Since its formation in 1975 ESA has become a major player in the commercial launch industry It has also developed many groundbreaking satellites and probes and sent astronauts into space in collaboration with other space powers

Europe's first astronaut (or spationaut) was French air force pilot Jean-Loup Chrétien (b.1938). He was first selected as a candidate for cosmonaut training when the Soviet Union offered France a place in its Intercosmos programme (see p.240) and flew to Salyut 7 aboard Soyuz T-6 in June 1982. Appointed head of the CNES Astronaut Office, he was backup for the first spationaut to join the Space Shuttle in 1985 and flew on another Soviet mission, this time to Mir in 1988. Moving to America, he retrained with NASA and returned to Mir aboard Atlantis in 1997. He retired in 2001.

Europe's first astronaut (or spationaut) was French air force pilot Jean-Loup Chrétien (b.1938). He was first selected as a candidate for cosmonaut training when the Soviet Union offered France a place in its Intercosmos programme (see p.240) and flew to Salyut 7 aboard Soyuz T-6 in June 1982. Appointed head of the CNES Astronaut Office, he was backup for the first spationaut to join the Space Shuttle in 1985 and flew on another Soviet mission, this time to Mir in 1988. Moving to America, he retrained with NASA and returned to Mir aboard Atlantis in 1997. He retired in 2001.

observatories have included Cos-B, Hipparcos (a survey telescope that measured the properties of half a million stars) and the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO). The Agency has developed a particularly successful series of remote-sensing satellites: its Earth resources satellite ERS-1 was among the first to carry synthetic aperture radar (see p.267) and was followed up by ERS-2 and Envisat, which carries an array of instruments to monitor climate change.

Further afield, Europe made a spectacular space-exploration debut when its Giotto probe flew past the nucleus of Halley's Comet in 1986 (see p.272). Since then, ESA has contributed the Huygens Lander to the Cassini Saturn mission, launched its own planetary orbiters - Mars Express and Venus Express - and built a number of smaller probes, including the highly successful SMART-I, an experimental spacecraft powered by an ion drive (see p.257). Future plans are even more ambitious - the Rosetta mission currently on its way to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko will go into orbit around and deploy a lander to sample the comet's surface, while the BepiColombo mission (developed with Japan's JAXA agency and still in its planning stages) will put a pair of complementary spacecraft in orbit around Mercury.

ARIANE 1 LAUNCHES

The successful launch of Arione 1 in December 1979 pointed the way to Europe's future in space. Although there were still some teething troubles to come, ESA's rockets have established an almost unrivalled record of reliability.

14 March 1986

ESA's first spaceprobe, Giotto, makes a successful flyby of Halley's Comet.

15 June 1988

Ariane 4 makes its first successful flight.

21 October 1998

After a pair of failures, Ariane 5 enters service with a successful launch.

30 June 2005

Luxembourg becomes ESA's 17th member state.

ASTRONAUT TRAINING

ESA astronauts Pedro Duque (Spanish, seated left) and Paolo Nespoli (Italian, seated right) train for flights aboard the ISS. Training at the European Astronaut Centre In Cologne is supplemented with training at Houston and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.

24 December 1979

The first test flight of Europe's Ariane launch vehicle is a success.

24 June 1982

Jean-Loup Chrétien becomes the first western European in space, aboard Soyuz T-6.

4 August 1984

Ariane 3 enters service, almost two years ahead of Ariane 2.

14 March 1986

ESA's first spaceprobe, Giotto, makes a successful flyby of Halley's Comet.

15 June 1988

Ariane 4 makes its first successful flight.

21 October 1998

After a pair of failures, Ariane 5 enters service with a successful launch.

30 June 2005

Luxembourg becomes ESA's 17th member state.

A major pillar of ESA's success has been the Ariane launcher, developed largely by the French CNES space agency. After the problems with the Europa project, France contributed 60 per cent of the development costs in return for control of the project. Germany put in another 20 per cent, with the other ESA nations making up the remainder. Ariane I, with its first and second stages powered by French Viking engines, was low-tech but reliable. A successful maiden flight in 1979 paved the way for 11 more launches, with only two failures early in the programme.

Arianes 2 and 3, which entered service in the mid-1980s, were essentially similar rockets, though Ariane 3 had strap-on boosters. They and their successor, Ariane 4, had very good success rates, allowing Arianespace, a company formed to run the commercial launch operation, to take a substantial segment of the satellite launch market. Today, ESA operates the new heavy-lift Ariane 5 (see over) and is developing a solid-rocket launcher called Vega for smaller payloads. Meanwhile, the organization has grown from its initial ten member states to 17.

0 0

Post a comment