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BAIKONUR, March 13. /TASS/. Possible postponement of the second phase of the Euro-Russian ExoMars mission from 2018 to 2020 is being looked at, chief of the Russian state space corporation Roscosmos Igor Komarov said on Sunday.
"The issue of the mission’s possible postponement to 2020 is being discussed but the final decision has not yet been taken," he told journalists.
He said Roscosmos and the European Space Agency [ESA] are still in talks on the second phase of the ExoMars mission which provides for sending a Russian lander and a European rover to Mars.
"It is the project’s phase two and we are not yet through with its discussion with the European Space Agency," Komarov noted.
Roscosmos and the European Space Agency signed the ExoMars agreement in March 2013. A key goal of this mission is to gain a better understanding of methane and other atmospheric gases present in the Martian atmosphere that could be evidence for possible biological or geological activity. This research will also be used to help select the landing site for the 2018 ExoMars rover, which will include multiple life searching instruments.
The 2016 ExoMars mission will involve two space vehicles: the Trace Gas Orbiter [TGO] that will analyze the composition of the Mars atmosphere and transmit the relevant data to the Earth and the Schiaparelli demonstration landing module that will practice maneuvers to enter the Martian atmosphere, descend and land on the Red Planet.
A Russian Proton-M carrier rocket and a Briz-M acceleration unit will be used to launch both vehicles into outer space from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The second stage with the launch of another two modules is scheduled for 2018 when a full-fledged descendible module will be launched towards Mars. The module that will be largely developed by the Lavochkin Aerospace Company will land a self-moving robot on Mars to drill and analyze Martian soil.