Germany May Send Spacecraft To Orbit Moon
Germany may send an unmanned spacecraft to orbit the moon within five years, though no manned mission is planned at this time, DW-World.DE reported.
No final decision has been made on whether the unmanned lunar probe actually will be launched by Germany, which also is a member of the European Space Agency (ESA). Germany would intend any moon orbiter as a complement to ESA efforts, not as a competing move.
The German news organization quoted Peter Hintze, the German deputy economy minister and German aerospace coordinator, as saying that the mission, if it is given the green light, would provide an opportunity for Germany to showcase its competence in space.
By 2012, when the German spacecraft would be circling the moon, the United States space program will be grounded, after retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2010 and the first manned flight of the next-generation U.S. Orion-Ares spacecraft in 2015. (Please see story in this issue.)
The German spacecraft would map the moon employing German-technology stereo photography, radar and spectral sensing.?German officials will examine a report prepared by the German Aerospace Center before deciding in the January-March quarter whether to proceed with the lunar probe program.
The cost would be roughly 350 million euros, or $513.723 million, to plan, build and launch the orbiter, according to Hintze.