16 June was intensive day at the IAF Global Space Exploration Conference – GLEX 2021. The day started with a Highlight Lecture by Xiaojun WANG, President of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), on space transportation for future Human Mars Exploration missions, on Tianwen-1’s successful three-months Mars remote sensing mission, and on the initial operation of the Zhurong rover named after “the god of fire in traditional Chinese culture”.
The conversation then switched to the Moon with Alain BORIES, Senior Vice President for Business Development and Political Affairs at OHB, declaring “the 2020s the decade of the Moon”. Indeed, Salem AL MARRI, Assistant Director General for Science and Technology from MBRSC, announced “UAE plans to send a rover to the Moon surface by 2024/25”. “The Moon is a resource platform for many other missions" confirmed Andreas Lindenthal, Head of Business Operations Space Systems, Head of Spacecraft Equipment, Head of Space Systems Germany, Airbus Defence and Space GmbH. As highlighted by IAF President, Pascale EHRENFREUND, moderating the IAF GNF Panel – Explore as one, featuring 3 NASA Associate Administrators, “NASA knows from experience, that the way to achieve a grand goal like returning/bringing humans to the Moon in preparation for future Mars endeavors is going to take the best and brightest across the globe”.
With a view on future missions to the Moon and Mars, Christophe BONNAL, Senior Expert of Launch Systems at the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), during his technical keynote, presented plans for “human spaceflight capabilities at the Guiana space center”.
Yanhua WU, Vice Administrator of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Sergey SAVELIEV, Deputy Director General for International Cooperation at ROSCOSMOS, presented a detailed roadmap for the development of their “three-phase strategy for the International Lunar Research Station (IRLS): in 2021-2025, the lunar reconnaissance with six missions; in 2026-2035, technology demonstrations, cargo delivery and sample return; and from 2036 and beyond, the crew landing and utilization phase”. It was also announced that already several international partners have expressed interest in contributing and participating in IRLS. During the IAF/ASE Astronauts panel, Astronaut Mike Baker predicted that, in the near future, astronauts will be “people understanding how to build a habitat on other planets, including plumbers and carpenters”.