June 10, 2023
A 'Made in Europe' solution could save the beleaguered ExoMars rover mission

A ‘Made in Europe’ solution could save the beleaguered ExoMars rover mission

Artist's impression of the ExoMars rover on Mars.

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars rover on Mars.
Picture: ESA

The ExoMars rover may get a second chance at Mars. The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to exchange a Russian-made entry and descent platform for a version built in Europe, but the space agency will need to secure a huge budget to go ahead.

After a board meeting Thursday, ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher assured reporters that the scientific goals of the ExoMars mission will still be relevant in six years when the space agency plans to launch the rover. “Science with the Rosalind Franklin rover is still the most advanced and interesting science in the search for life on Mars,” he said. he said during the press briefing. “There is no other similar mission planned…it would still be cutting-edge science.”

The rover, named after scientist Rosalind Franklin, was due to launch in September this year to begin its journey to the Red Planet. The ExoMars rover was to launch on a Russian Proton rocket and land on the dusty surface of Mars using a Russian lander called Kazachok. But earlier in March, ESA suspended its joint mission with the Russian space agency Roscosmos after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The rover is equipped with two cameras that allow it to see in three dimensions.

The rover is equipped with two cameras that allow it to see in three dimensions.
Photo: ESA

The space agency has been trying to reinvigorate its mission to Mars and now wants to launch the rover in 2028. But to do that, ESA needs to provide the rover with a brand new landing platform that will be built in Europe. David Parker, ESA’s director of human and robotic exploration, said at the press conference.

The fate of the rover will be decided at the ESA Cabinet Meeting, which will be held from November 22 to 23 in Paris. Each of the space agency’s member states is represented by one person on the board, and each has one vote to set the guidelines for ESA’s space program. “The decision will be made in the cabinet itself, but we have finalized the legal documents to get there,” Aschbacher said.

At the meeting, ESA will present an initial budget request for one 360 million euros Mission (355 million dollars)The most of which will be used to redesign the ExoMars mission, BBC mentionted. The space agency may even need additional funding later, Parker told the BBC.

ExoMars is a twopart of the mission, with an orbiter launched in 2016 to study the chemistry of the Martian atmosphere. The Rosalind Franklin rover is designed to search for evidence of ancient life on Mars using a handy drill that goes 2 meters (6.5 feet) below the surface to dig into the planet’s past. “The idea is to go to Mars, but also to go back in time,” Parker said during the press conference.

The mission suffered many delays even before things went south with Russia’s space agency. Funding for ExoMars was provided by more than 10 YEARS agobut technical delays and the covid-19 pandemic pushed The start date in the fall of 2022.

ESA is working feverishly at the source new spacewalks after they were no longer able to rely on Russia’s Soyuz rocket. The space agency recently announced it would use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched the Euclid Infrared Space Telescopesometime in 2023. ESA is also awaiting the expected launch of Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket, a heavy-lift launch vehicle currently scheduled to debut in late 2023.

It’s looking a little tough for Europa’s space agency right now, but hopefully the Mars rover will eventually be able to reach the Red Planet—even if it is six years later than planned.

More: NASA and ESA are changing plans for an ambitious sample return mission to Mars

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