REALSPACE: Yet Another R/C Car on Mars…
NASA and ESA - the European Space Agency - have chalked out a tentative deal for a joint mission to Mars. Don’t get too excited - there’s no people going, just another damned R/C car with a webcam on it - but at least they’re doing something.
The mission is sort of ‘Been There, Done That’ - ESA wants to send an R/C rover/lander dealie to Mars to do more of what we’ve been doing since the mid-1990s, and there’ll also be a biological-sensing component, which of course we did with the Viking probes back in the 1970s. It’s not really exciting. You can find the details here, if you’re interested in such things. http://www.spacenews.com/civil/dordain-wins-backing-for-joint-mars-progr... Just the same, I find the prospect kind of enchanting in a backhanded way.
In essence the project is expected to cost One Billion Euros, but their funding is lacking, so they’ve suggested an ad-hoc partnership with NASA to make up the shortfall, and also to borrow some expertise. It’s a lot like the deal Eurosec made with NASA in “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun” ( http://www.republibot.com/content/movie-review-%E2%80%9Cjourney-far-side... ) only, there’s no people going, of course, and it’s not a brave, exciting new mission, but one that’s kind of been done to death. Similar if we allow for the total lack of aspirations in our day.
Still and all, I’ve always liked the ESA. They’re the only trans-national space agency that’s ever had any legs - several others have tried to start up, but have always fallen apart - and they’ve had a long and distinguished history in making good stuff out of bailing wire and spit. The Huygens probe to Titan was theirs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huygens_probe and even though they needed to flag us down for a ride, it was still an impressive piece of engineering and an impressive feat of discovery, however briefly it lasted. Granted, they don’t always pick a winner - Hermes was a debacle from day one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_(shuttle) (Though we can blame that on the French), but, hey, it’s not like we made a GOOD decision by sticking by our piece-of-crap space shuttle for nearly 30 years, now did we? Everyone can have an off decade.
Anyone interested in details of the Exomars expedition can check here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exomars though be cautioned, the information is changing rapidly.