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Roscosmos, ESA discuss ExoMars, Moon exploration projects

December 15, 2017, 19:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The first stage of the ExoMars project was launched in 2016

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© REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

MOSCOW, December 15. /TASS/. Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) discussed cooperation in the ExoMars and the Moon exploration projects, the Roscosmos press office said on Friday.

Roscosmos CEO Igor Komarov and his ESA counterpart Johann-Dietrich Woerner held a meeting at the ESA’s Research and Technology Center in Noordwijk (the Netherlands), the press office said.

"The heads of the space agencies and the delegations’ specialists discussed the stratus and the prospects of bilateral cooperation in the ExoMars project, the Moon exploration, the program of interaction at the International Space Station (ISS) and the Deep Space Gateway (DSG)," Roscosmos said.

Specially, with regard to the ExoMars-2020 project, the sides outlined the issues requiring their solution in the near term and in the longer perspective. The sides also mapped out basic steps of interaction for successfully positioning the project by May 2018.

The Roscosmos and ESA heads also noted that ExoMars was one of the starting points of future cooperation as part of international cooperation for further space exploration.

The Roscosmos and ESA chief executives also said that now "work is nearing completion to draft a joint Agreement on cooperation in the Moon exploration: the ESA is preparing a schedule of its work under the Russian lunar program and determining the volume and the list of technical documents."

ExoMars project

The first stage of the ExoMars project was launched in 2016 and the mission included a TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter) apparatus and a demonstrator landing module Schiaparelli, which reached the Red Planet in October 2016.

The key goal of the TGO mission is to gain a better understanding of methane and other atmospheric gases present in the Martian atmosphere that could be evidence for possible biological or geological activity.

The Schiaparelli landing demonstrator vehicle was expected to practice maneuvers to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend and land on the Red Planet before the launch of the mission’s second stage but failed to make a soft landing and crashed.

The ExoMars 2nd stage is planned to be implemented in 2020. The project envisages sending a Russian landing module and a European rover to the Red Planet. The Russian platform is expected to work on Mars for a year.

Deep Space Gateway project

The plans to create a near-Moon station were unveiled in the spring of 2016. TASS reported at that time, citing the documents of Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation, that preliminary work was underway with the US Boeing Company on the issues of creating near-Moon infrastructure in support of the national space agencies’ future plans.

Two options of the lunar orbital station project were considered: an orbiter based on two small residential modules or one big module. Both concepts stipulate that four persons can work aboard the station. Expeditions are expected to last from 30 to 360 days. The flights to the station will be performed once a year.

Two options are also on the table for the station’s accommodation: a highly elliptical orbit and a low orbit at an altitude of about 100 km above the Moon’s surface. The first option can be used for the launch of spacecraft into outer space and the second for expeditions to the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite.

Energiya Rocket and Space Corporation has proposed starting the creation of the near-Moon orbital platform in late 2022 and send the first crew to it in the first half of 2025.

According to public sources, NASA’s plans suggest that the first module may be sent to the near-Moon orbit in 2023. This will be the Power and Propulsion Bus. In 2024-2025, two residential modules will be added to it. The modules are expected to be launched with the help of a US SLS heavy-class carrier rocket while the crews will be delivered aboard Orion space vehicles. There are also plans to develop a resupply ship.

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