ESA Approves Mars Mission Despite Disappointing Schiaparelli Lander Crash
The Schiaparelli lander may have suffered a disappointing crash, but that does not mean Europe is giving up on its Mars mission.
The European Space Agency's space mission is $430 million over budget. It asked for additional funds from various countries in Europe. On Dec. 2, member states approved a total of $480 million in funding for the agency's ExoMars mission, even after a test lander crashed in October.
The European-Russian ExoMars program launched a gas-sniffing orbiter (Trace Gas Orbiter) and the Schiaparelli test lander to Mars this year to search for past and present signs of life. These will also lay the groundwork for a rover that is set to launch in 2020, Reuters reports.
The Schiaparelli lander, however, crashed after a software glitch caused it to detach its parachute more than 2 miles above the Red planet's surface.
Experts Remained Optimistic
"We will have learned much from Schiaparelli that will directly contribute to the second ExoMars mission," David Parker, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic said in a statement, as reported by Nature.
If the mission is successful, the rover will be the first time for Europe or Russia to operate on Mars' surface. The robot is designed to dig down to a depth where signs of ancient life could be detected as these were preserved from the harsh radiation present on the planet.
Other Projects Funded
Apart from the ExoMars mission, ESA member states also committed to supporting the International Space Station (ISS) by approving about €1 billion or $1.05 billion. This is to remain as part of the project until 2024, from the current agreement of 2020.
The ministers also agreed to finance plans for ESA and Roscosmos to work together on a Moon spacecraft, called the Russian Luna 27 lander. In preparing for the mission, ESA will spend about $3.16 million in order to carry out all the needed work for the mission to meet the scheduled completion by 2020.
"At this summit, Ministers in charge of space matters have declared support for ESA's Director General's vision for Europe in space and the role and development of ESA: now the Space 4.0i era can start with ESA committing to inform, innovate, interact and inspire," ESA said in a press release.
"And, building on commercialization, participation, digitalization, jobs and growth, the concept of "United Space in Europe" will soon become a reality," it added.