The European Space Agency (ESA), comprising of 22-nations including Slovenia and Canada, isn’t ready to hear a no just yet. Instead, it plans on moving forward with its ambitious hunt for life forms on the Red Planet – Mars and has, thus, committed about half a billion dollars to keep the ExoMars rover program up and running at full-speed.
Earlier this week, ESA had shared its concerns over the future of this program. Due to a significant rise in operational costs and the recent unfortunate loss of the Schiaparelli lander, the space agency was apprehensive of the decision of its member states. Thus, they had urged members to support such significant missions and enable Europe to join the ranks of NASA in conquering Mars and landing a probe of their own.
And according to the official statement, the ESA member states, who gathered at a major meeting in Switzerland, have come through. Though exercising stiff control over the proceedings, they’ve agreed to commit an extra €436 million (approx. $464 million) to the ExoMars 2020 project. This can be seen as a part of the massive €10.3 billion (approx. $11 billion) allocated for space activities and programmes in the future.
The high level of subscriptions demonstrates once more that ESA’s Member States consider space as a strategic and attractive investment with a particularly high socio-economic value,
reads the official statement.
This pivotal decision of member states will enable the European space agency to continue the second-stage of their Mars mission, costing about $1.5 million, without any hiccups.
The orbiter which delivered the Schiaparelli probe to the Red Planet is still operational and performing exceptionally. It could probably come in handy for future missions when the ESA goes ahead with the landing of a probe on Mars in 2021. The primary aim of this probe would be to drill into the Martian soil and examine the same for biochemical traces of living or dead organisms.
Commenting on the same, European space agency’s (ESA) director general, Jan Worner, says,
Today I am very confident that we will do it. We need to work hard because it’s not only some rover, we have the payloads from different sources – all of this has to pack together. It’s not an easy thing, but we are confident that we will succeed.
For the second mission, ESA is continuing it’s partnership with Roscosmos (Russian space agency) but is now scrimping for additonal cash to launch the ExoMars probe in 2020. Thus, it had planned to cancel its Asteroid Impact Mission(AIM), which involved sending multiple probes and observing results of hitting the same very hard with another object. It was said to support NASA’s mission, which is on track, but it is now hurting the said mission by not accompanying NASA and handing over observation to on-ground support. This might affect the precision of data gathered but ESA plans to focus on the Red Planet — which is a common turf for more than one ambitious agency.