ESA initiated an internal study of a possible lunar programme to assess the rationale and potential benefits of such an endeavour for Europe back in 1994. Considerable scientific interest in a return to the Moon was already expressed by the Lunar Study Steering Group in the 'Mission to the Moon' report (ESA SP-1150). Several brainstorming meetings were held by three working groups - addressing mission objectives, technologies and transportation requirements - resulting in the definition of a 'phased lunar programme' with well-founded long-term objectives (summarised in the brochure 'A Moon Programme, the European View', ESA BR-101). This European approach foresees four steps:
Europe's proposed phased approach for a lunar programme
This scenario was presented at the First International Lunar Workshop, held in Beatenberg (CH) at the end of May 1994 (see ESA SP-1170). ESA's plans were very positively received by the Beatenberg participants - from Japan, the USA and Canada, as well as the European nations - all of whom stressed the importance of a significant international collaboration.
The enthusiasm expressed in Beatenberg stimulated further discussion during the next ESA Council Meeting. Although the lunar programme was deemed to be extremely interesting, the budget situation did not allow an additional programme at that time, particularly with a decision regarding Europe's participation in the International Space Station still pending. It was therefore decided that ESA should conduct a small internal study for a future lander on the Moon (known as the Lunar European Demonstration Approach, or LEDA), focusing particularly on the critical technologies required for such a programme. At the subsequent ESA Ministerial Council in Toulouse, in October 1995, the general approach of ESA's Moon Programme was endorsed and the Executive was requested to propose the LEDA mission to the Council in 1997 for approval and a start in 1998.
Early in 1996, the LSPC, under the Chairmanship of Mr Peter Creola, proposed to the Council that ESA should consider undertaking a special European 'space event' to mark the start of the New Millennium. This proposal of the European Lunar South Pole Expedition is deemed a suitable candidate.
A two-month mission concept study was then undertaken with the support of a small team of ESTEC and ESOC staff, building on the knowledge and expertise accumulated during the LEDA and MORO studies. The results were presented to the LSPC in June 1996, and the go-ahead is awaited within ESA for an additional one-year programme designed to ensure that, in 1997, sufficient knowledge and expertise will have been accumulated to commit to EuroMoon 2000 as a novel and scientifically and technologically meaningful mission with a high probability of success.