A joint report by NASA and the British National Space Centre has recommended that the UK and USA collaborate on a robotic lunar mission that would be launched after 2012.

The report's recommendation, published on 15 February, follows the 14 February publication of the BNSC's strategy for 2008 to 2012 "and beyond".

That strategy aims to have a plan for UK involvement in the global Moon exploration effort being discussed by the world's major space agencies by 2012.

The NASA/BNSC robotic lunar mission is likely to be based on the UK's proposed Moon Lightweight Interior and Telecoms Experiment (MoonLITE) mission.

The BNSC says: "The proposed next steps involve an international scientific 'peer review' and a more detailed technical study of MoonLITE leading to a definitive cost estimate before a decision to go ahead is taken."

MoonLITE is defined as an orbiter for testing lunar telecommunications technologies that would also fire penetrator devices into the Moon's surface for studying its geology.

This possible UK robotic involvement in the international lunar exploration expected in the next decade is one of a number of elements of the BNSC's strategy that are yet to be confirmed.

Others include the UK's level of participation in the redesigned, more expensive European Space Agency ExoMars mission, the UK contribution to ESA's Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, and the budget and staffing of the first ESA facility in the UK, dedicated to climate change and robotics.

The BNSC has a budget of £220 million ($430 million) for the 2008 financial year, which is less than the inflation-adjusted planned spend for the current financial year. No budget figures were available for the strategy's years 2009 to 2012, inclusive.



Source: FlightGlobal.com