Wolfgang Seboldt, Hans-Joachim Blome, Bernd Dachwald,
Proposal for an Integrated European Space Exploration Strategy
55th International Astronautical Congress, 2004, Vancouver, Canada
Recently, in his vision for space exploration, US president Bush announced to extend human presence across the solar system, starting with a human return to the Moon as early as 2015 in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations. In Europe, an exploration program, termed AURORA, was established by ESA in 2001 - funded on a voluntary basis by ESA member states - with a clear focus on Mars and the ultimate goal of landing humans on Mars around 2030 in international cooperation. In 2003, a Human Spaceflight Vision Group was appointed by ESA with the task to develop a vision for the role of human spaceflight during the next quarter of the century. The resulting vision focused on a European-led lunar exploration initiative as part of a multi-decade, international effort to strengthen European identity and economy. After a review of the situation in Europe concerning space exploration, the paper outlines an approach for a consistent positioning of exploration within the existing European space programs, identifies destinations, and develops corresponding scenarios for an integrated strategy, starting with robotic missions to the Moon, Mars, and near-Earth asteroids. The interests of the European planetary in-situ science community, which recently met at DLR Cologne, are considered. Potential robotic lunar missions comprise polar landings to search for frozen volatiles and a sample return. For Mars, the implementation of a modest robotic landing mission in 2009 to demonstrate the capability for landing and prepare more ambitious and complex missions is discussed. For near-Earth asteroid exploration, a low-cost in-situ technology demonstration mission could yield important results. All proposed scenarios offer excellent science and could therefore create synergies between ESA’s mandatory and optional programs in the area of planetary science and exploration. The paper intents to stimulate the European discussion on space exploration and reflects the personal view of the authors.