Tag Archives: ExoMars 2020

ESA narrows landing site choice for ExoMars 2020 to two

The European Space Agency has narrowed its choice of landing sites for its ExoMars 2020 rover mission.

Two ancient sites on Mars that hosted an abundance of water in the planet’s early history have been recommended as the final candidates for the landing site of the 2020 ExoMars rover and surface science platform: Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis.

A primary technical constraint is that the landing site be at a suitably low level, so that there is sufficient atmosphere to help slow the landing module’s parachute descent. Then, the 120 x 19 km landing ellipse should not contain features that could endanger the landing, the deployment of the surface platform ramps for the rover to exit, and driving of the rover. This means scrutinising the region for steep slopes, loose material and large rocks.

Oxia Planum was selected in 2015 for further detailed evaluation. Although not yet complete, the investigation so far indicates that the region would meet the various constraints.

They will spend the next year evaluating both sites, though based on the press release it sounds as if Oxia Planum is the favorite.

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ESA signs contract for construction of its part of ExoMars 2020

On Friday the European Space Agency signed a contract with Thales Alenia Space for the construction of the European portion of the ExoMars 2020 lander/rover mission.

The contract signed in Rome, Italy, secures the completion of the European elements and the rigorous tests to prove they are ready for launch. These include the rover itself, which will be accommodated within the Russian descent module, along with the carrier module for cruise and delivery to Mars. ESA is also contributing important elements of the descent module, such as the parachute, radar, inertial measurement unit, UHF radio elements, and the onboard computer and software. The science instruments for the rover and surface platform are funded by national agencies of ESA member states, Roscosmos and NASA following calls to the scientific community.

I had missed this last week. The Thales Alenia press release has more information.

I wish them luck, especially the Russians, whose luck with missions to Mars has been truly terrible. I suspect that the Russians will use some variation of their bouncing balloon technology for the lander, which worked on their 1960s lunar rover missions and was successfully copied by NASA for its 1997 Pathfinder/Sojourner rover mission.

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ESA approves ExoMars 2020 funding

Despite the failure of the Schiaparelli lander on ExoMars 2016, the European Space Agency today approved funds to build and fly the ExoMars 2020 rover mission.

At a meeting of European government ministers in Lucerne, Switzerland, on 1 and 2 December, ESA member states agreed to provide an extra €339 million for ExoMars 2020. ESA also announced that it will find a further €97 million by moving funds internally. Speaking at a press briefing after the meeting, ESA director-general Jan Wörner said this would be done “without detriment” to ESA’s wider science budget.

But not all projects were so fortunate. Member states did not commit the €250 million needed to fund a plan for ESA to participate in a mission to deflect the moon of an asteroid, although they left door open to future, similar projects.

I am not at present sure how they are going to divide up the work between Europe and Russia. Earlier it was my understanding that Russia would provide the roving technology, but right now I am very unsure about this.

One side note: At this same meeting ESA committed to sticking with ISS through 2024.

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