Mars exploration: All for one and one for all?
Headlines over the past few years have made future human missions to the Moon and Mars more tangible than they’ve ever been. From the unbridled ambitions of a certain Elon Musk to Donald Trump’s recent directive shifting NASA’s focus on going back to the Moon, along with the constant discoveries of Earth-like exoplanets, anyone can feel the general excitement for space exploration like it’s 1969 all over again. Channeling all this positive energy, however, is no mean feat. This can be seen with the multiple exchanges of ideas between the US, Russia, Europe and other leading space powers on post-ISS human spaceflight and space exploration: so far, they’ve all failed to lead to a common vision. The truth is that there are about as many different approaches to, and plans for, space exploration right now as there are challenges to overcome before any of them can become a reality. Once it’s been decided if all resources should be focused on a future mission to Mars, to the Moon, or whether a future moonbase could be used to get to Mars more easily, investors might want to make sure that they are betting on the right horse (after all, until not so long ago, experts were talking of a “Mars curse” when comparing the list of successful missions with those that failed miserably). And last but not least, remaining knowledge and technological gaps should be overcome to increase the odds of a happy ending. On the European side of things, the European Space Agency (ESA) continues to envision a potential international human mission to Mars to be on the cards by 2025, be it using the Moon as a takeoff station or being planned from Earth directly. Until then, multiple robotic missions will be required to make sure that we know everything there is to know about Mars and how to get there safely. And various EU-funded projects are working hard to get us there. In this 73rd edition of the research*eu Results Magazine, we shed light on efforts preparing the ground for the Exomars mission; the next-generation of space farming technologies; novel telecommunications for outer space; the relatively new notion of “planetary protection” from outer solar system bodies; a new rover concept for Moon exploration; a new facility to host space samples; and, last but not least, efforts to reduce the environmental impact of (what we hope) will be an increasing number of space launches. And because Mars is only the beginning of a new era, we close the section with a recap of the achievements of ETAEARTH – the EU project responsible for identifying the closest-to-Earth exoplanets observed by the Kepler mission. The magazine continues with our usual thematic sections, as well as a list of upcoming events hosted by or involving EU-funded research projects. We look forward to receiving your feedback. You can send questions or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org