A €360 million investment from European countries has saved the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars exploration program (ExoMars program), which was suspended after cutting ties with former collaborator Russia, reports Nature.
Europe’s Rosalind Franklin rover is now scheduled to launch in 2028 after receiving 360 million euros in investment from European countries. The money will allow the European Space Agency (ESA) to begin designing a new landing platform to launch its first Mars rover to the planet’s surface. ESA severed ties in March with the mission’s former partner Roscosmos, which had previously designed and built the rover’s landing gear, as well as the launch mission.
IT Home learned that the ExoMars rover was originally intended to be launched in 2018, but technical problems had to be postponed many times. The pandemic delayed the planned 2020 launch until 2022, before relations with Russia soured. A spokesperson for the ESA told Nature that the cost of delaying the launch from 2020 to 2022 was around 100 million euros.
Despite delays and mounting costs, scientists are excited about the ExoMars mission, the second part of a plan that began with an orbiter that arrived on Mars in 2016 and has been searching for methane and Biological or geological sources of other gases.
It is reported that the Franklin rover carries a 2-meter-long drill that will drill deep under the surface of Mars in search of evidence of preserved ancient life.
“Even if the Mars rover is launched in 2028, it will be unique.” Francesca Esposito, a planetary scientist at the Naples Observatory in Italy, said that the ExoMars program is the first mission to detect the early history of a terrestrial planet, and the Mars rover landing site is Mars. The plateau, where information about the ancient, water-rich Martian environment is preserved, as well as prebiotic chemistry, may even have unique information about life on Mars.
ESA Director Josef Aschbacher said at a news conference after the meeting that ESA wanted NASA to help, providing the launcher for the mission, the braking engine used during landing and the radioactive isotope heating device. The latter were necessary for Rosalind Franklin to survive the harsh Martian night.
EU member states pledged cash for the mission at the ESA ministerial meeting in Paris on Nov. 22-23, where they pledged a total budget of 16.9 billion euros over five years for the project. This includes 2.7 billion euros for human and robotic space exploration, and 3.2 billion euros for the agency’s science programmes.