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Europe’s Mars Mission In 2020 Is Already $425 Million Over Budget

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The European Space Agency’s (ESA) plans to send another lander to Mars in 2020 are already $425 million over budget, according to a Friday announcement.

ESA will spend the cash on its planned ExoMars rover, which will travel across the Martian surface to search for signs of life. ESA previously budgeted about $1.6 billion for the project, meaning that the agency is more than 25 percent over budget. Funding concerns are already delaying ESA’s plans for a Mars rover by more than two years.

To continued planned exploration, the ESA needs “a bit over 400 million euros for the project, which includes all the technical work needed to take the vehicle up to the launch phase,” David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, told reporters.

The rover will collect and analyze rock samples before transmitting the data back to Earth. ExoMars will be the first European mission to actually be capable of moving accross the Mars surface. The ESA previously sent spacecraft to orbit Mars, but failed to land a probe on the Red Planet.

ESA needs more money largely because the agency’s lander, dubbed Schiaparelli, was destroyed in late October while landing on the Red Planet. Schiaparelli stopped communicating with mission control about one minute before its planned touchdown, reportedly due to parachute malfunction. The resulting crash created a 50-by-130-foot crater visible as a dark patch about 3.4 miles west of its intended landing site.

Not to be outdone, China also plans on sending a small 400-pound rover to Mars in 2020 as part of its ambitious, military-run, multibillion dollar space program. NASA will be launching its own $2.1 billion dollar nuclear isotope-powered Mars 2020 rover as well.

NASA is currently operating two rovers on Mars, dubbed “Opportunity” and “Curiosity.” America’s space agency successfully landed seven different probes on Mars and only crashed two. The Soviet space program failed three times in a row to land probes on Mars.

No country besides the U.S. has successfully operated a probe on Mars for longer than 14.5 seconds.

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