billion at their recent summit in Paris, the ESA space ministers haven’t agreed to press ahead with a human spaceflight program, instead postponing that call until their next ministerial summit in 2025.
“The amount of investment needed to compete is within reach in the context of Europe’s economic output, especially given that the average GDP share of space investment in Europe is just one fifth of that of the U.S. and only one fifteenth of NASA’s budget for exploration,” the advisory report states.
The ESA said it will assess the recommendations ahead of its next mini-summit in Seville, set for November.