ESA title
Science & Exploration

European vision of exploration

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ESA / Science & Exploration / Human and Robotic Exploration / Exploration

ESA’s future for human spaceflight and robotic exploration is a sustainable and international endeavour to visit new places and discover new things. Exploring space is about travelling further and coming back with new experiences and knowledge to help us on Earth.

Our strategy includes three destinations where humans will work with robots to gather new knowledge: low-Earth orbit on the International Space Station, the Moon and Mars.

The exploration programme includes Europe’s service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, a landing on the Moon with Roscomos’ Luna and drilling into Mars with ESA’s ExoMars rover.

A deep-space gateway farther afield than the International Space Station is considered as a springboard for exploration beyond the Moon.

Space Station over Earth
Space Station over Earth

Robots will work hand in hand with astronauts and ground control to scout ahead, prepare landing sites and go to places too dangerous or impractical for humans.

ESA is working closely with international partners and commercial companies to ensure exploration of our Solar System is sustainable and peaceful. Historically, government-backed agencies have opened new paths to the far reaches of our planet and beyond for companies to step in and expand access to more parties. This time has arrived and ESA will join forces with combined missions offering space for commercial endeavours in addition to pure exploration and scientific research.

The ESA council at ministerial level agreed on an exploration strategy of four goals:


  • Science: strengthening European excellence in scientific research through opportunities for in-situ investigations, and the development of relevant instrumentation and enabling technologies;
  • Economics (knowledge and technology): contributing to the competitiveness and growth of European industry by pushing the frontiers of knowledge and developing new technologies able to be applied in other fields of economic value;
  • Global cooperation: establishing a worldwide cooperative framework to carry out several specific space exploration projects, involving in each case interested partners;
  • An inspirational dimension: attracting society and in particular young generations to expand the limits of our knowledge, to study natural sciences and engineering, to share the values of global cooperation in space, and to prepare a sustainable human presence in the Solar System beyond Earth.


Use the links below to learn more about our destinations, how we are going to get there and what science we will do to bring discoveries and knowledge back to Earth.

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