I have recently joined a group of people to form a team for competing in the ESA Moon Challenge. This challenge is held in light of recent plans to set up an inhabited station near the far-side of the Moon; specifically, at the second Lagrangian point of the Earth-Moon system (). In this orbit, the station will remain in a stable position relative to both the Earth and the Moon. This position brings great advantages, such as excellent Lunar research capabilities, as well as being relatively easy to reach with a rocket from Earth.
Additionally, due to this useful orbit, the station could be used as an “Exploration Gateway Platform“. This Gateway would allow for a great number of scientific missions, and would pave the way for sustainable Lunar exploration. Other long-term goals of the Gateway include exploration of asteroids and, ultimately, Mars. See the Global Exploration Roadmap (2013) for more information about the Gateway and potential missions.
The goal of the challenge is to design a number of missions in an international group of university students. The missions should be based on the rough architecture named “Human-Enhanced Robotic Architecture and Capabilities for Lunar Exploration and Science” (HERACLES); this architecture describes a number of landers, ascent modules, robots, etc, that will work in concert to provide an unprecedented opportunity for exploring the Moon.
I am really excited to be participating in this challenge, and I think it was a great idea of ESA to organize it. Good luck to all competing teams, and have fun!