The possibilities of space exploration are important in the current climate – to give humanity an optimistic future to look forward to, a European Space Agency (ESA) expert has said.
The space agency has a number of missions planned for the near future, aimed at getting humans back to the Moon, and learning more about Mars.
ESA signed a contract with Airbus to build the third European service module for Nasa’s Orion spacecraft that will ferry the next astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024.
While the Lunar Gateway will orbit the Moon, and be used as refuge for Artemis astronauts on lunar missions.
The agency has also committed to building two modules for communications, refuelling and habitation.
The exploration of the red planet will involve the international Mars Sample Return campaign that will see five launches, including one from Mars, to bring samples back to Earth for analysis.
Airbus in the UK will be developing a rover to collect the martian sample containers on the planet’s surface and bring them to Nasa’s rocket for launch into Mars orbit.
While Airbus in France will develop and build the spacecraft to rendezvous with the samples and fly them to Earth.
Asked why space missions were important, David Parker, ESA’s director of human and robotic exploration, said there were a number of reasons, with a fundamental one being “inspiration”.
He added: “It’s what people find exciting, inspiring, stretching what humanity can do especially in these difficult times right now.
“Solving big challenges, working together, inspires the next generation.
“Young people are inspired, maybe to go into space, maybe to go to science, maybe just to do something completely different, but be stretched, inspired by the possibilities of space exploration.”
Dr Parker said: “I think it is really important for all of humanity, especially at the moment, to have an optimistic future in mind.”