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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.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • ken anthony

    There seems to be plenty of money to accomplish very little. Imagine if everyone got together and focused?

    Red Dragon landings every window has been the most important news regarding mars. The new MCT/ITS has been the worst. Elon is ambitious, but it will actually slow colonization. He’s trying to do it all himself when he could show others how to step up by demonstrating capability and profits.

    Everything exomars is supposed to do can be done hundreds of times faster by getting a colony started and would be cheaper long term. Each agency could contribute parts of an integrated plan that would do much more than all of them separately could do.

    A red Dragon with an inflatable for the journey could land 4 colonists on mars. Send a dozen crew in 3 red Dragons for first landing. They show the world that living on mars is not a fantasy.

    Make the land valuable by possession and it finances the efforts of other companies. Then low cost rovers can be built for local colonist exploration with a standard low cost way of getting them to mars. Then Elon will have a market for ITS.

  • Lee S

    Hi Bob,
    The Russians are providing the launch vehicle, and the lander, and the actual rover is being built in the U.K. By Airbus…
    I remember seeing a TV program a few years back when Steve Squires ( at that time lead scientist for Spirit and Opportunity) went to visit the European rover facility… He offered one word of advice, something along the lines of ” I’m so pleased we had 6 steerable wheels on our rovers… it’s saved our ass more than once…” , the European scientist answer was along the lines of ” I’m sure we will be just fine with 4 steerable wheels..”
    With that kind of attitude, and Russian tech to get us there and down safely, Even though I’m extremely European, I am not overly optimistic about the missions chances …

  • Lee S

    @ Ken Anthony…
    While in principle I agree with you, you are being optimistic regarding time frames, the regular dragon capsule is not man rated yet, never mind Red Dragon, The Falcon heavy is yet to fly, how exactly are your dozen crew getting back from Mars? Indeed how are they landing? Exomars is due to fly in 2 launch windows, ( and I am dubious about its chances of landing safely ), would you fly on any kind of manned mission given the time for testing all the many critical factors involved in getting their and back?
    I love Musks drive and ambition, but let’s be honest, we ain’t putting boots on mars for at least another 10-20 years.. so a rover designed to seek traces of life is a good idea in my view…

  • Edward

    ken anthony wrote: “Imagine if everyone got together and focused?”

    With everyone getting together, we got the ISS. Of course, if they had stayed focused, we could have had an even better space station, so maybe asking for governments to stay focused is a little like asking a toddler to stay focused.

    The reason that the recent ExoMars mission was launched by the Russians is because the US government could not stay focused long enough to finish their part of the deal.

    Lee S,
    You wrote: “Even though I’m extremely European, I am not overly optimistic about the missions chances …”

    You may be right; this may end up being another learning experience for the ESA. Speaking of learning experiences, I am sometimes told they build character. I often tell people that I am glad I went through them, because I am better off for the experience, but I am not really glad. I would prefer to learn my lessons the easier way, from other people’s learning experiences rather than through having my own rover get stuck in some Martian sand trap, whether a six wheel drive or four.

    The smart man learns from his own mistakes, but the wise man learns from other people’s mistakes.

    You are right about the 10 to 20 year timeframe. Even the optimistic version of SpaceX’s plan to send humans to Mars, arriving in 2025, does not specify whether their explorers will step on the surface or remain aloft during that first trip. Thus, honestly, even if everything went A-OK for the next nine years and they put boots on Mars that year (bets, anyone? I didn’t think so), your timeframe would be off by only a year.

    Even Obama’s ambitious version of a Manned Mars mission does not get boots on the planet until the end of the 2030s, a couple of years longer than your timeframe.

    Mars One, which may turn out to be someone’s idea of a cruel joke, optimistically plans to put their first four people on Mars in 2028.

    Here is a summary of manned-Mars plans and ideas:

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