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Europe to continue ExoMars without NASA
Posted: Sat, Mar 17, 2012, 8:53 AM ET (1253 GMT)
ExoMars rover illustration (ESA) European Space Agency (ESA) officials decided this week to continue their plans for a pair of ambitious Mars missions later this decade even after the US decided it would no longer cooperate on the missions. ESA members decided Thursday to pursue the ExoMars program, which calls for the 2016 launch of an orbiter and the 2018 launch of a lander and rover. ESA had planned to cooperate with NASA on the missions, with NASA providing the launches and some hardware and instruments. However, NASA announced in February it would discontinue its cooperation in the program, seeking instead to save money and restructure its own Mars exploration plans. ESA is now planning to cooperate with Russia, who will launch the missions on Proton rockets and provide some equipment. ESA has not ruled out some kind of revamped cooperation with NASA on ExoMars, though. The shift will likely increase the cost of the program to ESA by several hundred million euros.
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