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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
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.