Paris, Jun 2003
The future is never easy to predict, but ESA must be prepared to meet the unexpected challenges that will arise as the century unfolds, says the agency's next Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain.
Speaking at the Paris Air Show last week, Dordain strongly supported initiatives such as the long-term Aurora Programme to develop technologies that may pave the way for exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.
One of the key architects of Aurora when he was Director of Strategy in 2001, Dordain is fully aware of the Programme's potential for developing and demonstrating innovative technologies that may subsequently be of value to many other areas of space exploration and ground-based applications.
"Aurora is very important for me, because it is the door to the future," he said. "It is always easier to give priority to short-term objectives, but this is a short-sighted approach. Instead, we must take a long-term view by developing a variety of options so that, perhaps 10 or 20 years from now, we can eventually choose the right way to go; more on what we must do rather than on what we can do. This is the rationale behind Aurora.
"We must also remember that, while industrial capabilities take a long time to develop, they can be lost or destroyed very quickly and easily.
"ESA needs to look beyond Columbus and the ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) and to have a vision of what comes next. It is imperative that we prepare for any type of mission scenario, so that, when the time is right, we can be a partner in sending humans to the Moon, Mars or whatever. Aurora is the best way to do this – both in preparation of new technologies and demonstrating them."
The Aurora Programme, which is still in its preparatory phase, was presented to the public for the first time at Le Bourget. Visitors were treated to state-of-the-art animations showing the ExoMars rover – a robotic mission to search for life on Mars scheduled for launch in 2009 – and an astronaut strolling across the orange Martian sands.
Also available for the first time was a cut-out model of the ExoMars rover preliminary concept, designed at ESA's Concurrent Design Facility in the European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands. The kit is now available on the Aurora website and can be downloaded by space enthusiasts, young and old.