Russia to join European Mars missions

Nov. 20, 2012 at 6:31 PM

PARIS, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency has approved an agreement that would see Russia take significant roles in missions to Mars in 2016 and 2018, officials say.

ESA member states said Russia would participated in two ExoMars efforts, a 2016 mission to put a satellite in orbit around the Red Planet to look for methane and other gases in the atmosphere and a 2018 effort to put a rover on the surface, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Russian involvements would take the place of American commitments that were pulled from the projects last year as NASA deals with funding issues.

Under the ESA/Russia agreement, Russia will provide the Proton launch rockets for both ExoMars missions and will also be granted instrument space on the 2016 satellite and the 2018 rover.

Russian researchers would also be a part of the science teams analyzing the missions' data.

The ExoMars missions, initiated in 2005, have so far cost ESA more than $500 million in research and development.

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