European pact on Mars mission signed

March 14, 2013 at 4:59 PM

PARIS, March 14 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency and Russia's Roscosmos space agency have formally signed an agreement to cooperate on a science mission to Mars, officials said.

Under the formal agreement signed at ESA's Paris headquarters Thursday, the two agencies will work in partnership on the ExoMars program, with the goal of launching two missions to the Red Planet in 2016 and 2018, an ESA release reported.

ExoMars will demonstrate core technologies such as landing, roving, drilling and sample preparation to pave the way for the next step in the robotic exploration of Mars, a sample-return mission, the release said.

Signed by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain and Head of Roscosmos Vladimir Popovkin, the agreement will give Roscosmos and the ESA responsibilities for different mission elements, officials said.

ESA will provide a science orbiter and an entry and descent module in 2016, and a rover in 2018.

Roscosmos will be responsible for the 2018 descent module and surface platform, and will provide launch rockets for both missions.

"It has been a long way; we have performed a large amount of work together," Popovkin said. "It confirms again that projects of such tremendous scale have to be implemented through international cooperation."

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