Europe To Have Major Sample Return Role Aviation Week & Space Technology

France, Italy and several other European countries are angling to play an important part in the sample return missions, and the demonstration flight that will precede them, in line with their growing participation in Martian exploration. Under a statement of intent (SOI) signed in October, French national space agency CNES will provide two orbital vehicles–one for a demonstration mission in 2007, the other for the first Mars Sample Return (MSR) flight; a network of four Netlander probes to accompany the 2007 mission; and the launch for the 2007 mission ( AW&ST Nov. 13, p. 99). The Netlanders will also involve the collaboration of German aerospace center DLR, the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and SSTC of Belgium. A final memorandum of understanding (MOU) is to be concluded late next year.