Monday, October 19, 2009

Article on new ExoMars plan

Aviation Week and Space Technology has posted a short article on the new (and now approved pending financial scrutiny) ExoMars plan. As previously discussed in this blog, the mission breaks into these pieces:


ESA orbiter for telecommunications and trace gas measurements
ESA entry, descent, and landing demonstration with a large battery supporting an instrument package
NASA supplied launch


ExoMars rover with drill (no arm as on the MER and MSL rovers)
NASA supplied skycrane landing system for precision landing
NASA supplied launch

Editorial Thoughts: There's a hot debate at Unmanned Spaceflight on why anyone would send scientific instruments to Mars and not at least bolt on some solar panels for long lived experiments. (Look towards the end of this thread.) Previous articles have suggested that the instrument package might be engineering instruments only, in which case long life would be redundant. If there would be true scientific instruments, they might be ones (e.g., radar sounding of the subsurface, or a surface image pan) that would have less return from repeated measurements. My guess is that sticking to batteries is ESA's way of preventing feature creep -- add just a solar array and these few instruments -- that end up driving mission requirements and costs skyward.

The AWST article also mentions that NASA may provide a rover to accompany the ExoMars rover. (Based on Decadal Survey meetings, both rovers might be landed by the same skycrane descent system.) It would not surprise me if NASA's proposed 2018 rover slips to 2020 to smooth out funding issues and allow development of the Jupiter Europa orbiter. However, I want to emphasize that this is purely my speculation.


  1. please check the launch dates ;)

  2. Thanks for catching that. The '1' in the dates is significant.