[FPSPACE] a UK (ESA) astronaut on the Moon?
pjp961 at svol.net
Wed Nov 21 11:03:10 EST 2012
>From The Guardian (UK)
Project Orion raises hopes that Britain could have its own man on the moon
Europe to decide this week on helping Nasa to build a manned spaceship to
travel to deep space
* Robin McKie <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/robinmckie> , science
* Saturday 17 November 2012 07.20 EST
Europe is preparing plans to join the United States in building a manned
spaceship that would take men and women to the moon and beyond. The project
is supported by the UK and could see a British astronaut launched into deep
space <http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/space> before the end of the
The proposal to join in construction of the four-person US Orion spaceship
will be debated at a meeting of ministers of the European Space Agency
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/european-space-agency> 's 20 member
states in Italy this week. If passed, it would mean that for the first time
Europe would be involved in building and launching manned space vehicles.
"Europeans will have the power to put men and women into space,"
Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency, told
the Observer in an exclusive interview. "That would be a fantastic
development for us."
Among the European candidates who might fly on the new spaceship, which
should be ready for flight by 2017, would be UK astronaut Tim Peake. A
qualified army helicopter pilot, Peake was selected three years ago to be
one of six new European astronauts and has been training in Germany since
then. At the time of his selection, it was assumed Peake's best chance of
space flight would be a mission to the International
Station. Now he and his five colleagues have a chance of a deep space flight
thanks to the US request for Europe to join in its Orion programme.
The Orion capsule - known officially as the Multiple Purpose Crew Vehicle -
is designed to carry astronauts on missions of up to six months and could
take men and women to the moon, or an asteroid or possibly even Mars. The
plan for Europe to join the US in building Orion spaceships stems from Nasa
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/nasa> 's decision to privatise crew and
cargo flights to the space station. Companies such as PayPal founder Elon
Musk's SpaceX are expected to take over this role in a couple of years.
This would leave Europe - whose own unmanned ATV cargo capsules provide
supplies for the space station - without a role in running the station.
"Nasa asked us to start discussions with them about alternative plans and we
agreed the best idea was for us to become involved in its new spaceship
which is intended to take astronauts beyond the space station and into deep
space on exploration missions," said Dordain. "Under the plan, we would
build the service module that contains the capsule's propulsion, attitude
and guidance systems while the Americans would build the part that carries
At present, the project would not guarantee Europe one of the four astronaut
places on Orion when it is launched. However, Dordain indicated that he
expected Europe would be given places on future Orion deep space missions.
One of those could go to Peake.
"The first two test flights of the new spaceship would take place around
2017," he said. "These would use existing Atlas V launchers. After that, a
bigger rocket will be needed to take spaceships with full payloads into deep
space. That launcher is still being developed and we have already held
discussions with Nasa with the aim of co-operating with them in working on
this new launcher as well."
In this way, Europe would be involved both in the building of rocket
launchers for manned missions and the capsules that will carry the
astronauts. However, the proposal has to be agreed at the meeting of
ministers of Esa members states in Naples this week.
"Britain has already indicated support," said Dordain. "Indeed, the only
other main contributor to Esa's budget currently opposing the plan is
France. However, I am hoping this is a negotiating ploy to win arguments
over other issues at the ministerial meeting."
Dordain, who has led the European Space Agency since 2003, believes that no
single nation can now afford to carry out manned space exploration on its
own. The future lies with international co-operation like that proposed
between the US and Europe.
"There is not a single space power left in the world that thinks they can
afford to send men and women to explore the moon or Mars on their own
national budget. This is something that will have to be done by
international co-operation. Even the Chinese, who have so far done it on
their own, are looking for partners. We are in discussions with them. Some
of our astronauts are learning Chinese and there are Chinese astronauts
training at our centre in Germany. We have no concrete plans as yet but it
is clear that future of manned space exploration lies with international
MAN WITH A MISSION
If Tim Peake, below, succeeds in getting a place on an Orion flight, or even
on a trip to the International Space Station, he will become the first
Briton to make it into space without private funding or without taking
American citizenship. He is the only official UK member of the European
Space Agency's astronaut corps.
In 1991, Helen Sharman became the first Briton in space when she was
selected to travel to the Mir space station after responding to a radio
The programme was a co-operative arrangement between the Soviet Union and a
group of British companies. In orbit, she carried out agricultural tests,
photographed the British Isles, and took part in an amateur radio link-up
with British schoolchildren.
Since then, three other British-born individuals - Michael Foale, Piers
Sellers and Nicholas Patrick - have flown in space but had to take up US
citizenship to do so. Foale and Sellers are still on active duty.
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