European government ministers have pledged nearly $13 billion to fund an ambitious plan for space exploration, including a mission to place a robotic exploration vehicle on Mars.
European Space Agency director Jean-Jacques Dordain said the projects agreed on Wednesday by the agency's 18 member states include satellites to monitor climate change and a long list of experiments for the International Space Station. The money will also fund updates to the Ariane rocket, which carries European payloads into space.
The so-called ExoMars project is set to blast off in 2016, carrying a landing rover to Mars which will drill two meters into the planet's surface to take soil samples.
Ministers capped ExoMars at nearly $1.3 billion, a sum that falls short of its target. The remaining $260 million is expected to be raised with funding from the United States or Russia.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.