European, U.S. Space Agencies Plan Human Flights Far Into Space
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are working together to build a spacecraft that will take a human crew farther into space than ever before.Orion With Arrays Extended
The two agencies finalized an agreement for ESA to provide Orion, NASA’s spacecraft for human exploration, with a module performing critical functions such as propulsion, power generation and storage of crew supplies.
Officials from both agencies talked to reporters about the mission in a news conference January 16 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA Orion Program Manager Mark Geyer said the mission will build on the cooperative multinational space activities that have taken place on the International Space Station.
“A lot of the same experts are working on both sides,” said Geyer. “We get to apply that to this great exploration mission.”
The Orion crew module, being built by NASA, is set for its first test flight in 2014. An uncrewed flight is planned beyond Earth orbit in 2017. The first crew is set to journey into space on Orion by 2021, according to the long-range plan prepared by the U.S. space agency.
Human space flight has not gone beyond low-Earth orbit since the end of the Apollo program, which put the first humans on the moon but ended in 1972.
Thomas Reiter, ESA director of human spaceflight and operations, was also on the Houston panel. He said the collaboration between the two space agencies is no mere gesture of political convenience, but an opportunity “to exploit synergies that have been developed in the past and that can be beneficial for reaching common objectives.”