from the to-boldly-go-where-only-a-few-men-have-gone-before dept.
It's official: when astronauts land on the Moon in 2024 they will get there with help from the European Service Module. The European Space Agency signed a contract with Airbus to build the third European Service Module for NASA's Orion spacecraft that will ferry the next astronauts to land on the Moon.
NASA's Artemis program is returning humans to the Moon with ESA's European Service Module supplying everything needed to keep the astronauts alive on their trip in the crew module – water, air, propulsion, electricity, a comfortable temperature as well as acting as the chassis of the spacecraft.
The third Artemis mission will fly astronauts to Earth's natural satellite in 2024 – the first to land on the Moon since Apollo 17 following a hiatus of more than 50 years.
ESA's director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker said: "By entering into this agreement, we are again demonstrating that Europe is a strong and reliable partner in Artemis. The European Service Module represents a crucial contribution to this, allowing scientific research, development of key technologies, and international cooperation – inspiring missions that expand humankind's presence beyond Low Earth Orbit."
[...] The first European Service Module is being handed over to NASA at their Kennedy Space Center for an uncrewed launch next year, and the second is in production at the Airbus integration hall in Bremen, Germany.
First, the Artemis Accords go beyond simply rejecting the unpopular 1979 Moon Agreement, which declared lunar resources to be the "common heritage of mankind" and committed parties to establish an international regime to oversee space mining. Only 18 countries have signed the treaty.
In its place, the accords envisage a US-centric framework of bilateral agreements in which "partner nations" agree to follow US-drafted rules.
Second, the accords introduce the concept of "safety zones" around lunar operations.
Although territorial claims in space are prohibited under international law, these safety zones would seek to protect commercial and scientific sites from inadvertent collisions and other forms of "harmful interference". What kinds of conduct could count as harmful interference remains to be determined.
(2020-06-02) Third European Service Module for Artemis Mission to Land Astronauts on the Moon
(2020-05-16) NASA Wants Partner Nations to Agree to "Artemis Accords" for Lunar Exploration
(2020-03-12) CoronaVirus (SARS-CoV-2) Roundup 2020-03-12
(2018-07-22) Who Owns The Moon? A Space Lawyer Answers
(2018-03-07) China to Recruit Civilian Astronauts, Partner With Russia on Upcoming Missions
(2018-01-09) Russia Assembles Engineering Group for Lunar Activities and the Deep Space Gateway
(2017-10-18) Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
(2015-11-26) Who Owns Space? USA's Asteroid-Mining Act is Dangerous and Potentially Illegal
Robert Heinlein explored the notion in a novel. Does the future of space exploration lie with governments or corporations?