PARIS On the sidelines of the 71st International Astronautical Congress, which is being held virtually, the European Space Agency (ESA) announces new contracts. They are granted to European industrialists to develop equipment intended for future Moon and Mars exploration missions. European participation in the American Artemis lunar program, which is due to return to the Moon in 2024, is notably materialized by the signing of a contract with Airbus for the construction of the third European service module of the American Orion space vehicle.
The European manufacturer is also awarded the development of a lunar lander project, EL3. Launched by Ariane 6, it will be responsible for transporting “up to 1.7 tonnes of freight to any location on the lunar surface”, according to Airbus. Three to five missions are planned by ESA. The lunar project also includes the construction of a space station, the “Lunar Gateway”. The United States plans to assemble the Gateway, which will orbit the Moon, from 2023. It will serve as a laboratory and staging post for astronauts on their way to the Moon. Shunned by Russia, the project is the subject of a partnership between Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Japanese.