The next steps for international lunar exploration
20 July 199930 years after the Apollo lunar landing, the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) is enthusiastic about the future of lunar exploration and human expansion into the solar system. Bernard H. Foing, ILEWG president (1998-2000), announced today that the next ILEWG conference will take place in Europe at ESA/ESTEC, Noordwijk near The Hague, on 10-14 July 2000, in exactly one year.
World-wide space agencies created ILEWG in Hamburg, Germany, in 1995 to promote and co-ordinate the exploration of the Moon. After the "International conference on the Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon" in Beatenberg (1994), ILEWG conferences were held in Kyoto (1996) and Moscow (1998) under the presidencies of Prof. Hitoshi Mizutani and Academician Eric Galimov, respectively.
In July 1999, ILEWG members and lunar advocates throughout the world are celebrating the 30th Apollo landing. A Lunar Development Symposium in Houston, Texas, 15-16 July, with Apollo veterans B.Aldrin, H.Schmitt and J.Young, is intended to lay the groundwork for a human return to the Moon. At the third International Space conference of the United Nations (Unispace III, Vienna, 19-30 July 1999), ILEWG will be present at specialised workshops and symposia, and at a Space Generation Forum for participants younger than 35 years.
Space agencies and organisations are considering a phased approach for lunar exploration:
- Explorers: orbiters and small landers
- Robotic outposts;
- Deployment of infrastructure and resource utilisation;
- Manned outpost.
ILEWG co-chairman Mike Duke, Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) , Houston says: "the Moon is a test bed for solar system exploration, in the technology of robotic outposts, telepresence, deployment of infrastructures and resource utilisation. This prepares for Mars exploration and human expansion into the solar system".
Recent lunar exploration missions have included MUSES-A, 1992 (with Lunar circumnavigation and final impact), Clementine, 1994 (multi-colour imaging and geodesy), Lunar Prospector, 1998 (gamma ray, neutron/alpha spectrometers and magnetic mapping). The integration of these recent remote sensing data sets and Apollo/Luna sample analysis, has given new views of the Moon, and revived interest in further exploration. A workshop "New Views of the Moon" will be convened in Flagstaff, Arizona by the LPI 22-24 September. Lunar Prospector has also reported the enrichment of hydrogen at the lunar poles, which may be associated with the presence of ice. The Lunar Prospector spacecraft will impact the lunar south pole at the end of this month - 31 July 1999.
"At the end of 2002, Japan will launch Lunar-A, carrying 2 penetrators with seismometers and heat flow probes", says H. Mizutani, who chaired ILEWG in 1994-1996. "Japan's ISAS and NASDA prepare also for the SELENE mission in 2003 (with a large and ambitious Science Orbiter, and a technology lander)."
ESA is preparing SMART-1 for 2002 (A Mission for Advanced Research in Technology with Solar Electric Propulsion to the Moon)."The SMART-1 mission will be a European autonomous first step in lunar exploration, and provide new clues on the Moon", says Roger Bonnet, Director of the ESA Science Programme. "With SMART-1, ESA will test Solar Electric Propulsion, together with high technology instruments, and new approaches for future solar system and cosmos exploration missions".
ESA has conducted a number of studies preparing for future lunar exploration: a lunar science study that led to the report "Mission to the Moon" (1992), studies for a lunar technical lander (LEDA, 1994-1996), a science orbiter (MORO, 1994-1996), a lunar South pole lander in the peak of quasi-eternal light (Euromoon, 1996-1997), a student educational lunar orbiter micro-satellite (Lunarsat).
The next step in European lunar exploration, after SMART-1, will also benefit from ESA General Studies (Space Exploration and Utilisation, and Adaptation of Space Station elements), as well as current technical industrial contracts (Robotics and Instrument technology, Navigation and landing, Rovers, Telepresence, Resource Utilisation, Life sciences, ecosystems, life support). "For the next millennium, lunar missions will use new synergies between science, technology, education, public and private commercial initiatives over the world. This brings human and social benefits from lunar exploration", says B.H. Foing (ILEWG chairman and SMART-1 project scientist), "even before the future utilisation of resources, ecosystems, or human shelters and bases on the Moon".
Dr Bernard H. Foing
ESA SMART-1 Project scientist, ESTEC
Phone: 31 71 565 5647
Fax: 31 71 565 4697
Mobile: 06 539 78 040
Dr Mike Duke
Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston
Prof. Hitoshi Mizutan
ISAS, Tokyo, Japan
Acad. Eric Galimov
Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, Moscow
Phone 137 41 27