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Germany

Germany Mulls Sending Own Mission to the Moon

According to media reports, the German space agency is preparing for a mission to the moon and the federal government is listening with interest.

An aircraft passing the almost full moon

Germany wants to show that it has the know-how to fly to the moon

The head of the German Space Program (DLR), Walter Döllinger, told daily Financial Times Deutschland this week that the DLR would be ready by 2013 to send an unmanned space shuttle to orbit the earth's only natural satellite.

"We want to show that Germany has the know-how," he said, after the DLR presented its plans for the mission to the German parliament.

Completing a moon mission would catapult the country into the league of nations which can send spacecraft into orbit.

Döllinger said the federal government was mulling the project.

Will the government support it?

An artist's rendering of a satellite circling around the moon

Scientific and technological progress is the driving force of space exploration

A high-ranking official in the economy ministry, Helge Engelhard, said Berlin was "not negatively disposed" towards a moon mission.

He added that the mission should have clear scientific or technical goals such as long-term improvements in radar technology or robotics.

"If we do it, it shouldn't be the same thing, only smaller, that the Americans did when they landed on the moon in 1969," Engelhard said.

Scientific platform

The DLR is planning to discuss the focus points of a potential moon mission with space experts in March. The two largest German space exploration enterprises -- OHB System and EADS-Astrium from Bremen -- have been asked to conduct preliminary studies.

A woman waving a German flag while the full moon is visible in background

Will Germany fly its flag on the moon one day?

The OHB is interested in exploring the ways to discover, measure and eventually exploit helium 3 -- a lighter isotope of the noble gas helium -- which is rare on earth, but thought to exist on the moon. According to experts, helium 3 could one day be used as raw material in commercial fusion reactors.

Astrium, on the other hand, wants in the long term to erect a long-wave radio telescope on the moon which would could potentially not only shed more light on the origins of the universe, but also be used for various explorations of the solar system and geophysics.

A space race

It is estimated that sending a shuttle to orbit the moon would cost Germany between 300 and 400 million euros (between $396 million $528 million).

This artist's rendering of a crew preparing to leave a work site on the lunar surface

NASA is planning a permanent base on the moon

Italy and Britain are also currently looking into dispatching unmanned shuttles around the moon. Japan and China want to send their own unmanned missions this year, whereas India is planning to do the same in 2008.

The US, on the other hand, is working on sending manned missions to the moon by 2020 with the goal of eventually setting up a permanent base there.

Germany was the first nation to launch a man-made object into space in the 1940s when it tested the V-2 ballistic missile which it used towards the end of World War II.

DW.DE