Wednesday, June 13, 2007

ESA opts for big Mars mission

In a further sign of the importance national space agencies are assigning to exploration of the red planet, the ESA has moved a step further forward approving a much enhanced vision for the 2013 ExoMars mission. The proposed upgrade would see a 205kg robot lift off on a heavy-lift rocket such as an Ariane 5 or a Proton. The probe would carry a 16.5kg instrument package, including a weather station (or Geophysics/Environment Package - GEP) but a request to include an orbiting communications platform was not approved. This means that ExoMars will be reliant on aging American hardware already in orbit about Mars. The project teams now have the go-ahead to refine the concept over the coming months, though the final design may still be subject be rejection when it comes up for final review in a years time. More information can be found on the BBC website.