"Pushing The Boundaries Of Space In the 21st Century","
What was once science fiction is becoming reality.
However, the political and economical drivers needed to nurture and drive such advancements have been lacking since the end of the Apollo programme, shifting the focus of space endeavours from interplanetary to Earth bound and allowing for developments in Earth observation, telecommunication and navigation.
The United States, Europe, Japan, China, Russia and India have been planning and/or executing a number of robotic planetary missions.
Despite this renewed drive behind space exploration, the contrast with respect to the Apollo era is that the space organisations and nations involved are aiming to achieve their goals within limited financial budgets and at carefully calculated risks.
The European Aurora programme is a good example of this approach, where each of its missions builds on proven technologies and aims to demonstrate new ones.
The above example also demonstrates another feature of todays exploration programmes: International Cooperation.
NASAs Mars lander mission, Phoenix, will be assisted during its descent and entry by ESAs Mars Express orbiter for data relay, while ESAs ExoMars mission baseline relies on NASAs MRO for data relay.
One aerospace consultancy, VEGA, believes that ensuring cost effectiveness, risk reduction and seeking international cooperation, are the key factors in maintaining the momentum of the space exploration [http://www.
com/newsroom/infocusnew/spaceexploration] programmes and their success.
Risk reduction and cooperation are assisted by standardisation, efficient interfaces and knowledge management, and effective training.
In addition to NASAs vision to return to the moon, ESAs Aurora programme, the European national lunar mission studies (Germany, UK, Italy, France), and the exploration activities of Japan, China, Russia and India, there are several entrepreneurial activities developing technologies to enable access to space for mankind.
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