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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Europeans and Russians Agree on ExoMars

The European Space Agency has agreed to move forward with Russian partners on the ExoMars missions in which Roscosmos would get the Martian missions in 2016 and 2018 off the ground with its Proton rockets, sending first a satellite to look for methane and other trace gases in the atmosphere, and then Europe's own Mars surface rover.
Russian Proton rocket
ESA turned to Russia after NASA retreated from a partnership at the beginning of 2012, citing budget concerns. NASA spent the year evaluating its options for future Mars exploration, pursuing less expensive objectives and closer synergies between robotic and future human missions to the red planet, noted on-line publication SpaceflightNow.
"It's a pity that we've lost the partnership with NASA but it's good that we've now got the Russians coming in instead, so we're optimistic that this is now on track," British Science Minister David Willetts said, according to AFP.
Besides the Proton launchers, Russia has agreed to build a descent stage for the European rover and provide scientific instruments to the lander and orbiter components of ExoMars.
The BBC points that the European-Russian ExoMars partnership may lead to future interplanetary cooperation to explore Jupiter,  its moon Ganymede and lunar robotics. Frederic Nordlund, the head of international relations at ESA noted, "Russia already has its Luna-Glob and Luna-Resurs missions, which are already being implemented, but we're considering other opportunities for this in other areas."

The ExoMars Drill is devised to acquire soil samples down to a maximum depth of 2 metres, in a variety of soil types. This video shows footage from tests of a prototype drill.

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