What gives with the Heracles 2026 lunar mission?


We at GMV are now working away on the design of the navigation and guidance system of future moon missions. Large among them feature HERACLES and the Russian LUNA 27 mission. Read on to find out what the HERACLES mission consists of.

Does this represent humankind’s return to the moon?

The European Space Agency (ESA) is collaborating with other space agencies on various programs to pave the way for humankind’s return to the moon. One of these is the HERACLES robotics mission, helmed by ESA with the collaboration of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and Japanese Space Agency (JAXA).

The remit of HERACLES is to bring back to earth moon samples collected over a two-month period by a rover working in permanent liaison with the future lunar Gateway, from where these samples will finally be sent back to earth. After the samples have been sent off, the rover will then continue to scout the moon for one year in preparation for future crewed missions.

In the international HERACLES mission GMV is heading the consortium in charge of designing the guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system for ascent from the moon’s surface, orbit transfer and rendezvous and docking with the lunar Gateway.

At the same time GMV is also responsible for the GNC of the rendezvous and docking phase in one of the two ESA studies, the one led by Thales Italia, for designing HERACLES’s rest component.

The HERACLES Mission

HERACLES is an ESA-led mission that aims to pave the way for future planetary exploration. It is due to blast off onboard an Ariane 64 rocket in 2026, touching down in the Schrödinger crater near the lunar south pole. One of the mission’s main goals is to analyze the future potential of human-robot collaboration arrangements. This being so, interaction between crews and automated systems is reckoned to be crucial for future space-exploration missions.

The mission comprises several components, including a lander, an ascent stage, a sample container and a rover. First of all an ascent module will be launched to the Gateway platform in cislunar orbit where the crew will be waiting. A second launch will then send the lander with the rover onboard.

In the Gateway the lander will dock with the ascent module, after which the HERACLES mission will begin its voyage towards the moon’s south pole. The rover will have two modes: one autonomous and the other in liaison with the crew to carry out remote operations.

The rover will store the samples in a container and then bring this container to the ascent module, which will then be launched up to the Gateway in cislunar orbit, after which the crew will return with the container to earth.

The terrain is being scouted for the return of astronauts

The HERACLES mission will have to deal with several technological challenges to do with collaborative work between humans and machines, such as propulsion, GNC, communications and combined control from earth and the lunar Gateway.

The mission represents a huge challenge for Europe’s space exploration effort and will lay down the bases for future colonization of our natural satellite as well as future missions to more distant planets.

During the initial 72-day phase the rover will collect the lunar samples. In the second phase it will cover hundreds of kilometers travelling at speeds never before attained by other comparable rovers. During the day the rover will scout the terrain, collect the samples and charge up; during the cold lunar nights it will sleep.

What do you make of this project of returning to the moon? Why not leave a comment telling us your opinion?


Las opiniones vertidas por el autor son enteramente suyas y no siempre representan la opinión de GMV
The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of GMV

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