Three European astronauts to settle at lunar orbiting station

The European Space Agency has already secured the flight of three European astronauts on the Gateway, and in 2023 will have to choose which astronauts it will send on a mission to the space station near the moon by 2028. Standards of physical fitness and operational ability. Intense political negotiations are underway. Our interpretations and assumptions.

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While waiting for a new boss NASAreplacing Jim Bridenstine, appointed by Donald Trump who will eventually be a very good director, and the Biden administration’s directives on major exploration programs, Artemis Project back moon continue. With the arrival of Democrat Joe Biden and the expected delay in the first flight of the SLS, which just failed an engine test, the possibility of a return to the moon, originally scheduled for 2024, no longer exists. If the Biden administration doesn’t question NASA’s Trump-era budget, NASA could revert to its original plan for a manned moon landing in 2028 or even 2026.

Typically, only the flight schedule for the Artemis mission should be reviewed, with the first five to six Artemis missions expected to be delayed by one to two years, suggesting that gateway There should be no delays, and it will be operational as early as 2025.From 2025 to 2030, NASA plans to fly Artemis at least once a year, to the Moon and Portal, on a mission period From 14 days to one month.this little space stationwhich brings together international partners International Space StationIf the current negotiations are successful, in addition to Russia, an international crew of Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Japanese will be hosted.

Europeans on the Portal

NASA, it has started its lunar program arrive astronaut Foreigners say they can stay and fly at the gateway, depending on the partner country’s contribution. The agreement enables Europeans to board the Gateway and pledge to participate in it for scientific research, technology development and demonstration purposes, and as a relay base for future exploration missions. A generation’ESAAs a result, Gateway’s main contributor negotiated and secured three positions for its astronauts.

That said, crew rotation schedules will be difficult to negotiate. It should be remembered that other NASA partners, Japan and Canada, also want to send astronauts to the Gateway. Admittedly, their involvement is also lower than that of ESA, which will be a key NASA partner through their contribution.Japan basically has to provide logistics (supply) as well as accommodation related functions, there have been negotiations for the flight of Japanese astronauts and Canada will provide Intelligent robot external system Canadaarm3 Will be able to send two astronauts to the Gateway. The first foreign astronaut to fly within this framework will be a Canadian. He will fly on the Artemis 3 mission to put two Americans on the moon.

Now, a question plaguing ESA member states is: what are the nationalities and dates of the three astronauts assigned to the Artemis mission. We can predict that ESA should assign its position to the country that has contributed the most to the program, and therefore to the Italians, Germans and French.Therefore, we are very sure Thomas Pesquet Should stay there, maybe during Artemis 4 or rather Artemis 5.

ESA’s Astronaut Office is expected to announce in 2022 or 2023 which of its astronauts will be on the Portal

You should be aware that ESA has an unofficial rule that when a Member State produces exploration modules, the latter pressure On the agency so that one of its astronauts can fly aboard for installation or commissioning.For example, when the module Columbus Docking with the International Space Station in February 2008: ESA astronauts Leopold Erhardt of French nationality and Hans Schlegel of German nationality were part of the space shuttle crew Atlantis put it into operation. This rule may come as a surprise, as all ESA astronauts must generally be selected based on some criteria. It can be explained simply by the level of contribution of each country to the ESA budget. However, in the 2020-2024 period, Germany was the main donor to the IAEA with $3.3 billion, ahead of France ($2.66 billion) and Italy ($228 million).

As part of the participating gateway, ESA will provide two modules, which will be Thales Alenia Space (TAS): The International Housing Module Ihab will be built by TAS-Italy and Esprit by TAS-France. For the latter, it is a cylindrical module that includes several elements, including a communication system, a refueling module, an astronaut workspace, and a 360° observatory. The two modules will be delivered to NASA between 2026 and 2027.

By producing these two modules, France and Italy can expect that two of the three European astronauts who will remain on the Gateway will become their nationals. It will not be one of the astronauts in a new promotion that will launch on February 16, but three astronauts who have already flown at least one mission aboard the International Space Station.For France, unsurprisingly, it will be Thomas Pesquet. As for the Italians, it will be difficult to choose between the two Lucas Parmitano and Samantha Christoforetti Who should board the International Space Station for the second time in late 2022. Having said that, it’s hard to imagine that ESA would choose Samantha Cristoforetti, whose lunar mission preparations will only start the ISS less than a year after her second lunar mission ends (late 2022 to mid-2023).

Given that ESA has secured three spots for European astronauts flying to the Gateway station, I hope – in the not too distant future – to be one of these three and have the opportunity to work on and use the Spirit module Its device for communicating with the moon. The first element of this module is currently under development. put up In Cannes, where I had an engineering internship at the very beginning of my career! ‘ said Thomas Pesquet.

Moon’s surface in focus

That said, there is no loss for the Italians who could be the first European to walk on the moon. Unless ESA decides to send an astronaut from the new promotion, most likely of German nationality. Intense political negotiations are expected to designate ESA’s member state, which will be able to send an astronaut.

ESA is considering whether it could give NASA the chance to land European astronauts on the moon.This bargaining chip should be a multipurpose lunar lander, baptized Large European Logistics Lander (EL3), which can be used in logistical or purely scientific programs for Artemis missions. In a future article, we’ll explain why this makes sense.

Back to our European astronauts. The first flight with Artemis 4 is planned for 2026 or 2028, given the foreseeable delays to the Artemis mission. The task is to debug the communication elements of the I-Hab module and Esprit module (supply module to be launched in 2026/27). So its crew will definitely consist of three astronauts from NASA and one from ESA, possibly Italian. If no official decision has been made on this issue, you should know that Italy will produce the I-Hab module, which suggests that the first European to fly on the Gateway will be Italian Lucas Parmitano, not Samantha Cristoforetti for reasons explained earlier. In this image, Thomas Pesquet can be flown during Artemis 5, which is supposed to be the mission for which the module was put into service. come on the spirit of.

As for Germany, it will provide the first three European service modules developed by Airbus Orion Vehicle, she deserves the third place reserved for European astronauts. The spot will go to Alexander Gerst, who has flown twice, or Matthias Maurer, who will fly on the International Space Station fall (Cosmic Kiss Mission). The third mission of European astronauts will surely take place during Artemis VII. If this pattern is confirmed, we are very confident that the first European astronaut to walk on the moon is likely to be of German nationality. For Artemis 6, it is assumed that the slots reserved for foreign astronauts will be occupied by the Japanese. As for the second flight of the Canadian astronauts, it could happen during Artemis 8.

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