After arguments concerning finance for Europe’s plan to send two expeditions to Mars; plans are finally back on track and looking positive for both missions. One is for a satellite to explore the surface topography by camera and search for trace gases in the planet’s atmosphere. These tests will be for methane mainly, but also other credible gases helpful for carbon life in the Martian sky. This is due to launch in 2016.
There is also another plan for a land rover or mobile robot upon the surface of Mars in 2018. Both the European missions have been named ExoMars and the funding for this has now been agreed and the work schedule for both launches begins in earnest and a new mood of enthusiasm. All believe that ExoMars (joint missions) will happen. The contracts of agreement were signed on 17th June 2013 at an agreed cost of 216 million Euros. The main contractor for this work is; Thales Alenia Space – TAS.
The biggest chunk of these funds will be spent upon the first satellite mission known as Trace Gas Orbiter – TGO. This totals 146 million Euros and will launch in January of 2016. After this, all the rest of the schedule will be for the descent module of project TAS to be completed for the second 2018 mission. This will prove Europe’s combined ability to land a robotic functional vehicle on Mars
One of the main sources of help for ExoMars was the Russian space agency (Roscosmos.) The Russians came to ExoMars aid because the U.S. had to step down due to budgetary problems and other commitments within their space agency NASA.