PARIS, April 1 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency says it is seeking industry proposals for a lander to be used in an exploration mission to the moon's south polar region.
ESA scientists said that lunar area's possible deposits of water ice, heavily cratered terrain and long periods of sunlight make it an extremely interesting target for astronauts' moon missions.
The space agency says the lander will need the latest navigation technology to fly a precise course from lunar orbit to the surface and touch down safely and accurately. On its decent, it must image the surface and recognize dangerous features by itself, using its own "intelligence,"
"Then the lander shall investigate this unique region with a suite of instruments," the space agency said. "It will investigate the properties and possible health effects of radiation and lunar dust on future astronauts, and it will examine the soil for signs of resources that could be used by human explorers."
The next step -- "Phase B1" -- will mature the mission's goals and spacecraft design, focusing on the demands of landing and working at specific southern sites, officials said.
That 18-month phase will begin this summer, taking the lander from a design concept to hardware reality. The ESA said its goal is to launch the spacecraft by the end of this decade.