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European Mull Participation in NASA’s Asteroid Retrieval Mission

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 2, 2013
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Aviation Week
reports that European space officials will spend the summer reviewing the prospects of NASA’s asteroid retrieval mission even as the proposal struggles to gain support in Congress:

Jean Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), told Bolden he has set up a multi-agency working group headed by ESA human-spaceflight chief Thomas Reiter “tasked to elaborate a coherent approach with regard to your new initiative.”

Representatives of the national space agencies of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. will participate in the working group, with a report due from ESA to NASA in September, Dordain told Bolden in a June 20 letter.

“[W]e welcome this new initiative and are ready to support discussions on potential cooperation that would strengthen ongoing and future space exploration activities to be performed in an international framework,” Dordain wrote.

However, he noted that ESA’s human spaceflight strategy includes the International Space Station in low Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars. NASA’s idea is to capture a small near-Earth asteroid, nudge it into high retrograde lunar orbit with solar electric propulsion, and send astronauts in an Orion crew vehicle to study it.

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