Cablegate: Germany's Ambition to Join the Lunar-Probing Club


DE RUEHRL #1425/01 2001634
P 191634Z JUL 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: OSC EUP20070312086006

1. (SBU) Summary: Conversations with German officials
concerning Germany's plan to launch an unmanned lunar mission
by 2013 indicate that, although enthusiasm is high in the
German Aerospace Center (DLR), the government needs to be
convinced of the value of this unilateral mission. The
chairman of the DLR executive Board discussed the planned
lunar mission with NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale at
the DLR Headquarters in Cologne, Germany, May 31. The DLR
chairman said even though the goal is for Germany to launch
the mission as a national project, in the end, the DLR may
seek partners to help share the costs. In a separate meeting
in Berlin, an official from the German Ministry of Economics
and Technology told Embassy Global Affairs officer that the
German Government -- and not the DLR -- will make the
decisions concerning German lunar exploration. The Economics
Ministry tasked the DLR to produce a feasibility study by
autumn 2007. The DLR will present three options: send an
orbiter to map the Moon, drop diagnostic/scientific equipment
on the surface, or place a roving vehicle on the surface.
The German Government will review the DLR feasibility study
before making any decisions, probably in 2008. One decision
could be to include foreign partners, such as NASA, if the
government decides to share the costs. If the government
approves a lunar mission, it will seek additional funding
from parliament (the Bundestag) to cover the cost versus
cutting other DLR programs to pay for it. End summary.

The DLR Pitch to NASA

2. (SBU) Global Affairs officer accompanied a NASA delegation
headed by Deputy Administrator Shana Dale to meetings at the
DLR Headquarters in Cologne May 31. During the discussions,
Deputy Administrator Dale asked DLR Chairman of the Executive
Board Johann-Dietrich Woerner about a DLR-hosted workshop on
lunar exploration held in Dresden, Germany, in November 2006.
Woerner and other DLR officials elaborated on German
ambitions to launch by 2013 an unmanned lunar mission, as
announced in March 2007 (see ref). Their plan is to build a
remote-sensing orbiter to fly 50 meters above the Moon's
surface to map the topography, scan for minerals, analyze the
gravitational field, and search for anomalies. The DLR
officials said that, although the Moon has been visited and
probed, very little is actually known about most of its
surface and practically nothing about what is below the
surface. They expect their mission to provide data necessary
for future manned missions and even habitation. Nonetheless,
they did not expect Germany to send any astronauts to the

3. (SBU) The DLR officials said their agency cannot pay for
the lunar mission from its existing budget and would need
supplementary funding from parliament. Another option is to
seek foreign partners, but Woerner emphasized that the DLR's
preference is to undertake the mission as a national venture.
The DLR would seek outside help only if Germany could not
produce all the necessary elements for the mission on its
own. Potential cooperation with NASA might be in the use of
laser communications. The DLR will consult with NASA on this
as necessary. In the meantime, the DLR is preparing its
feasibility study, due in September 2007, to analyze national
capabilities and potential costs. The forecast is that a
mission could cost 300-400 million euros and be launched by
2013. The government will review the feasibility study and
make decisions in 2008. The DLR officials hope that
parliament would provide the extra funding for the lunar
mission instead of forcing the DLR to pay for it by cutting
other programs.

4. (SBU) The DLR officials listed some of the technologies
for the mission which Germany can produce on its own:
robotics, laser communications, radar, hyperspectrography,
gravity sensors, and stereo photography. As part of the
feasibility study, the DLR is funding some studies among
German industries for an orbiter and small landing vehicles.

--------------------------------------------- -
The German Government May Have Different Ideas
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (SBU) In a separate meeting in Berlin, Global Affairs
officer talked to Wolfgang Schneider, of the German Ministry
of Economics and Technology's Space Exploration: Programs and
Applications Division, concerning the planned lunar mission.
Schneider said that ultimately the decision will be
political, based partly on economics -- the costs -- as well
as science. Schneider also pointed out that the Ministry of
Economics is the policy maker for space-related activities.
The Ministry will present to the Cabinet its decisions
resulting from the feasibility study. If the Cabinet
approves the decisions, it will forward them to parliament
for a vote.

6. (SBU) Schneider said each of the three options under study
has a different projected cost. The first option of sending
an orbiter to the Moon for remote sensing would provide the
most substantial benefits for future lunar missions, but
would also cost the most. As Schneider noted, only a small
percentage of the Moon has been accurately mapped, so a
comprehensive survey of the surface would assist future
missions. In addition, remote sensing would provide
information on the mineral content of the Moon's surface.
The orbiter would carry optical equipment, radars, and
hyperspectral scanners. A second, less expensive, option
would be to drop equipment on the Moon. The equipment could
be a radio telescope, which although an old idea is still
useful, or a deep-digging probe. A radio telescope could be
placed on the dark side of the Moon and thus be shielded from
the Earth's radiation. A deep-digging probe could extend
well below the surface to provide data on what is well
beneath it. The third option, also less expensive than the
first, would be to send some type of roving vehicle to the
surface to conduct remote research.

7. (SBU) Schneider mentioned that, due to costs, Germany may
decide to invite foreign partners, such as NASA, to join the
mission. At a minimum, Germany would need to rely on a
foreign partner for launch services, since it produces no
large boosters. In answer to Emboff's question, Schneider
said the Arianne rocket is capable of delivering a payload to
the Moon, should Germany choose a European booster.

8. (SBU) Schneider ended with some cautionary notes. Even
though the DLR is investigating the three options, this is no
guarantee that the German Government will decide to pursue a
unilateral mission, he said. Furthermore, even if the
government decides to proceed with the mission, the
parliamentary support for funding is not assured. Lastly,
whatever enthusiasm may be generated in public and parliament
for a German unmanned lunar mission probably will not
translate into German participation in a manned mission to
the Moon, Scheider observed.

9. (U) This cable was coordinated with NASA subsequent to the
delegation's departure.

© Scoop Media

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