Living in space

Over the last two decades, space agencies have created more comfortable conditions on the International Space Station, but we need to explore the concept of ‘living in space’ much further if humans are to ever live and work on another world, such as the Moon or Mars.

ESA’s Discovery and Preparation Programme works to prepare ESA for the future of space exploration. As part of this programme, ESA has worked with academic and industrial partners on a huge number of studies that lay the groundwork for living in space.

The technology that exists today could easily take us to the Moon and beyond, but it is studies like those carried out under the Discovery and Preparation Programme that will make a trip resourceful, sustainable and productive.

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ESA is Europe’s gateway to space. Our mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world. Check out http://www.esa.int/ESA to get up to speed on everything space related.

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ExoMars is ready for science!

ExoMars is ready for Martian science!

ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter mission arrived at Mars in October 2016. After a year spent carefully adjusting its position, the spacecraft is now beginning its science operations.

The Trace Gas Orbiter’s instruments will be able to look through the atmosphere to identify trace gases – in particular methane – which could indicate signs of past or even present life. The orbiter will also act as a relay for rovers on the Martian surface.

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Mars sample return

Spacecraft in orbit and on Mars’s surface have made many exciting discoveries, transforming our understanding of the planet and unveiling clues to the formation of our Solar System, as well as helping us understand our home planet. The next step is to bring samples to Earth for detailed analysis in sophisticated laboratories where results can be verified independently and samples can be reanalysed as laboratory techniques continue to improve.

Bringing Mars to Earth is no simple undertaking—it would require at least three missions from Earth and one never-been-done-before rocket launch from Mars.

A first mission, NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover, is set to collect surface samples in pen-sized canisters as it explores the Red Planet. Up to 31 canisters will be filled and readied for a later pickup – geocaching gone interplanetary.

In the same period, ESA’s ExoMars rover, which is also set to land on Mars in 2021, will be drilling up to two meters below the surface to search for evidence of life.

A second mission with a small fetch rover would land nearby and retrieve the samples in a Martian search-and-rescue operation. This rover would bring the samples back to its lander and place them in a Mars Ascent Vehicle – a small rocket to launch the football-sized container into Mars orbit.

A third launch from Earth would provide a spacecraft sent to orbit Mars and rendezvous with the sample containers. Once the samples are safely collected and loaded into an Earth entry vehicle, the spacecraft would return to Earth, release the vehicle to land in the United States, where the samples will be retrieved and placed in quarantine for detailed analysis by a team of international scientists.

Credits: NASA

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David Parker talks about the Mars Sample Return Mission

The Mars Sample Return Mission, interview with David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, at the Berlin Air and Space Show, 26 April 2018

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