The European Space Agency (ESA) confirmed Monday it plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020 despite their failed last attempt, which ended with a giant, smoking crater visible from space.
ESA’s rover, dubbed ExoMars 2020, will collect and analyze rock samples to search for signs of life on Mars before transmitting the data back to Earth. ExoMars will be the first European mission to actually be capable of moving across the Mars surface. The ESA sent spacecraft to orbit Mars in the past, but they failed to land a probe on the Red Planet.
ESA previous lander, dubbed Schiaparelli, was destroyed in late October while landing on Mars. Schiaparelli stopped communicating with mission control about one minute before its planned touchdown. It crashed and created a 50-by-130-foot crater that made a visible dark patch about 3.4 miles west of its intended landing site.
ESA budgeted about $1.6 billion for its new Mars project, but its already $425 million over budget. Funding concerns have delayed ESA’s plans for a Mars rover by more than two years despite getting financial and technical support from Russia’s space agency and NASA.
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 Union/Russian 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.
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.
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