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ESA, Roscosmos chiefs sign agreement on cooperation in Mars exploration

March 14, 2013, 16:07 UTC+3

The Mars exploration envisions the fulfilment of the ExoMars missions in 2016 and 2018

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MOSCOW, March 14 (Itar-Tass) – Head of the Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Vladimir Popovkin and Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA) Jean-Jacques Dordain signed a final agreement on the implementation of the ExoMars project at the ESA head office in Paris on Thursday.

The agreement envisages the implementation of a large-scale program for the exploration of Mars in joint efforts by Russian and European specialists. The exploration of the surface and the depths of the Red Planet, the research of water and geochemical structures, as well as the search for possible traces of the life are among the top priorities of the Mars exploration. In 2016 a scientific orbiter with a meteorological station onboard is planned to be delivered to Mars, the landing of a Martian robotic rover is scheduled for 2018.

This is an important event for the ExoMars program, under which engineers and scientists from Europe and Russia will work together on these two outstanding projects, Dordain said in the comments on the agreement.

In his words, ExoMars will permit to give a fresh impetus to the development of technologies and the build-up of competitiveness of the European space industry.

For his part, the Roscosmos chief noted that this project for Russia is important as a new step on the way of building up cooperation with other leading space powers. “We have been seeking to achieve this result for a long time and have done a huge amount of work together,” he said. “The ExoMars program will be the second important program after the Soyuz launching program from the Kourou spaceport,” he noted. This fact confirms again that the projects at such an impressive scale should be implemented in international cooperation,” Popovkin said. The scientific data, which will be obtained in the planned missions, “will become important for the whole world community,” Popovkin added.

“The planned cooperation envisages the exploration of Mars, Jupiter and the Moon,” Roscosmos said. “The Mars exploration envisions the fulfilment of the ExoMars missions in 2016 and 2018. The ExoMars mission in 2016 envisages the operation of an orbital module and a simulated landing module,” Roscosmos said.

“A mission in 2016 envisages the use of an orbital module and a simulated landing module. The latter will test the required technologies of the entry in the atmosphere, descent, landing and researches on the surface of the Red Planet,” Roscosmos said. “A mission in 2018 will involve a landing module with a landing platform, which Roscosmos is developing, as well as a migratory module and a Martian rover, which the ESA are designing. The Martian rover will conduct a research of the surface and the ground layer under the Martian surface in the immediate vicinity from the landing site, geological researches and the search for the traces of the past and existing life on Mars,” Roscosmos remarked.

“For both missions Roscosmos provides the launch vehicles Proton, the upper stage rockets Briz-M and appropriate launching services,” Roscosmos said.

In the exploration the Jupiter system the gigantic planet, the space surrounding it and the Galilean satellites (four largest Jupiter satellites – Itar-Tass) will be prioritized. So, the Roscosmos project Laplas-P envisages contact researches on the surface of the Jupiter satellite Ganymede, as well as the European project JUICE that envisions remote researches of the ice satellites of Jupiter.

The Russian lander Luna-Resurs (Moon-Resource) is to bring the ground samples from the polar regions of the Earth natural satellite. Meanwhile, the ESA contribution is to provide the Russian space agency with the systems of selection and processing of regolith samples, navigation systems, scientific equipment and scientific support.

The just-signed agreement also envisages that Russian scientists and engineers will turn in full-fledged participants of all international scientific and technical teams, which will be formed by the parties in the joint project.

The ESA specialists have been developing an ambitious project for the exploration of the fourth planet from the Sun since 2005 independently and offered to deliver the Martian rover already in 2011, In 2009 the US agency NASA joined the project, after that the concept of the program has changed, being divided in two consecutive stages: a launch of an orbital prober and a landing of an automatic module on the Martian surface were scheduled for 2016, and a delivery of a Martian rover for 2018.

The negotiations with the United States, which was to provide the launch vehicles Atlas-5 and the scientific equipment, have dragged out, and in 2011 NASA refused from its participation in the project at all over the lack of financing. After that the ESA decided to launch negotiations with Russia, which triumphed with an agreement for the joint work on the project by April 2012.

Under the joint agreement Russia will allocate two rockets Proton-M, upper stage rockets Briz-M, a landing module and a launching site at the Baikonur spaceport. Meanwhile, Russian specialists will create several scientific devices for the Martian rover. The ESA assumed the commitment to create the main spacecraft, which will participate in the mission, particularly a Martian scientific orbiter, a permanent meteorological station and a Martian robotic rover. The ESA estimated the total expenses for the program at 1.2 billion euros. The first launch is scheduled for January 2016.


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