Executive Intelligence Review


Europe and U.S. Agree To Explore Mars Sample Return Missions

April 28, 2018 (EIRNS)—The next big challenge in Mars exploration is to bring back a sample of soil and rocks. It is a complicated undertaking, involving a number of missions and spacecraft. The European Space Agency and NASA signed a statement of intent April 26 to coordinate their plans for future Mars missions.

Each agency will outline specifically the potential role it could play in bringing samples back. The scientists involved in the joint statement were in Berlin for the 2nd International Mars Sample Return Conference, taking place April 25-27. In 2009 ESA and NASA agreed to collaborate in the Mars Joint Exploration Initiative, but in 2011, NASA cancelled its participation due to budget cuts. Now each side is resurrecting a joint effort.

Both space agencies have missions to Mars under development. NASA’s fifth Mars lander, the InSight spacecraft, is set to launch on May 5. ESA’s ExoMars rover will launch in 2021, as will NASA’s large rover, based on the Curiosity rover.

Making the announcement at the Berlin Air and Space Show, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA Associate Administrator for Science, said there would be other partners, stressing commercial companies, for space science, and that, “We will at every point look at what is available in the commercial market. NASA has no interest whatsoever in developing things that we can buy.” This is representative of the administration’s focus on making private companies a major player in the space program. But historically, NASA didn’t use what was “commercially available,” but developed new more advanced technology, which pulled the economy forward.