NASA and ESA partner to enhance ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover mission


NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ESA (European Space Agency) on Thursday reportedly announced that the two space giants are collaborating to support the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover mission. The joint venture aims to expand NASA's involvement in the ESA-led mission that is scheduled to launch in 2028. The mission reportedly seeks to uncover traces of ancient life on the Red Planet.

Under the MoU, the NASA Launch Services Program will appoint a US commercial launch provider for the Rosalind Franklin rover. Additionally, NASA will provide heater units and propulsion system elements critical to the rover's landing on Mars. Notably, an unprecedented instrument aboard the rover will be equipped with the ability to drill up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) below the surface of Mars, extracting ice samples protected from surface radiation and extreme temperatures.

Nicola Fox, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, underlined the scientific importance of the Rosalind Franklin rover's innovative drilling capabilities and the onboard sampling laboratory in the quest to detect evidence of past life on Mars. He stressed that the partnership between the United States and Europe is instrumental in advancing humanity's exploration of the unknown regions of our solar system and beyond.

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In parallel collaboration with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the French space agency CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales), NASA is contributing key components to the rover's primary science instrument, the Mars Organic Molecule Analyser. The instrument is designed to examine soil samples for the fundamental building blocks of life.

Additionally, NASA's long-term collaboration with the Department of Energy will be further strengthened through the use of radioisotope energy sources in the agency's space missions, with the Department of Energy providing lightweight radioisotope heater units for the Rosalind Franklin rover.

The ExoMars Rosalind Franklin mission aligns seamlessly with the broader Mars Sample Return multi-mission campaign, a collaborative effort led by both NASA and ESA.

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