Future Missions to Mars Will be Joint NASA/ESA Efforts

Article written: 4 Dec , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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Future missions to Mars, including a sample return mission will be joint endeavors between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). NASA’s associate administrator for space science Ed Weiler revealed in Thursday’s Mars Science Laboratory press conference that the two space agencies agreed this week, based on initial discussions last July, to work together on future Mars missions. “This delay (of MSL) also means an opportunity of in the future having one Mars program for all the Earth,” said Weiler.

“We have now gotten approval that in the future, NASA and ESA are going to work together to come up with a European-U.S. Mars architecture,” Weiler said. “That is, missions won’t be NASA missions, they won’t be ESA missions, they will be joint missions. We need to work together. We’ll never, ever do a sample return mission unless we work together. We both have the same goals scientifically, we want to get our science communities together and start laying out a plan. We’ve committed to working together to reaching those goals.”

A robotic mission to collect soil and rock samples and return them to Earth for analysis would likely cost between $6 billion and $8 billion and not be feasible until the 2020s.

While many of the current missions are international efforts, with scientists from several countries contributing instruments and working together on research, this agreement would seemingly mean the two space agencies would share costs equally and encourage even more scientific collaboration. This is a logical next step for not only Mars exploration, but all future exploration of space.

For years, an international group of scientists, called the International Mars Exploration Working Group has been working together to form long term science goals and long range strategy for Mars exploration.

NASA has listed a sample return mission as “future goal” for years, and ESA has a Mars sample return mission planned as part of its Aurora exploration program, with such a mission slated for the 2020-2022 time frame.


42 Responses

  1. This is the sort of cooperation which at first glance seems good until you realize it’s just another sign and symptom of the approaching New World Order/Totalitarian World Government…=)

  2. SamIAm says

    The U.S. Government is too busy giving GM and Ford $Billions so they can outsource engineering jobs and manufacturing jobs to India and China. That’s why.

  3. Odelay says

    If you cant see beyond you nose, how can you have an interest in astronomy. Only cooperation can sustain science, discovery and life itself. This holier then thou Attitude also breeds ignorance that makes us all prey to golden parachute regiment.

  4. Michel says

    I think cooperation is great as long as politics does not get in the way. For instance, the ISS has had its share.

  5. Frank Glover says

    I wouldn’t go as far as ‘OillsMastery,’ but it’s true that international projects aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. As Michel suggests, politics are always going to be a factor, at least as much as they are, domestically, when one goes it alone…

  6. Member
    Nick Sainsbury says

    The costs of space travel/explaroation are only going to escalate, until we discover how to teleport and time-travel, so international cooperation is the best way for’ard…innit?

  7. LLDIAZ says

    As I see it space exploration got the funding it first needed not because countries wanted to be the first to the moon but because they wanted to be the first to “SAY” they went to the moon. Its all an ego trip when it comes down to it. So to even think that politics wont in some way interfere with there studies is wrong its all about politics.

  8. Assi says

    Thank you! Now Europe can be a part of something this big!

  9. dollhopf says

    There should be an international standardization organization for space flight. Interoperability guidelines for hardware and procedures used during space missions should be available.

    Thus cooperation among different space agencies and also private undertakings could be freed from the erratic fluctuations of politics.

    Minimum requirements should be introduced into the production of flight hardware of local space industries. Of course, this should not be at the cost of innovation.

    For example, if South Korea is going to develope an own fleet of manned space ships, there should be the overall possibility to dock with future Japanese or Russian space stations. Thus, there should be minimum requirements for docking. (In the end, if the U.S. had a bad day in space – as so often in these times – and needs to buy e.g. transportation capability in addition, there should be someone somewhere who is able to deliver the required hardware off the top of one’s head.

    Meanwhile, is this not reality all over the world? If I drive a Japanese car, I can expect to fuel it at a local gas station during holydays in Greece like a duck takes to water.

    With standardization, everybody in the space business could build alliances with whom they want and let go again. Transaction costs would go down.

    Nowadays, this would still imply for U.S. space hardware to be downward compatible. But nearly every standard is based on so called minimum requirements.

  10. Greg says

    This agreement will likely complicate logistics of such missions and the only real reason I can think of for making it is the U.S. does not belive it can afford to go there by itself. But we can afford to throw 700 billion or more down the ecoomic black hole that the banks created with their subprime mortage house of cards in order to get rich quick. This says a great deal about what our priorities are.

  11. neil says

    It costs $8bil to bring a rock back from mars? You have got to be kidding. Is it worth it in this day and age? We are going to spend all this money for what, a slim chance at a 4 billion year old fossil? Is it worth it?

  12. dollhopf says

    neil,

    prior to landing the first woman or man on Mars the development of the capability to bring her or him back is mandatory. A test/demonstration return mission would make the capability or the incompetence obvious. And then, when already able to return, why not bring something with?

    On the other hand, I guess that the capability to return from Mars could be tested here on Earth, too. This could be done from Earth orbit.

    – Bring the return vehicle into Earth orbit.
    – From there let it land it on Earth.
    – Then start back into orbit.

  13. Jorge says

    Well, this is great news. And it’s not unexpected, really, if we look with our eyes open at what’s up there already. The ISS is, of course, a cooperative effort, but so is the Hubble or Cassini, just to mention two of the greatest successes in the history of space exploration.

    My only fear is that some may use this as a pretext to cut funding and instead of having more we wind up with less. Past examples are not worrying, but the truth is that they were not developped in such a critical economic situation as the one we’re in now.

    Which means the community of space workers and space buffs must be vigilant. Both in the US and in Europe now.

  14. Ross says

    Everyone wants you to think space is an expencive place to go. $200.00 dollar hammers will help to make you think this too. while dumping 8-125 billion into the auto industry is not really helping matters much, I agree, but also dumping a load of cash on stupit probes is just as bad. The space arena needs something it don’t have yet, an infrastructure. This may be a poor anology but, If your going to pack up the family wagon for a trip to mars, you might want to make sure theres a gas station on the moons of Earth and Mars. Oh. wait. I forgot. we’re still driving horse and buggies for a space ship.
    If I didn’t want to go to Mars on bubblegum, band-aids, and bailing wire, which is dammed expencive, then one might want to dump those billions into the job market to develope a single stage to orbit engine which would cut future launch costs more then half of what it is today.
    Mass production of off-the-shelf parts is what made/makes technology viable and affordable. Remakeing and redesigning each and every probe is getting or has gotten to be a little to costly when it comes to doing exploration of any kind. You wouldn’t do that with every customer at an auto dealership. No. You do the smart thing, you build one or two types of cars that will serve most of every ones needs. Heres another example of stupitity. Virgin Galactic. $200,000.00 per seat for 5 minutes of zero G. Oh, and you get to see the Earth from a high altitude. want my advice? buy a 50 cent post card and take it with you on a roller coster ride at walt disney world. It will last longer. The cheapest I’ve seen is another company claiming to offer a 1 minute ride for only just a mire $95,000.00 dollars. HEY! NOW THATS CHEAP! I’m sure most anyone can afford that. hehehe. NOT!
    Some one really needs to start really thinking this through better.

  15. Snowfist says

    Landing on Mars with a large vehicle is actually more difficult than landing it on the Earth. Earth has an atmosphere which allows for more effective means of deceleration. Mars atmosphere is too thin. Thus parachutes don’t slow down the craft enough and using retrorockets down to the surface consumes far too much fuel for large spacecraft. That is why we need to “learn” how to land on Mars and why Earth won’t work as a test bed.

    Like others said, I think cooperation is good, as long as the politics can be mostly avoided. I think ESA would be easier to work with than the Russians since at least we don’t have an adversarial relationship with them. Does this mean ESA will be increasing their budget? NASA far outspends them at the moment.

  16. dollhopf says

    “Remakeing and redesigning each and every probe is getting or has gotten to be a little to costly when it comes to doing exploration of any kind.”

    Exactly! Also, if I need to change the tires of my car, I don’t want to be forced to buy a whole new car. I wan the holes on the rim of the new wheels fit to the inside threads of the hub.

    Thus, space hardware should be standardized. The new should be able to integrate into the proven. Cost reduction guaranteed while innovation not prevented!

  17. dollhopf says

    And standardization would open the door to the reusability of space “junk” in the future of space flight. Thus, even more potential for cost reduction!

  18. dollhopf says

    “Like others said, I think cooperation is good, as long as the politics can be mostly avoided. I think ESA would be easier to work with than the Russians since at least we don’t have an adversarial relationship with them.”

    For the Europeans – I guess – it is often easier to cooperate with Russians than with Americans. Russians are not so damned egoistic.

  19. Ross says

    My last comment may have come off sounding like a negitive bashing of the privet sector of space venue. It wasn’t my intent. When I see or read about such thing like public space transport, I have to then ask myself, why? where are you going to go? what are you going to do with out an infrastructure to support such an industry. 5 minutes in L.E.O. isn’t going to do anything except provide 5 minutes of fun for the ultra wealthy in the world which as I understand is only about 1-2% of the 6 billion world population. Would it have not been better to mass produce universal space probes to sell to space agencies around the world? Would it not have been more profitable to make a universal off the shelf idem that probe builders needed on a regular basis? I just see building CUSTOM probes as a real waste of money. Virgin galactic is just a publicity stunt, thats all I see it as. Medical is already to expencieve for people to afford, whats it going to cost for a med exam to buy a ticket to ride into space? and how many would qualify? The cost of trying to make space a public venue for work, bussness, or a vacation resort, it just rediculess at this point in time. The billions and billions spent on space would be better off spent in the improvment of launch equiptment like the shuttles launch tanks so we don’t have more challenger incidents. We should invest in non-chemical launch vehicals and equiptment. Then start building the space infrastructure next. then all the rest should or would come along a little easier I think.

  20. maudyfish says

    ……..And I can just imagine what would have happened if pioneers waited for the government to give them the ok to move west!!

    Get real Ross, privatization of future space endeavors will be the eventual step to take. Otherwise we will remain just were we are struggling to get funding for this and that between funding wars, famines and politics.

  21. Frank Glover says

    Nick:

    “The costs of space travel/explaroation are only going to escalate…”

    Why? (other than perhaps economic inflation, which would affect *anything* you do)

  22. maudyfish says

    LLDIAZ if read may of your comments and they are really bright, but to beleive that one person’s speach really is the bottom of going to outer space is ludicrous!!

    There is a fortune out there……… Need I give examples?

  23. Bonr says

    (slaming his fists on his bureau)…”Ruff ruff ruff!!!”….

  24. maudyfish says

    maudyfish can’t spell today, I apologize for my English……..

    The sentence should read……

    LLDIAZ I’ve read many of your comments and they are really bright, but do you believe that……….etc. etc. etc.

  25. David R. says

    “This delay (of MSL) also means an opportunity of in the future having one Mars program for all the Earth…We have now gotten approval that in the future, NASA and ESA are going to work together to come up with a European-U.S. Mars architecture…That is, missions won’t be NASA missions, they won’t be ESA missions, they will be joint missions. We need to work together.”

    The crap heap comment of the day. Absolute, pure, fancied, unadulterated excrement. NASA never ponied up to the microphone so quickly for the good of planet Earth. How touching. Here’s the reality. The agency realizes it’s tanked along with the rest of the US economy, so they need to figure out some way to survive. When was the last time NASA ever cared about the good of planet Earth in such a public way?? Give me a break. Excuse me while I go vomit.

  26. Fornax says

    Space buffs must be vigilant and sceptical regarding this and budget cuts. But speaking as a European, on the face of it, this is great news.

    Despite its faults I think NASA is a great organisation, something that could certainly be improved, but something the US should be very proud of indeed so stop knocking it! ESA has had some great success too with Huygens, Giotto etc. Pooling resources for common goals must be the way forward as more advanced and human Mars exploration will be just too expensive for any one nation alone.

    If this is done for the right reasons then its all very much in line with Carl Sagan’s predictions of a Vision of the Human Future in Space. And who knows – one day the Russians will be invited to join too…

  27. David R. says

    Fornax, I totally agree with you in spirit. I want so badly to be an idealist when it comes to all things space. But the NASA comment is making me run for the toilet again. It is utter hypocrisy for NASA dudes to run around and talk the planet Earth game. You didn’t hear them do it at any point like they’re doing it now. They are scrambling to reinvent themselves before the US and world economies collapse. NASA is not interested in planet Earth or the benefit of anything or anyone. If they really were interested, their behavior would be a lot more specific than just press releases with feel good comments that they really haven’t made before.

  28. dollhopf says

    Europeans are no choirboys at all. They also act IAW the condicio humana. We are egoistic. Just as, our philosophy is sometimes more obliged to the roots than that of the rest of the ancient Europeans colonies.

  29. KG6YRA says

    David: “NASA is not interested in planet Earth or the benefit of anything or anyone.”

    That ‘s akin to saying the vegetarians are not interested in eating vegetables.

    NASA scientists are warning of the effects of climate change on the future of humanity. However, the Bush administration kept them as quite as possible.

    You have greatly overlooked NASA’s activities, David. Then they wouldn’t have launched the OSTM and the large armada of Earth monitoring satellites. Such as research on the Ozone layer, sea-levels, and the entire atmospheric and geophysical condition of the planet.

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/index.html

    Instead bashing the peaceful advancement of science and technology, how about protesting against military spending.

    NASA: 17.3 billion = a meager budget for peaceful science.
    US Military: $515.4 Billion = bigger body count

    The US economy has already virtually collapsed–and it’s all still here.
    You make me hug the toilet.

    ————-

    “For the benefit of all”

  30. Chuck Lam says

    NASA and the ESA working in concert. Now there is a union made in heaven. Further, this Mars agenda most certainly will collapse under its’ own financial weight. It will be many decades, before a science team steps foot on Mars and returns to earth. Man walking on Mars may not even happen this century.

  31. marcellus says

    Considering Germany was heavily involved in two world wars in the 20th century that cost the planet a combined 60 million dead, then the money we’ve spent in that direction is a good investment. Peace is priceless.

    That NASA and the ESA are combining forces, that is a good thing. The Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn is proof positive of that.

  32. David R. says

    KG6YRA:

    “NASA is not interested in planet Earth or the benefit of anything or anyone.”
    That ‘s akin to saying the vegetarians are not interested in eating vegetables.” Not exactly. An angry over generalization? Maybe. Devoid of fact? Not at all. It’s an agency. It’s an institution. There are plenty of former NASA people out there that will point out mismanagement, self-serving agendas, and so on.

    “NASA scientists are warning of the effects of climate change on the future of humanity. However, the Bush administration kept them as quite as possible.” You’re illustrating my point. NASA has an unfortunate relationship with politics. Its science and research therefore depend, at least in part, on which way the political winds blow. If that is even partly true, then NASA isn’t completely concerned about planet Earth, is it? Concerns over climate change are being handled by other groups with a lot more transparency, accountability and bottom line results than NASA. Give me a break.

    “You have greatly overlooked NASA’s activities, David. Then they wouldn’t have launched the OSTM and the large armada of Earth monitoring satellites. Such as research on the Ozone layer, sea-levels, and the entire atmospheric and geophysical condition of the planet.
    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/index.html

    OK, how about this link to balance out your comments:

    http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2007/sep/HQ_07197_NASA_Army_MOU.html

    NASA does not have just Earth research in mind, nor has it ever. You have greatly overlooked NASA’s activities as well. Not to mention a very myopic understanding US political history. Most public school history classes even acknowledge the relationship between the moon program and the cold war. To suggest that NASA is somehow above politics, military research, and matters that have nothing to do with the well being of the planet is nauseating.

    “Instead bashing the peaceful advancement of science and technology, how about protesting against military spending.
    NASA: 17.3 billion = a meager budget for peaceful science.
    US Military: $515.4 Billion = bigger body count”
    I am not bashing the peaceful advancement of science and technology. I am bashing bureaucrats who rush to the press with comments about the benefit of “all the Earth” when their history and present reality are completely at odds with their rhetoric. (I would like nothing better than to see a US budget that eliminates poverty, creates good jobs, eliminates its debt, and invests heavily in science and research.)

    “The US economy has already virtually collapsed–and it’s all still here.” Well, for someone so bothered by over generalizations and overlooking key details, you didn’t seem too concerned with your own. Yes, the US economy is “still here.” And the highest unemployment numbers in recent memory are here. I’ll be sure to tell my friends who are on the verge of losing their jobs that the US economy is “still here.”

    “You make me hug the toilet.” I guess you meant that my comments made you hug the toilet. Your comments have the same effect on me. So I guess that makes us united in our own vomit…and we have both adversely affected the planet by all that extra flushing.

    “For the benefit of us all.” Huh? That just doesn’t make any sense. But I’m too busy hugging the toilet to care much…

  33. LLDIAZ says

    response to maudyfish:
    There is a “fortune” to be made but who will inherit this fortune not the astronauts not the scientists who studied day and night calculating every last detail. The credit will go to the politicians for “allowing” it, the technology will be folded into the military complex. No fortune for those that worked for it. Not Fair!!
    KG6RYA:
    I completely agree military budget is totally way too much hope Obama cuts it down but then you have to ask at what expense to the peoples safety..

  34. Greg says

    Speaking of the military, here is an idea. Let us make a proposal where the ESA contriubtes dollar for dollar the money the U.S. military spends “defending” Germany so that the Germans don’t have to. Of course considering this proposal we would have to figure out just what we are still defending Germany from. OR do we still believe they are the barbarians of Roman times or inclined to another holocaust or world war if we let them comlpetely run their own military operations?

  35. Steve says

    its about time they teamed up

  36. Roger Levinson. says

    And about time too. There is no other life out there, we are alone and we are here to bring life to the rest of the universe. Lets start with Mars and lets get it done, the sooner the better.

  37. Astrofiend says

    Roger Levinson. Says:
    December 7th, 2008 at 12:15 am

    “There is no other life out there, we are alone and we are here to bring life to the rest of the universe.”

    Wow – that’s a bold assertion. Nobody on Earth has any idea of what may or may not be out there with regards to life. To make a any sort of claim otherwise can only be regarded as pure guesswork, baseless personal conviction or quasi-religious.

    Both history and common sense show pretty damn well that reaching conclusions in this manner isn’t usually conducive to finding out the facts of the matter.

  38. btw says

    For those of you who expect that a merger of NASA and the ESA to blossom into anything substantial anytime soon, dream on. I wish only the best for the two space agencies, but international cooperation has been only a mirage.

  39. DJ Barney says

    Ha ha ha ! I will dream on my friend, while the “mirage” of international cooperation drifts majestically above our heads … the ISS. The space age will carry on regardless of this outpouring of bile and ignorance. Maybe it’s a necessary part of the equation. As the Buddhists say … “without s**t, plants not grow”.

  40. marcellus says

    Most cosmologists consider that the Universe is homogenous, that is, that the Universe is the same everywhere.

    If that is the case, life is everywhere. I can believe that much more than we are here to spread life throughout the Universe. 4.4 light years to the nearest star system is a long way to go much less the rest of the way.

    The “bold assertion” that this is the only place that life exists smacks of pre-Copernican astronomy.

    Co-operation between NASA and the ESA is a small but correct step in the right direction.

  41. dollhopf says

    In 2006 the estimated budget of ESA was € 2.904 billion (according to http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMEU7W4QWD_Germany_0.html)

    NASA’s budget in 2006 was 15.125 billion in current dollars (according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Budget)

  42. watchful stone guardian says

    Or as Yoda would say “Without sh*t, plants grow not.”

    🙂

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