Final contracts were signed by European Space Agency with Thales Alenia Space Italy regarding work over some missions’ pair to assess whether Mars ever had or has life, as said by officials at Paris Airshow.
Till the last year, ExoMars program only was joint project among NASA and ESA, but it was NASA that dropped out due to budget problems.
Roscosmos, the space agency of Russia steeped in for providing rockets of two Proton to send one probe that orbits in the atmosphere and test the lander to Planet Mars in the January of 2016, as well as a rover in the August of 2018 which would drill below surface of planet to search for bacteria and spores.
Roscosmos is also providing a system of landing for rover as well as scientific instruments.ESA’s head Jean-Jacques Dordain said that it did indeed take some efforts, some energy and some time from many different parties and it wasn’t easy moving from cooperation of ESA-NSA to the cooperation of ESA- Roscosmos. He said this after signing contract of 230M euro with Thales Alenia.
Selected as prime contractor of ExoMars 5 years ago, Thales Alenia plans in spending 146M euros over 2016 orbiter as well as lander. Satellite tends to be designed for searching thin atmosphere of Mars for the telltale gases that are linked with the biological activity. Also, it will serve to be the relay for key communications for 2018 rover.
Primarily, the lander is intended for testing technologies that are needed for touch down over Mars, a very difficult task which has bedeviled almost all previous efforts by Russia and has given trouble to NASA as well. US currently has 2 operational rovers over Mars, Opportunity and Curiosity.
After pulling ExoMars program out, NASA said that it will send some other rover of Curiosity-type in 2020 to Mars.Rest of budget of ExoMars would be spent over 2018 rover, mission that would make first search directly for life from the time of 1970s of NASA’s Viking landers.
Rather than sampling planet’s surface that’s radiation-blasted as Viking probes had done, ExoMars rover would make use of radar sounder for searching for the subterranean water, then drilling down around 6ft for the samples which would be actually processed through the onboard laboratories.
Vincenzo Giorgo, space and exploration vice president at Thales Alenia, said that if there was any life which was discovered, it would be quite unclear and that on Viking, everybody just thought that they had found it but then they couldn’t prove it.
Thales Alenia Space happens to be joint venture that’s owned 33% by Finmeccanica of Italy and 67% by Thales of France