Russian space agency Roscosmos today announced that it had agreed in principle to undertake a number joint missions with the European Space Agency. The agreement was reached at a meeting in Moscow between Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Roscosmos and Jean-Jacques Dordain, the ESA’s Director General.
The first, and most headline-worthy, is a mission to Jupiter that will also include a stopover at one of Jupiter’s moons. The mission – known as JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) – is likely to take place after 2020, and replace a planned joint ESA-NASA mission that looks like it won’t get off the ground in the near future.
Other joint missions planned include one to Earth’s moon that will attempt to collect samples of soil from the Moon and return them to Earth for analysis, and another to Venus to investigate its atmosphere. Most of the missions agreed are expected to take place sometime between 2016 and 2020.
The possibility of Russia joining additional ESA missions was also discussed . “The meeting participants summarized the work of the working groups on science and the elimination created in August 2011, and also exchanged views on prospects for Russia’s participation in the ExoMars [Exobiology on Mars] project,” Roscosmos said.
Although slightly overshadowed by the recent loss of Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars, the news presents further evidence of the increasingly close relationship being built between Roscosmos and the ESA as both attempt to establish themselves as viable alternatives to NASA after the termination of its shuttle fleet. Most notably, Russian rockets have recently begun launching from the ESA’s spaceport in French Guiana.
The nations that participate in space exploration programs have always amused me. Typically, they are Western (or Western friendly) nations that have far greater priorities than their extraterrestrial pursuits. I would suggest these participants explore the black hole that is their respective central banks to figure out just what in the h*** they are going to do to overcome the global economic malaise we are all in.