Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Europe's Mars rover launch delayed

The European ExoMars mission, seen as one of the most ambitious yet mounted to the red planet, has suffered a further setback (its 3rd delay) with a new launch date now likely to be in 2018. Mission planners are putting a brave face on things, pointing out that the delay will have benefits, rolling the mission up with the NASA program. The plan now envisages an American Atlas launcher delivering an orbiter in 2016 which will hunt for methane traces (a key indicator of life) and it is also possible that their might be payload room for a static lander. Then in 2018, ExoMars, accompanied by a smaller rover based on the Spirit/Opportunity design would arrive, targeted toward any promising Methane finds from the 2016 orbiter. So we've got a bit of a wait, but the payoff could be enormous is this combined mission finds evidence of actual life now on Mars. The full story is on the BBC website.