Europe Targets 2003 Mars Touchdown Aviation Week & Space Technology

A mission underway at the European Space Agency will mark Europe’s entry into the Mars exploration effort while pushing the boundaries of Martian science and technology to new limits. Mars Express is intended to conduct the most thorough search yet for the presence of water or other signs of life on the red planet, despite a budget that would make NASA planners blush. Mars Express will comprise an orbiter costing 150 million euros ($127 million) and a lander, Beagle 2, that will cost barely 50 million euros–by far the cheapest Mars project ever. The probe will be ESA’s first Flexible mission–the agency’s answer to NASA’s “faster, better, cheaper” approach.