Scientists welcome Mars mission boost

Posted by ap507 at Dec 15, 2014 02:05 PM |
University has a strong involvement with 2018 ExoMars mission through the development of a key payload
Scientists welcome Mars mission boost

An artist’s impression of the ExoMars rover. Credit: ESA

University scientists who are closely involved in the European mission to Mars – ExoMars - have welcomed support from the Government for the project.

Following the Chancellor’s Autumn statement, the UK will play a lead role in Europe's ExoMars mission to the Red Planet. The ExoMars mission is one of the key missions under the remit of the UK Space Agency.

The Government's new commitment to the ExoMars programme amounts to £47.7m, alongside a similar amount for the International Space Station (ISS). This more than triples the sum offered as a "one-off" payment to the ISS two years ago. Also among the UK's increased commitments to the European Space Agency (ESA) was £130m to be spent on satellite telecommunications projects.

ExoMars is a robotic mission developed by ESA, with two mission components - an orbiter and landing demonstrator which are due for launch in 2016, and a scientific rover that will be launched in 2018. The rover will explore the planet, paying particular attention to its geochemistry and possible evidence of biology.

The University of Leicester has a strong involvement with the rover mission through the development of one of the key instruments, a Raman spectrometer, which is being built by a number of European partners, including Spain (lead), France and Germany. RAL Space and UK industry will also be involved in the development of the instrument.

The ExoMars rover, which houses the Raman spectrometer, will explore the surface of the planet, drilling up to 2m below the surface. The Raman instrument will investigate the resulting drill samples, determining the mineralogy and searching for organics including those that might be associated with life.