With timing designed to coincide with this coming week's Ministerial Council Meeting, the European Space Agency (ESA) has released this promotional video showing some footage from its recent projects, and some nice computer graphics of the projects for which it will request budget lines.
Of course, this video is far more exciting and adventurous that the very dry and business-like "programmatic priorities" to be presented to the Ministerial Council, which are to:
- further develop the benefits of space to society and the knowledge economy, stimulating innovation, creativity and growth;
- promote the development of new products and services benefiting daily life;
- be increasingly successful on the global market in space systems, services and applications;
- meet its defence and security needs for space; and
- provide continued access to space.
Space exploration itself fits only as sub-categories in the programmatic priorities of contributing to the knowledge-based society and providing access to space.
ESA's exploration objectives are to make full use of the International Space Station (ISS) to prepare for future exploration activities and to start the definition of a new cargo return transportation system derived from the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) that will be able to survive re-entry and land intact with payloads brought back from the ISS.
ESA also proposes to study technologies for the exploration of the Moon and to promote lunar exploration in tandem with the recruitment of new astronauts. To this end, ESA wants to study a Moon lander and to develop capabilities enabling human exploration including Moon-landing technologies, habitation and life support systems and demonstrators.
Scenario and architecture studies are also proposed to prepare future activities. ESA wants to become a leading participant in the robotic exploration of planet Mars (currently a field almost totally dominated by NASA), with the Enhanced ExoMars mission and eventually leading to significant European role in a Mars Sample Return mission.