June 16, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA
Space

ESA and NASA join forces to take the European rover to Mars

Rosalind Franklin Rover. Credit: ESA

Ibadan, May 17, 2024. – ESA and NASA have formalized the supply of key elements for the Rosalind Franklin rover mission. Space agencies are solidifying their cooperation on the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin mission with an agreement that guarantees important American contributions, such as the launch service, the propulsion system necessary for landing on Mars and heating units for the Rosalind Franklin rover. Additionally, ESA is working to launch its most ambitious exploration mission to search for signs of past and present life on Mars in 2028.

Rosalind Franklin will be the first rover to drill as deep as two meters below the Martian surface, acquiring samples that have been protected from surface radiation and extreme temperatures. The mission will thus serve to demonstrate the key technologies that Europe needs to master for future planetary exploration missions. ESA's Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, Daniel Neuenschwander, and Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Nicky Fox, signed the agreement on 16 May 2024 at ESA Headquarters in Paris, France. .

In addition to launch service and accelerable braking motors, NASA, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will provide lightweight radioisotope heating units (RHUs) for the rover. Led by the United Kingdom, work on the development and certification of a European RHU to fly the mission will continue in parallel. ESA's GSTP/ENDURE (European Devices Using Radioisotope Energy) program will deliver a European end-to-end capability for radioisotope heat and power systems by the end of this decade.

Daniel Neuenschwander commented: “This agreement strengthens our collaborative efforts for the ExoMars program and ensures that the Rosalind Franklin rover sets its wheels on Martian soil in 2030. Together, we are opening new frontiers in our quest to unlock the mysteries of Mars.”

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