The European Space Agency has approved a whooping $464 million budget for space mission ExoMars to keep on its course. ExoMars aims to land a robotic rover on martian soil that would drill on it, looking for living microbial forms.
European members of ESA confirmed Thursday 436 million euros for the second phase of the mission, which is expected to be completed five years from now. Before full details about the mission were revealed, ESA made headlines with their innovative model for future robotic bodies made out completely by legos.
On the ExoMars first phase, two devices were sent out. The first was the Trace Gas Orbiter Orbiter thats has been touching Mars since October, looking for gases such as methane that could indicate the existence of past or present life and water on the planet. The second, on the other hand, did not complete its course that successfully.
Not the best first impression
TGO’s robotic companion, The Schiaparelli lander faced malfunctions on its way to the red planet and ended up crashing on its surface. This caused concerns among the ESA board about the whole mission future. That is why many were taken by surprise when news announced that ExoMars will have a second phase.
The Schiaparelli lander had its heat shield separated as planned, as well as its parachute, but was it released ahead of time, turning off braking thrusters and descending into martian land with a velocity of more than 180 miles per hour (more than 300 kilometers per hour).
Full disclosure reports of the sum reported that member nations disposed 10.3 billion euros ($10.95 billion) to the agency’s participation on Space Stations projects trough 2024, along with countries like the U.S., Canada and Japan. The decision was made at an ESA meeting that extended for two days in Lucerne, Switzerland.
“Completion of ExoMars was probably the most challenging of our discussions because of the size of the additional resources that have been put on the table. But this was justified by the detailed analysis presented by ESA.” said Prof. Roberto Battiston, the president of the Italian space agency, according to BBC News.
The expectations are set high
With this new extra funding, ExoMars could become the first ever European mission to successfully operate over martian territory. Charles Bolden, the administrator of NASA, has also established a hopeful position about this decision, specially because of the fact that all the International Space Station partners have now joined the committing to the operation.
On the other side, ESA Director General Jan Woerner is putting pressure on ESA scientists to make up the delay by doubling up their efforts and research capacity, since achieving the mission after 2021 was simply not an option.
Other space programs have not met the same economic backing from ESA, specially The Asteroid Impact Mission, which is part of a project looking to deflect an asteroid heading toward our planet. ESA representatives have insisted on asteroid defense studies not slowing down but rather being reformulated.