PARIS – The European Space Agency announced on Friday it will ask its member states for just over 400 million euros ($424 million) to finance the agency’s next Mars mission, scheduled for 2020.
The European Space Agency (ESA) will ask its Ministerial Council, which will convene next week in Switzerland, to fund the second phase of the Exomars (Exobiology on Mars) Mission.
“We expect a positive response” said ESA’s director for Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, David Parker as he announced the funds request during a video-conference from the ESA headquarters in Paris.
This funding requires prior approval from the 22 ESA member states’ “Space” ministers, who meet every three years to discuss ESA’s budgets and policy.
The next Council meeting is scheduled to take place in Lucerne, Switzerland on Dec. 1-2, to review not only ExoMars but also the Space 4.0 ESA strategy.
This represents a paradigmatic shift in the notion of space exploration that leaves state-only involvement behind to include new participants such as private companies, academia, industry and citizens, digitization and global interaction.
ESA’s ministerial council includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, Holland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Canada also attends these councils.
Both Exomars 2016 and Exomars 2020 missions included the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, as full partner after NASA dropped out some years ago due to budget cuts.
Roscosmos provides the mission launchers (Proton boosters) and contributes to spacecraft hardware and scientific instruments; in exchange it obtains full access to the mission’s scientific data.
This strategic association was defined by Parker as “very positive.”
During his video-cast Parker also spoke about the valuable lessons learned on the fateful Nov. 19 final approach to Mars of the Exomars 2016 mission.
It successfully inserted a fully operational trace gas research and communication satellite into Martian orbit but failed to place the Schiaparelli stationary scientific lander on Mars’ surface after an altitude sensor apparently malfunctioned during its descent and the lander ended crashing into the red planet’s surface.
“We have learned what went well and what went bad, we obtained data for the scientific community,” Parker said. “It is true there may have been some frustrating elements but now we have to plan 2020 and we are ready for success.”
Since the 1960s, Mars is one of the Solar System’s most explored planets.
Numerous United States, former USSR, Indian, Japanese, and European missions have flown to our neighboring red planet, more than 40 in all, although the failure rate has been high.