COSPAR Panel on Exploration (PEX) Annual update April 2011


In response to the growing importance of space exploration, the objectives of the COSPAR Panel on Exploration (PEX) are to provide high quality, independent science input to support the development of a global space exploration program while working to safeguard the scientific assets of solar system bodies.

PEX is devoted to provide community support by synergizing activities among the science community, science foundations, science organizations and unions and to provide a science-driven vision that can give overall direction, able to unite stakeholders in sustaining a global space exploration program. PEX activities are independent and complementary to the activities of space agencies and other stakeholders in order to support all entities. In this way PEX can guide and accelerate best the progress of robotic and human space exploration as well as cooperative efforts.

Past and future activities of PEX:

In cooperation with national and international science foundations and space-related organizations, COSPAR has adopted and advocated a stepping stone approach to prepare for future cooperative space exploration efforts (see PEX Report 2010 and Updated PEX Report 2012). We will continue to support the stepping stones with active research:

Stepping Stone 1:

International Earth-based field research program

In a recent study that is published in Acta Astronautica (Ansdell, Ehrenfreund & McKay 2011) we identified existing programs and elaborated on policy issues how to better coordinate a more international program in the future. Currently we are editing the report of the COSPAR Workshop on Earth-based field research that was held March 2011 in Washington DC (see Workshop page). We would like to continue to keep PEX engaged in this topic (and team up with other organizations) and expand our activities to provide more synergies with Earth science. Habitability studies in preparation of future Moon and Mars missions should include the simultaneous investigation of Earth’s ecosystems, through field research and supporting satellite observations as well as studies to understand habitability in extreme environments including the robot/human interface.

Stepping Stone 2:

Science exploitation of the ISS enabling exploration

A new European-US Topical Team was founded at the European Space Agency (HSO) entitled “Future Astrobiology Experiments in Earth orbit” that will investigate research opportunities strongly related to space exploration including exposure facilities, missions to NEOs and supporting Earth analog research. Several PEX Associates are involved in this team that took up duty on May 16, 2011. The activity of the team will certainly be a good basis for future COSPAR activities and links with commission F.

Stepping Stone 3:

International CubeSat program in support of exploration for developed and developing countries

In a recent study we have addressed Cubesats as cost-effective science and technology platforms for emerging and developing nations (Woellert et al. 2011, Advances in Space Research 47, 663–684) and support the UN Basic Technology Space Initiative. A session at COSPAR 2012 will be dedicated to this topic to provide further links with the COSPAR community.

Concerning its mandate to safeguard the potential scientific assets of solar system objects” PEX will engage in compiling data on environmental damaging activities (i.e. from landing, lift-off, EVA’s, site destruction through human activities etc. and consequences such as dust raising, atmosphere contamination, vibration, radio contamination, nuclear power sources etc.) which can adversely affect scientific activities (e.g., telescopic observations, fundamental physics, geological studies, etc.) to provide numbers and facts in preparation for COSPAR 2012 and as input for other working groups on this topic. We consider it as important that scientific and industry representatives cooperate and discuss guidelines and best practices for ensuring that future human and robotic operations on planetary bodies and the economic development of space and its resources are safe and sustainable.

We thank you for your interest and input.

Pascale Ehrenfreund and Chris McKay _April, 2011