Feb 22, 2009

Euromoon 2000

Euromoon 2000 was an initiative of the European Space Agency (ESA) in the 1990s aiming to land a robotic craft at the Aitken Basin near the Moon's south pole in the year 2000. The budget for the mission was never found but the efforts made at that time are certainly relevant to European team wishing to compete in the Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP).

The mission was envisioned as true partnership between space agency and industry where they both shared the initial costs and any potential financial returns. It also invited additional sponsorship from the European Union, the commercial sphere and the general public. The estimated cost was one ECU per European citizen, which at that time would have equated to around 250 million Euros.

The mission comprised two spacecraft, a lunar Orbiter and a lunar Lander, which were both launched on an Ariane 4 (the no longer operating predescesor to the Ariane 5). After a two-month phase orbiting the Moon and collecting topographical and geographical data, the Lander would separate from the Orbiter and land at a peak of eternal light. Once on the surface, scientific instruments would be used to search for frozen volatiles such as water. The Lander would also carry multiple robotic payloads for a exploration competition called the 'Millennium Challenge', which would have involved a robotic race to the Moon's South Pole.

The efforts to develop the Euromoon 2000 mission plan were led by the Dutch Astronaut Wubbo Ockels, who assembled a team of over 25 engineers and scientists from ESA and industry to make a preliminary mission assessment study, building upon some related studies that took place in the preceding years.

By lobbying the delegates of the various nations that make up ESA, Ockels was able to get the Euromoon 2000 project on the agenda of the ESA Ministerial Council of 1997 with a request for 50 million Euros (the remaining 200 million was to come from private industry). However, much to the dissapointment of the project participants, the ministers present at the council meeting voted not to support the project with any ESA money.

By assembling a sizeable interdisciplinary team working together in one room, the Euromoon 2000 project was the first attempt to do concurrent engineering in ESA and played a major role in the creation of ESA's Concurrent Engineering Facility (CDF), which is still led today by the deputy project manager of Euromoon 2000, Massimo Bandecchi.

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