The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, have partnered for the “ExoMars” program for the launch of two missions in 2016 and 2018. One of the main objectives of the ExoMars program will be to know whether life ever existed on Mars or not.
Both the partners will provide the scientific devices and will work closely together in the exploration. Moreover, for the ExoMars program, ESA will provide the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM) in 2016 and the carrier and rover in 2018. Roscosmos will provide launchers for both missions along with the responsibility of the 2018 descent module and surface platform.
TGO will search for the atmospheric gases such as methane that could be the signatures of the active processes of biology or geology. It will also work as the data relay for 2018 mission. EDM will land on Mars to know important technologies for the 2018 mission.
NASA will also contribute in the ExoMars program by providing Electra UHF radio package for TGO and Mars Proximity Link telecom and engineering support to EDM.
In 2018, ExoMars rover – with the ability to drill to the depth of about 2 meters – will search for any signs of life on the planet.
Russian descent module including a surface platform having additional scientific instruments will go with the rover.
On March 14th, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and head of Roscosmos Vladimir Popovkin met at ESA headquarters in Paris to sign an agreement that seals ExoMars as a partnership between the two space agencies.
“This is a momentous occasion for the ExoMars program that will see industry and scientists from Europe and Russia working together on these two exciting missions, which will develop new technologies that will demonstrate the competitiveness of European industry, be important for preparing a solid participation of ESA in future international exploration missions, and address the key question of whether life ever arose on Mars,” said Dordain.
“It has been a long way. We have performed a large amount of work together,” said Popovkin. “The ExoMars program is to become the second large project after Soyuz in Kourou. It confirms again that projects of such tremendous scale have to be implemented through international cooperation. The scientific data that we are going to obtain during all the planned missions are important for the worldwide community.”