Budget Cuts and Technical Problems Delay ExoMars Phase 2
They warned us ...
A joint mission to Mars between the European Space Agency (ESA) and their Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, launched this last March with the objective of placing two probes on, and around, Mars.
This first phase of this project, dubbed ExoMars, has been flawless so far, and, come this next October, will attempt to deliver the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) orbiter and the Schiaparelli lander to Mars.
The TGO will orbit the Red Planet and 'sniff' the martian atmosphere for methane and water vapor. The Schiaparelli lander will test landing technologies for follow-on mission.
But the first follow-on mission -- ExoMars Phase 2 -- which was to have followed in 2018, has been officially delayed until 2020 - if not further.
ESA officials had warned that this might happen. Technical problems and cost overruns have been rumored for several months, so this announcement is not a huge surprise.
In a joint statement, ESA and Roscosmos officials said:
Taking into account the delays in European and Russian industrial activities and deliveries of the scientific payload, a launch in 2020 would be the best solution.
ExoMars Phase 2 is designed to land a European rover supplied with a suite of Russian scientific tools capable of drilling up to two meters (about seven feet) into the Martian surface in search of organic matter and water in hopes of finding evidence of life.
But delays have been threatening the ability of the mission to succeed.
So, late in 2015, Russian and European experts began an analysis of the program to see if it would be possible to recover schedule delays and accommodate possible launchcontingencies.
The team presented its final report during a meeting of the Joint ExoMars Steering Board (JESB) held in Moscow, after which both ESA Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner and Roscosmos Director General Igor Komarov jointly decided to move the launch to the next available Mars launch window in July 2020.
According to the ExoMars website:
The successful implementation of both ExoMars missions will allow Russia and Europe to jointly validate cutting-edge technologies for Mars entry, descent, and landing, for the control of surface assets, to develop new engineering concepts and service systems that can be used by other Solar System exploration missions, and to carry out novel science at Mars.