News / Europe

Europe, Russia to Launch Mission for Martian Dirt

Martian surface material captured by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Robotic Arm Camera, during its first test dig and dump mission, June 1, 2008.
Martian surface material captured by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Robotic Arm Camera, during its first test dig and dump mission, June 1, 2008.
Reuters
— Europe and Russia signed a deal on Thursday for a joint Mars mission to sample dirt from the Red Planet that they hope will answer the mystery of whether there is life beyond Earth.
 
Europe had hoped to work with NASA on the two-spacecraft mission but turned to the Russians after the U.S. agency pulled out due to budget shortfalls and a change in direction.
 
The announcement comes amid heightened excitement over the search for life on the planet most like Earth after scientists said analysis from NASA's own mission rover, Curiosity, showed Mars had the right ingredients for life.
 
NASA wants to follow up with a duplicate rover in 2020 and bring samples home for study, but the Russian and European team hope to launch its probes in 2016 and 2018 — setting up the makings of a new post-Cold War space race for one of science's biggest prizes.
 
"Establishing whether life ever existed on Mars is one of the outstanding scientific questions of our time and the highest scientific priority of the ExoMars program," the European Space Agency (ESA) said in a statement.
 
Moscow will provide the rockets to launch the Exobiology on Mars, or ExoMars, mission. Russian Space Agency Roskosmos will also design the descent module and surface platform for the second leg of the venture.
 
Despite describing the ExoMars project as the "Holy Grail of Mars exploration," NASA left the $1.3 billion project in February 2012, citing a budget crunch and a change in focus.
 
Europe then turned to Russia for the launch vehicle. The two space agencies agreed to cooperate together last April, but talks to work out the details dragged out for nearly a year.
 
"This event was a long time in the making and took a great deal collaboration," Roskosmos head Vladimir Popovkin said after signing the deal with ESA Director Jean-Jacques Dordain in Paris.
 
Russia's involvement in the ambitious mission could boost the status of its once-pioneering space agency after a litany of costly and embarrassing failures.
 
The delays in agreeing on mission details hinged on the extent of Russia's participation, according to Russian space experts who said Moscow had seemed to have achieved its goal of full partnership.
 
"The agreement implies that Russian scientists and engineers will become full-fledged participants in all the international scientific and technical groups established by the parties to the project," Roskosmos said in a statement.
 
What was to be Russia's first deep space mission in more than two decades — the Phobos-Grunt mission to scoop up soil samples from Mars — was among five botched launches that hurt Moscow's reputation as a reliable launch partner.
 
European governments have so far committed 850 million euros for the mission.
 
The cap for the project had been set at 1 billion euros [$1.3 billion], but delays and changes to the scientific aspects of the mission are expected to drive up the price tag.
 
Although NASA pulled out, the U.S. space agency will still contribute radio equipment and telecom support.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid