Philippe Baptiste, chairman and CEO of the French space agency CNES (Centre Nationale d’Etude Spatiales), is hoping to see French astronaut Thomas Pesquet set foot on the moon very soon.
“The objective of NASA’s Artemis programme (announced in 2019) is to go back to the moon. Europe is participating in it. Through our industrial partners, we are already providing a set of instruments and modules that will be used in this programme,” Baptiste told RFI.
“We believe and hope that our astronauts will participate in this new exploration of the moon. Thomas Pesquet is a great astronaut. We hope he will set foot on the moon very soon,” he said.
Baptiste was in Washington recently to sign the Artemis Accords, making France the 20th country to join the space exploration programme led by the US.
Baptiste explained that the Artemis Accords are different than the Artemis programme.
“While the Artemis programme has the objective of returning to the Moon, and was launched by Amercia a few years ago, the Artemis Accords make up a generic framework for space exploration in line with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty," he said.
He added that the Artemis Accords do not constitute a binding treaty. Instead they set out some basic questions that all participants should ask themselves before exploring space.
Among the issues it addresses are how countries and agencies cooperate in space, how we share resources and how participants can help each other.
When asked as to why humans were going back to the moon, Baptiste replied that unlike the Apollo missions, the aim is stay on the moon this time.
“We want to establish a base and understand how we can have people living very far away from the Earth. This means using solar energy, water on the moon and regolith on the lunar surface to build materials, propellants and so on. This will be a very important milestone," he said”