Matthew Koeppe is, since August 2021, the representative of NASA (the American space agency) in Europe. Based in Paris, he spent two days in Toulouse this week to discuss with the players in the space industry. We met him at the Cité de l’Espace.
What is the reason for your visit to Toulouse?
I’m here because Toulouse is the capital of space in France and as an attaché for space issues at the United States Embassy, it’s important to meet our partners and see the work they are doing. Anyone at NASA who works on space programs knows Toulouse, because that’s where space is done. France is one of our most important partners and most of our joint projects take place here in Toulouse.
The Toulouse teams are very well managed in the programs on Mars. How is this specificity perceived?
Collaboration on Martian rovers has existed for many years but it is also the case in Earth science or on the observation of the level of the oceans. The specialists in planetary science questions have all the links with the CNES (National Center for Space Studies) and the Toulouse research teams. It is very easy to work together and it has been since the beginning of space programs. NASA was founded in 1959 and we worked with France almost immediately. We get along very well, we have advanced our programs through our collaborations. Engineers, scientists and industrialists also understand each other very well because they spend time together in the United States and France. SuperCam is the perfect example: we worked together on the Curiosity rover on a similar project (the ChemCam laser camera, Editor’s note) and we are part of the adventure with SuperCam which is a key instrument of the Perseverance rover. This new mission couldn’t be what it is without SuperCam. We need this cooperation for the Mars2020 mission to be unsuccessful. And we will continue our collaboration on Mars.
But before that, there will be the Moon, what are your ambitions?
Exactly. We have launched this new program called Artemis and our intention is to call astronauts to the moon and that involves both scientific and engineering work. We are working with France, with Europe on this major project for the return of humans and scientific projects to the Moon. There will be scientific missions as early as 2022 and we recently announced that the return of humans to the Moon is scheduled for 2025. The first launch test will take place during the winter of 2022 with the Artemis 1 mission, with no humans on board. , to demonstrate that the system works.
How do you see the future and your collaboration with SpaceX?
It’s hard to talk about the future but SpaceX is able to send humans to the International Space Station, so we can imagine that these flights become operational, that SpaceX becomes an operator that allows NASA to focus its resources for development. new programs. SpaceX and other companies have their part to play in the lunar program. This is not a difficulty for us, it makes perfect sense in the way access to space is developing, we are going to forge strong relationships with commercial and industrial partners.