ESA funds ExoMars mission for 360 million euros

The head of the European Space Agency reports that a new module for landing on the Red Planet will be developed for the ExoMars mission, which has been postponed for so long. Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA), said that the agency would soon announce the possibility of concluding a contract for the development of a module for landing on the ExoMars mission, which would replace the Russian module lost after the partnership was severed in 2022. 

Rosalind Franklin Rover (concept). Source: ESA

“We will issue a contract for the development of the lander, and this will go out soon, in the next few months or so. This is all in full preparation,” Aschbacher said

It is planned that the ESA mission to Mars will be launched no earlier than 2028, which is eight years later than previously expected. This is due to both technical problems and the loss of partnership with Russia after the aggressive and internationally condemned invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. 

ExoMars ground prototype in the Martian surface simulator. Source: ESA

It was originally planned that ExoMars would launch in 2020, but the launch was postponed due to problems with the parachute system of the Russian descent vehicle and the coronavirus pandemic. After the breakup of the partnership between Russia and ESA in early 2022, the Rosalind Franklin rover was left without a lander and a rocket. It was expected that both parts would be built by the Russian side.

Money for ExoMars

The rover is designed to search for signs of Martian life at a much greater depth than NASA Perseverance can reach. It is assumed that microorganisms could better adapt to the Martian underground, where they would be protected from ultraviolet radiation and the solar wind blowing over the surface of the Red Planet. 

In order to save the mission, ESA representatives recently approved a record budget of 16.9 billion euros for three years, including 360 million euros for the ExoMars project.

ExoMars landing scheme. Source: ESA

Aschbacher reported in the news last November that NASA could also provide a braking engine, radioisotope heaters to combat the Martian cold, and possibly a launch vehicle. 

The White House budget request for 2024 indicates NASA’s contribution to the ExoMars project, but without specifying specific amounts. Aschbacher noted that negotiations were still ongoing. ESA is hoping for a “small amount” from NASA.

Earlier we reported on how ESA got a record budget.

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