In 1969, space exploration changed forever when America’s Apollo 11 brought the first manned mission to the Moon. Now, 50 years after the initial crewed lunar landing – and 47 since the last – mankind is preparing to visit its closest neighbour in space again.
Under its Artemis programme, the U.S. space agency NASA is planning a Moon landing as early as 2024. Europe and Airbus are playing a major role in this ambitious project: Orion is the spacecraft that will send humans into space, and the European Service Module (ESM) – for which Airbus is the prime development and manufacturing contractor – is Europe’s contribution to the space capsule. It provides propulsion, power, water, oxygen and nitrogen as well as keeps the spacecraft at the right temperature and on course.
The initial module was delivered to NASA in November 2018; the second is under construction in the Airbus clean rooms. The first Orion flight – an unmanned test flight – is expected to lead far beyond the moon and return to Earth in 2020.