Overview of the Heracles mission. ESA is leading an alliance of international space agencies to prepare a robotic mission to the Moon to retrieve samples and return them to Earth.
The video shows a launch on an Ariane 6 rocket, separation from the rocket boosters over Earth and a transfer to the Moon.
The Heracles lander will target a previously unexplored region near the lunar South Pole as an interesting area for researchers. A lander with a rover inside and ascent module on top will land there.
Monitored and controlled from the lunar Gateway, the rover will scout the terrain in preparation for the future arrival of astronauts, and collect samples.
The ascent module will take off from the surface and fly to the Gateway with the samples taken by the rover.
When the ascent module carrying the sample container arrives, the Gateway’s robotic arm will capture it and extract the sample container. The sample container will be received by the astronauts via a science airlock and pack it in NASA’s Orion spacecraft that is powered by the European Service Module.
Orion will fly to Earth with astronauts and land with the Heracles lunar samples for analysis in the best laboratories on Earth.
Other goals of the mission include testing new hardware, demonstrating technology and gaining experience in operations while strengthening international partnerships in exploration. Its development will provide an Ariane 64-based lunar cargo lander available for commercialisation by European and partners’ industry.
Heracles is an international programme to use the Gateway to the fullest and deliver samples to scientists on Earth using new technology that is more capable and lighter than previous missions.