Emily Lakdawalla has posted a very interesting piece on her blog that states that ESA and NASA have decided to pool their resources to explore Mars. This is excellent news. As her blog quotes NASA officials, all the easy missions have been done. Together we can do more.
An early opportunity will come with ExoMars. Both NASA (vague goal) and ESA (definitive plans with ExoMars) want to put rovers on Mars in 2016. Neither has the budget to do the mission themselves with the capabilities they would like to have. This could be a golden opportunity to pool resources. One big win would be if NASA were to use a derivative of its MSL precision landing system. This would open up a lot of interesting sites that have small landing footprints.
From Aviation Week's website: "We would have liked to have launched in 2009, followed up with our Mars Scout in 2013, and then a 2016 mission," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for science. "That's going to have to be relooked at. Maybe we'll still have a good 2016 mission because we do it in consort with the European Space Agency."
Saturday or Sunday I'll post a blog entry on the challenges of finding the funds for the delayed MSL lander.