Europe seeks to follow in Apollo’s footsteps

Tintin - © Hergé/Moulinsart 2009

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09 September 2009

The winners of the competition are: Pasqual Ortega Hernández, Rueben Willis, Savitri Thurairatnam, Beatriz Gómez Sala, Rafael y Cristel Reyes Tagle, Liam Drake, Giuseppe Chiacchio, John Dows, José Ibáñez Hazen, Hannah buck, Veseli Davor, Dimitrios Klonaras, Anna Rodriguez Rico, Joel Franchini, Tom Yaouanq and Raùl Domingo Ramos Olivares.

On 21 July 1969, a TV audience of 600 million people – one fifth of the world’s population – watched on TV as a ghostly grey image slowly edged down a ladder and onto the lunar surface. As he became the first human to set foot on another world, Neil Armstrong uttered the immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Over the following three and a half years, another 10 intrepid explorers landed on the Moon, deploying dozens of scientific experiments and bringing back 382 kg of rock samples. Since December 1972, no more astronauts have left their bootprints in the lunar dust. However, 40 years after the spectacular success of Apollo 11, ESA is working with many other space agencies and countries on long-term plans to return people to the Moon.

A possible design of the ESMO spacecraft

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Europe’s SMART-1 spacecraft has already helped to prepare the way by spending 18 months in orbit around the Moon. European students are now developing ESMO, another lunar orbiter, which will blast off in 2013.

With its low gravity and lack of atmosphere, the Moon will be an excellent place to learn how to live on an alien world – possibly as a stepping stone to Mars. Scientific bases will study the history of the Solar System and search for dangerous asteroids heading our way. Exciting times lie ahead for science and engineering students as they take part in the next “giant leap for mankind”.

To mark the historic Apollo 11 mission, ESA is collaborating with Moulinsart to distribute a copy of Tintin’s Moon cartoons, which will be signed by an ESA astronaut, to 20 youngsters who can correctly answer this question: After the Moon, what is the next alien world ESA wants to explore? Please send your answers to The lucky winners' names will be drawn from a hat on 1 September 2009. Stay tuned!

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