ESA SPACE EXPLORATION PROGRAMME

Space is a key asset for Europe, providing indispensable technologies and services, and increases our understanding of our planet and the Universe. Space exploration is an open-ended process which started 50 years ago and since has evolved in terms of destinations, duration, objectives and partnerships. More than half a century of space exploration has not only satisfied human curiosity and built up international cooperation, but also improved life on Earth. Space Exploration enables access to unknown terrains with robots and humans, thereby opening new frontiers. It also addresses fundamental questions related to the history, existence and future of life and fosters international partnerships and stimulates knowledge gain, innovation and inspiration. ESA’s vision positions space exploration as a global endeavour, which benefits society at large. The European strategy strongly relies on the ambitions, capabilities and commitments of ESA Member States, as well as on opportunities offered by global cooperation with international partners.

The future of space exploration has been subject to intense debate throughout the last years, within Europe and internationally at political level, as well as among space agencies and other stakeholders. This debate demonstrated broad consensus on the potential of space exploration to produce societal, intellectual and economic progress for the benefit of our citizens. Space exploration is a political and global endeavour. The European Space Agency is pursuing an independent strategic planning process for consolidating a destination-driven space exploration strategy to low Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars. International cooperation is a key pillar of ESA’s strategy as it is considered both an enabler for realising the strategic interest of ESA and a benefit, opening new perspectives for addressing future challenges. International cooperation does not prevent competition, an essential factor for fostering innovation and for the future of space exploration.

ESA has already developed some critical capabilities, identified its future focus areas for space exploration and invested in selected research and development areas with a view to secure attractive roles in the global space exploration endeavour. From all these discussions, three common mission goals for the next decades are emerging. [Source: “Exploring Together – ESA Space Exploration Strategy”, © 2015 ESA]

THREE DESTINATIONS

ESAs strategic planning process for consolidating a destination-driven space exploration strategy focuses on three priority destinations: low Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars. Each of those three destinations offers unique opportunities for gaining knowledge.

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LOW EARTH ORBIT

This is currently the only destination within reach by humans. The International Space Station has been permanently inhabited since 2000.

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MOON

A total of 12 US astronauts visited the lunar surface from 1968 to 1972 during the Apollo programme.

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MARS

Missions to Mars are the ultimate challenge, including the return of samples and the close cooperation between robots and humans on the surface of the Red Planet.

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Exploring Together – ESA Space Exploration Strategy

Whenever you start a voyage, your final destination shapes your path. It conditions your planning, the time and resources invested in it. And it gives you the motivation to keep going, to stay focused. At this promising stage of the space exploration endeavour, ESA invites stakeholders to engage with the implementation of its Space Exploration Strategy. Please join the voyage and help us turn our ambitions into reality.

 

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