European Space Agency To Decide Whether Or Not To Continue With Mars Rover Plan, Releases First Photos From ExoMars

First Posted: Dec 02, 2016 03:18 AM EST

Research ministers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are currently deciding if they are going to push through with their plans to land a robot rover in Mars in 2021 -- or not.

BBC reported that the space agency is conducting a meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, to discuss their final decision regarding the fate of landing the ExoMars robot rover to search for life on the Red Planet. The project reportedly needs a budget of €400 million ($430 million), and ESA Director-General Jan Woerner has previously said that it is either they will get full support or none at all.

"Either we do it or we stop it, and I'm in favour of doing it," he told BBC.

This will be a difficult bargain for the member states, however, since the ministers expect a good return of investment. The programs offered are mostly optional and the agency works in a "juste retour" principle --- which means that the amount of funds member nations invest in a satellite project will return to them in a form of work contracts for their local technology and aerospace companies.

In other news, the ESA also released the first set of images from its ExoMars spacecraft that has been orbiting the Red Planet since mid-October, according to CBC News.

The images were taken at 5,300 kilometers altitude before ExoMars made its closest approach to the planet.

Using the spacecraft's Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), the images can be seen in four colors such as red, blue, near-infrared and panchromatic (sensitive to all colors).

The camera also captured an image of the Hebes Chasma, an 8,000-meter channel found in Valle Marineris, which is also known as the Grand Canyon of Mars. This area is the largest canyon known in the Solar System, measuring about 600 kilometers wide and 3,000 kilometers long.

Just for comparison, the Grand Canyon here on Earth measures around 300 kilometers long and 30 kilometres wide.

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