The recent space missions either included robotic probes traveling to the far reaches of the Solar System, like New Horizons or were run-of-the-mill missions, sending astronauts to the ISS and back to Earth. Now, NASA and ESA are planning a mission that could, in just 4 years, send a manned spaceship around the Moon.
The mission, planned for 2021, should send a manned craft into an orbit around the moon. No plans for a surface landing, though.
The ESA (European Space Agency) announced on February 8 that, in cooperation with Airbus, the agency will construct a second module needed for the manned moon mission.
Ever since 1972 and the last Apollo mission, humans were constrained to space stations, and the mission should be a starting point for a new generation of manned space missions such as the potential future manned Mars mission.
The mission will be launched from the Florida’s Kennedy Space Center; the launch is planned for early 2021, with the mission taking a team of four astronauts up around the moon.
The spacecraft will perform three increasingly extending orbits, taking it around the moon and then back to Earth. The mission goal is to perform a re-enter that is faster than any other manned mission done before.
“We are excited to be a part of this historic mission and appreciate NASA’s trust in us to help extend humanity’s exploration farther afield into our Solar System,” said Dave Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight back in 2016 when the mission has been revealed to the public.
We haven’t traveled to the moon for almost a half of a century. If the mission proves successful, there are chances for the ESA and NASA to cooperate on the future manned mission to Mars, which would be the next big step in space exploration, a step mankind is waiting for almost 50 years.