[meteorite-list] Europe Joins Race To Land Man on Mars

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:31:20 2004
Message-ID: <200402041745.JAA26384_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Europe joins race to land man on Mars
Associated Press
February 3, 2004

LONDON - European scientists set out plans today for manned missions to
Mars that aim to land astronauts on the Red Planet within 30 years.

Like President Bush's proposed mission to Mars, the outline put forward
by the European Space Agency involves a "stepping stone" approach that
includes robotic missions and a manned trip to the moon first.

"We need to go back to the moon before we go to Mars. We need to walk
before we run," Dr. Franco Ongaro, who heads the ESA's Aurora program
for long-term exploration of the solar system, said at a meeting of
Aurora scientists in London.

"These are our stones. They will pave the way for our human explorers."

The ESA has planned two flagship missions to Mars -- ExoMars would
land a rover on the planet in 2009, and Mars Sample Return would bring
back a sample of the Martian surface in 2011-2014.

Other test missions will include an unmanned version of the flight that
would eventually carry astronauts to Mars to demonstrate aerobraking,
solar electric propulsion and soft landing technologies.

A human mission to the moon, proposed for 2024, would demonstrate key
life-support and habitation technologies, as well as aspects of crew
performance and adaptation to long-distance space flight.

The program is expected to cost $1.13 billion over the next five years.

Colin Pillinger, the British scientist behind the recent ill-fated
Beagle 2 expedition, said it was important to determine whether life
existed on Mars before pressing ahead with a manned mission.

"Would it be right for us to tamper with the ecology on another body?"
he asked. "My opinion is that it probably wouldn't."

The ExoMars rover would use solar arrays to generate electricity and
travel several miles across the surface of Mars.

It would have onboard software enabling it to operate autonomously and,
like Beagle 2, a set of scientific instruments designed to search for
signs of past or present life.

Mars Sample Return would be a more complex mission requiring five
spacecraft -- an interplanetary transfer stage, a Mars orbiter, a
descent module, an ascent module and an Earth re-entry vehicle.

The module would contain a drill to collect soil samples and was
expected to send back around a pound of Martian soil.

Scientists hope the expedition has a better outcome than the Beagle 2
trip. The British built lander, due to land on Mars on Christmas Day,
has not been heard from since it separated from the ESA's mother ship,
Mars Express, in mid-December, despite several efforts to contact it.

Mars Express itself has functioned as intended, orbiting the planet.
ESA scientists said last month it found the most direct evidence yet of
water in the form of ice on Mars, detecting molecules vaporizing from
the Red Planet's south pole.

By contrast, NASA's twin rovers are reaching out to scoop and analyze
the Martian surface some 6,600 miles apart, both using their robotic arms
as intended following a software glitch.

Bush last month sought to chart a new course for NASA, focusing on a
return to the moon by 2020 in preparation for manned missions to Mars
and beyond.
Received on Wed 04 Feb 2004 12:45:29 PM PST

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