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The European Space Agency and NASA are discussing sending the first European to the moon

The European Space Agency and NASA are discussing sending the first European to the moon

One of the three astronauts bound for NASA’s Gateway will land on the moon. (Alexander Gerst/Getty)

Today, Wednesday, the European Space Agency and its American counterpart, NASA, discussed the possibility of sending the first European to the moon’s surface, after the two parties signed an agreement to enhance cooperation for future lunar exploration, according to Agence France-Presse.

The two agencies had already agreed that three European astronauts would fly aboard the Orion spacecraft to NASA’s Gateway, a lunar space station as part of the Artemis program.

But now it looks like one of the three astronauts will take a step forward and land on the moon.

“We look forward to having an ESA astronaut join us on the moon and continuing to build on our crucial long-term partnership,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, after attending the ESA board meeting in the Netherlands.

“NASA is counting on cooperation with the European Space Agency to advance lunar exploration through the Artemis program,” Nelson said in a statement, adding that “the European Service Unit is the powerhouse of the Orion spacecraft.”

The agencies also signed a deal for Lunar Pathfinder, a planned communications satellite being built by Britain’s SSTL.

The European Space Agency bought SSTL services last year, and will provide NASA with lunar communications under the agreement. In return, NASA will launch the Pathfinder satellite into orbit.

The ESA statement said the two space agencies would also conduct joint tests to establish a satellite navigation network on the moon, “just as we sail today using the Galileo system and GPS on Earth.”

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They also discussed the future of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission, after its scheduled launch on a Russian rocket later this year was called off due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The European Space Agency previously said it hopes to work with NASA to launch the mission, which will search for signs of life on Mars.

“NASA is looking at how best to support our European friends on the ExoMars mission,” Nelson said.

For his part, ESA Director-General Josef Schbacher told a press conference that there was an “intensive discussion” on this topic, adding: “It is heading in the right direction, and I am very confident that we have found a good partnership at Exomas.”