NASA and Europe Agree on Joint Mars Mission

August 6, 2009

(ChattahBox)—NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced an agreement between the two agencies for a joint mission to Mars within the next 10 years, to search for signs of life on the red planet. Two rovers and a trace-gas orbiter are planned for launch on two Atlas rockets from NASA.

ESA’s trace-gas orbiter will launch first in 2016 to map methane plumes in Mar’s atmosphere and to direct the future rovers to land on regions containing vents of methane, which may contain subterranean microbes.

The large ExoMars rover developed by ESA will drill deep core samples to search for signs of life. NASA’s rover will collect and analyze rock samples. The two agencies are combining forces to make better use of costly resources and launch costs.

NASA plans to re-use the sky crane technology currently in development to use on the new Mars Science Laboratory scheduled for launch to Mars sometime in 2011.

The design for ESA’s trace-gas orbiter is highly sensitive to detect methane sensitivities of parts per trillion, which could possibly discover light carbon isotopes.

A joint NASA–ESA team of scientists is already excitedly working on the design specifications for the trace-gas orbiter.

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