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Feb 09, 2017 08:24 AM EST

NASA Gets Help From European Space Agency For 2021 Manned Orion Mission

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NASA's ICON satellite to study ionosphere, space weather

The European Space Agency (ESA) has confirmed that it will be helping NASA for the manned Orion mission planned for 2021. The space agency has already sent other supplies for the unmanned flight of NASA's Orion spacecraft.

NDTV reported that the European Space Agency will be contributing key components for the Orion mission. The manned mission will be taking humans around the moon for the first time since 1972, when NASA stopped its Apollo program.

ESA and Airbus, an aerospace company, have already provided a propulsion and supply module for an unmanned flight of NASA's new Orion spacecraft. The unmanned mission is scheduled for next year.

On Wednesday, it was confirmed that ESA and Airbus have agreed with NASA to create a module for a second, manned mission. This is expected to go around the moon in as early as 2021.

This would coincide with NASA's plans to study the early Solar System by the 2020s. The space agency confirmed that it has chosen two missions with the potential to help scientists better understand the earliest periods of our solar system. The missions named Lucy and Psyche will be launched in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

According to the Daily Mail, the mission will include up to four astronauts. Crew size and composition will be confirmed closer to launch.

With the mission, Orion will follow three progressively elongated orbits to reach past the moon and return to Earth. This is believed to be faster than the speed by which any manned spacecraft has reentered the atmosphere ever.

ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight, Dave Parker, said that they are ex  cited for the mission and appreciate NASA's trust in them in extending "humanity's exploration farther afield into our Solar System." The European Service Module is developed by a team of companies from 11 countries led by Airbus Space & Defence.

The first Orion spacecraft with the service module will be launched late next year on NASA's new Space Launch System. It will go on a month-long mission to orbit the moon before returning to Earth. This will test the spacecraft and rocket before it can carry the crew to space.

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