January 13, 2021


Wednesday 13 January, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall took part in a panel discussion on ‘Space Exploration: Europe to the Moon and Mars’ at the 13th edition of the European Space Policy Conference, which is being held by videoconference from Brussels.

Underlining the fundamental role of international cooperation in space exploration, Jean-Yves Le Gall began by listing the projects to which CNES and France are contributing, notably through ESA. French industry is a prime player in the future Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) with the ESPRIT refuelling module and the I-Hab habitation module under the partnership between ESA and NASA. France is also closely involved in the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission, for which it will supply the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) to bring Mars samples back to Earth, as well as in the ExoMars mission in partnership with Russia.

CNES’s President stressed how France has forged and sustained bilateral ties with most of its space partners, achieving fine successes in the domain of space exploration. He pointed to its partnership with NASA on the InSight, Curiosity and Perseverance missions to Mars, with Perseverance set to land on the surface of the red planet in February with the French SuperCam instrument on board. For Japan’s MMX (Martian Moons Exploration) mission, CNES is working with JAXA and DLR to return samples from Phobos, one of the two moons of Mars. With regard to lunar missions, he signalled the agency’s pride in having the French DORN instrument planned to fly on China’s next lunar mission, Chang’e 6, in cooperation with CNSA. Lastly, CNES has also accomplished numerous joint experiments aboard the International Space Station and other modules in low Earth orbit, notably with MTB2 (Mouse Telemetry on Bion 2), Cardiomed 2 with Russia, Cardiospace with China and ECHO with Canada.

Asked about Europe’s future human spaceflight strategy, Jean-Yves Le Gall indicated that in the short term it should most likely remain the same, maintaining the longstanding cooperation with our international partners to fly ESA astronauts to the ISS. This spring, Thomas Pesquet will be making his second flight to the station to conduct a series of international experiments. This mission will offer a fresh opportunity to highlight the prowess of teams at the CADMOS centre for the development of microgravity applications and space operations and at the MEDES space medicine and physiology institute. Through these entities, CNES is supporting the full spectrum of microgravity science missions. After his latest sojourn on the ISS, Thomas Pesquet will have two long missions in low Earth orbit to his credit and thus be well prepared to join the European astronaut contingent selected for the first Gateway flights to the Moon. In the medium and longer term, Europe also remains attentive to the development of economic activities beyond low Earth orbit, notably on the Moon, which will mean a need for more frequent human spaceflights, while emerging commercial opportunities are bound to bring down the cost of access to space. More broadly, the development of commercial European services is receiving close attention from member states, ESA, Europe’s institutions and private partners, encouraging them to work together to seek innovative solutions.

Pascale Bresson     Press Officer     Tel: +33 (0)1 44 76 75 39    pascale.bresson@cnes.fr
Raphaël Sart    Head of Media    Tel: +33 (0)1 44 76 74 51    raphael.sart@cnes.fr