The European Space Agency is aiming for the Moon with their Lunar Lander mission, anticipated to arrive on the lunar surface in 2018. Although ESA successfully put a lander on the surface of Titan with the Huygens probe in 2005, this will be the first European spacecraft to visit Earth’s Moon.
Although Lunar Lander will be an unmanned robotic explorer, the mission will be a forerunner to future human exploration of the Moon as well as Mars. Lunar Lander will use advanced technologies for autonomous landing and will be able to determine the best location for touchdown on its own, utilizing lasers to avoid obstacles on the Moon’s surface.
Lunar Lander’s primary goal is to demonstrate the advanced technologies needed to land precisely and safely. The spacecraft will find its landing site without human intervention, recognising and avoiding hazards such as craters and boulders autonomously.
On the Moon, it will prove European technologies for surviving and working while exploring the environment around the landing site. The choice of the high rim of Shackleton crater, location of the Moon’s south pole, should allow long periods of near-constant availability of solar energy.