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Conquering Mars: realistic venture or a fantasy?

4 episodes
  • 1
    “Mars is the new American frontier”
  • 2
    “It's as much about going to Mars as it is about coming back!”
  • 3
    Europe’s role in the new space economy
  • 4
    How to explore space, ethically
Épisode 1/4
Sophy Caulier, Independant journalist
On September 8th, 2021
4 mins reading time
Francis Rocard
Francis Rocard
Astrophysicist and Head of Solar system exploration programmes at CNES

Key takeaways

  • Today, exploration projects are mainly concerned with Mars.
  • To achieve this, NASA's annual budget – currently around 22 billion dollars – must be quadrupled.
  • The current strategy is to start from lunar orbit using the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway (LOP-G), 380,000km from Earth.
  • The LOP-G will enable proof of concepts to be carried out, without which we will never know whether it is possible to go to Mars.
  • This phase could last up to two or even three decades and, while it lasts, will consume a large part of NASA’s budget.
Épisode 2/4
Sophy Caulier, Independant journalist
On September 8th, 2021
4 mins reading time
Gerald Sanders
Gerald Sanders
In-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) system capability manager at NASA

Key takeaways

  • It takes three days to get to or from the Moon and the journey to Mars takes between six and eight months.
  • For long-duration space exploration missions, astronauts will have to find or produce enough resources to sustain themselves.
  • The In Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) programme is developing techniques to locate, extract, process and exploit local resources.
  • Today, developments are focusing on methane or hydrogen fuel production.
  • There are four main challenges: knowing what resources are available; how to exploit them; controlling the environment; and ensuring reliability of the project.
Épisode 3/4
Sophy Caulier, Independant journalist
On September 8th, 2021
4 mins reading time
Stefaan de Mey
Stefaan de Mey
Senior Strategy officer for Human and robotic exploration at the European Space Agency (ESA)

Key takeaways

  • Today, activities in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) are 90% commercial and 10% institutional.
  • It is now a question of integrating the Moon and manned flights into this economy, which is starting with space tourism.
  • According to the Bank of America, the economic weight of the sector should increase from $350bn in 2016 to $1tn in 2040.
  • Europe has basic infrastructure for scientific experimentation in space, but it is not fully utilised.
  • This is a new market in which ESA wants to be present by offering commercial services in low-Earth orbit and preparing others for the “future lunar economy”.
Épisode 4/4
Jacques Arnould, Responsible for ethical questions at CNES
On September 8th, 2021
4 mins reading time
Jacques Arnould
Jacques Arnould
Responsible for ethical questions at CNES

Key takeaways

  • Since the launch of Sputnik the COSPAR (Committee on Space Research created in 1958), has developed rules to preserve exploration sites in space.
  • The measures taken consist of sterilisation operations and manoeuvres to both preserve the integrity of these sites and protect life on Earth.
  • Nevertheless, the French space agency, CNES, is the only one to have an in-house ethical expert: Jacques Arnould, a doctor in the history of science and theology.
  • He questions the way in which space exploration missions are carried out and their potential effects.
  • For example, if space is not for sale, who will guarantee the application of space law?

Contributors

Sophy Caulier

Sophy Caulier

Independant journalist

Sophy Caulier has a degree in Literature (University Paris Diderot) and in Computer science (University Sorbonne Paris Nord). She began her career as an editorial journalist at 'Industrie & Technologies' and then at 01 Informatique. She is now a freelance journalist for daily newspapers (Les Echos, La Tribune), specialised and non-specialised magazines and websites. She writes about digital technology, economics, management, industry and space. Today, she writes mainly for Le Monde and The Good Life.

Jacques Arnould

Jacques Arnould

Responsible for ethical questions at CNES

Historian of science, agricultural engineer, theologian, Jacques Arnould has been in charge of ethical issues at the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES) since 2001.

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