SETI [ASTRO] Europe Is Going To Mars

Larry Klaes (
Mon, 14 Jun 1999 10:50:16 -0400

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender to owner-astro using -f >Date: Sat, 12 Jun 1999 17:57:25 GMT >From: Ron Baalke <> >To: >Subject: [ASTRO] Europe Is Going To Mars >Sender: >Reply-To: Ron Baalke <> > >ESA Science News > > >11 Jun 1999 > >Europe is going to Mars > >The European Space Agency's Mars Express mission has won unanimous >approval. It will be the first mission Europe has sent to the red planet. > >The Agency's Science Programme Committee (SPC) approved Mars Express >after ESA's Council, meeting at ministerial level in Brussels on 11 and 12 >May, had agreed the level of the science budget for the next 4 years, just >enough to make the mission affordable. "Mars Express is a mission of >opportunity and we felt we just had to jump in and do it. We are convinced >it will produce first-rate science", says Hans Balsiger, SPC chairman. > >As well as being a first for Europe in Mars exploration, Mars Express will >pioneer new, cheaper ways of doing space science missions. "With a total >cost of just 150 million euros, Mars Express will be the cheapest Mars >mission ever undertaken", says Roger Bonnet, ESA's Director of Science. > >Mars Express will be launched in June 2003. When it arrives at the red >planet six months later, it will begin to search for water and life. Seven >instruments, provided by space research institutes throughout Europe, >will make observations from the main spacecraft as it orbits the planet. >Just before the spacecraft arrives, it will release a small lander, provided >by research institutes in the UK, that will journey on to the surface to look >for signs of life. > >The lander is called Beagle 2 after the ship in which Charles Darwin sailed >round the world in search of evidence supporting his theory of evolution. >But just as Darwin had to raise the money for his trip, so the search is >on for public and private finance for Beagle 2. "Beagle 2 is an extremely >important element of the mission", says Bonnet. > >Europe's space scientists have envisaged a mission to Mars for over fifteen >years. But limited funding has prevented previous proposals from going >ahead. The positioning of the planets in 2003, however, offers a particularly >favourable passage to the red planet -- an opportunity not to be missed. >Mars Express will be joined by an international flotilla of spacecraft that >will also be using this opportunity to work together on scientific questions >and pave the way for future exploration. > >ESA is now able to afford Mars Express because it will be built more quickly >and cheaply than any other comparable mission. It will be the first of the >Agency's new flexible missions, based on maximum reuse of technology >off-the-shelf and from other missions (the Rosetta cometary mission in >this case). Mars Express will explore the extent to which innovative working >practices, now made possible by the maturity of Europe's space industry, >can cut mission costs and the time from concept to launch: a new kind of >relationship with industrial partners is starting. "We are adopting a new >approach to management by delegating to Matra Marconi Space (the prime >contractor) responsibility for the whole project. This means we can reduce >the ESA's management costs" says Bonnet. > >Despite the knock-down price, however, the future of Mars Express has hung >in the balance because of the steady erosion of ESA's space science budget >since 1995. Last November, the SPC said the mission could go ahead only if >it could be afforded without affecting missions already approved, especially >the FIRST infra-red observatory and the Planck mission to measure the >cosmic microwave background. > >On 19/20 May, the SPC, which has the ultimate decision over the Agency's >science missions, agreed that the level of resources allowed was just >sufficient to allow Mars Express to go ahead. "To do such an ambitious >mission for so little money is a challenge and we have decided to meet", >says Balsiger. > >For more information, please contact: > >ESA Public Relations Division >Tel : +33(0) Fax : +33(0) > >USEFUL LINKS FOR THIS STORY > >Mars Express mission overview > > >Close encounter with Mars > > >

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