March 20, 2013
Europe, Russia ink deal on double mission to Mars
The European Space Agency (ESA) said it signed a deal on Thursday with its Russian counterpart to launch two unmanned missions to Mars, a quest that was rocked by a US pullout last year.
Called ExoMars, the scheme entails sending an orbital probe to the Red Planet in January 2016 to look for atmospheric traces of methane gas, a pointer to the existence of microbial life.
It will also send down a small stationary lander to test key technologies for the second mission -- the launch of a six-wheeled rover in 2018.
December 04, 2012
NASA Announces Robust Multi-Year Mars Program; New Rover to Close Out Decade of New Missions
Building on the success of Curiosity's Red Planet landing, NASA has announced plans for a robust multi-year Mars program, including a new robotic science rover set to launch in 2020. This announcement affirms the agency's commitment to a bold exploration program that meets our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
The planned portfolio includes the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers; two NASA spacecraft and contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars; the 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere; the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars; and participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover.
June 20, 2012
ESA tests self-steering rover in ‘Mars’ desert
ESA assembled a top engineering team then challenged them to devise a way for rovers to navigate on alien planets. Six months later, a fully autonomous vehicle was charting its own course through Chile’s Mars-like Atacama Desert.
The recent test of the Seeker full-scale rover was the outcome of gathering a multidisciplinary team at a single site, working against the clock to achieve a breakthrough. “Their challenge was to demonstrate how a planetary rover – programmed with state-of-the-art software for autonomous navigation and making decisions – could traverse 6 km in a Mars-like environment and come back where it started,” explained ESA’s Gianfranco Visentin.
December 17, 2011
ESA, NASA, Russia Redesign ExoMars
Science chiefs from the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos have begun laying the ground work to redesign a two-pronged robotic Mars mission to accommodate greater participation by Russia.
The ExoMars mission was upended earlier this year by uncertainty surrounding NASA’s ability to fund the joint campaign.
September 24, 2010
Space allies go after Martian methane
The scientific instruments have been selected for the first U.S.-European joint mission to Mars, and they're going to be looking for methane. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter will be loaded up with gadgets designed to sniff out whether the gas is being generated by geological or biological processes.
Unexpected levels of methane were detected by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter in 2003, and the find was confirmed by ground-based observations supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation. One of the places where plumes of methane are rising into the Martian atmosphere is Nili Fossae, which is considered a prime target in the search for traces of Martian life.
The ExoMars experiments will track down more precisely where Mars' methane is coming from.
August 27, 2010
Tracing the Big Picture of Mars' Atmosphere
One of the instruments on a 2016 mission to orbit Mars will provide daily maps of global, pole-to-pole, vertical distributions of the temperature, dust, water vapor and ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere.
The joint European-American mission, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, will seek faint gaseous clues about possible life on Mars. This instrument, called the ExoMars Climate Sounder, will supply crucial context with its daily profiling of the atmosphere's changing structure.
August 15, 2010
New Mars Orbiter Will Be a Super-Sniffer
The first joint U.S.-European mission to Mars now has a plan for its toolkit.
Scheduled for launch in 2016, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter will study the chemical composition of Mars' atmosphere with a suite of instruments specially suited to the task. These instruments are expected to take measurements 1,000 times more sensitive than those by previous Mars orbiters.
"To fully explore Mars, we want to marshal all the talents we can on Earth," said European Space Agency scientist David Southwood. Traveling around Mars in a circular path, the ExoMars spacecraft will record spectra of the sun as its telescope picks up the light that reaches it through orbital sunrise and sunset. Depending on the composition of gas in the atmosphere, sunlight will pass through it differently.
"If you take the spectra fast," said NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher Geoffrey Toon, "you can measure the gas abundance at many different heights above the planet — 70 measurements as the sun rises, and 70 as it sets."
July 20, 2010
Mars sample return mission could begin in 2018
Space officials in the United States and Europe are planning an ambitious dual-rover mission that could start collecting Martian soil samples in 2018 to be picked up by a subsequent mission and returned to Earth in the 2020s. The costly mission would blast off on an Atlas 5 rocket in 2018 and land two rovers on Mars with a single "sky crane" descent system that will be tested for the first time at the Red Planet in August 2012. It would be the first time two rovers will be delivered to the same landing site on Mars. The European Space Agency's ExoMars rover and a $2 billion NASA Mars Astrobiology Explorer-Cacher mission are the leading candidates for the tandem project.
March 25, 2003
European Space Agency Plans Mars Mission
The European Space Agency will send an unmanned mission to Mars in 2009 to put a roving vehicle on the planet to search for evidence of life, the agency said Tuesday. The ESA hopes the mission, known as ExoMars, also will provide new insight into the planet's surface and atmosphere. The trip is part of ESA's preparation for eventual manned missions to Mars.
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