French Role in Mars Exploration At Risk

The French participation in a long-term Mars-exploration program remains in doubt following budget cuts at its space agency, CNES, and pending a government review of space-spending priorities. What is clear is that CNES’s Premier Mars mission, designed to include a Mars-orbiting satellite and four 18-kilogram landers to study the Martian surface and subsuface, will be substantially scaled back. The year-2007 launch date likely will slip to 2009. “We are looking for significant cost reductions to Premier, and a simplification of the mission,” said Jean-Louis Counil, principal scientists for Mars exploration at CNES. “Our top priority remains the landers.