NASA and ESA's First Joint Mission to Mars Selects Instruments

NASA and the European Space Agency have embarked on a joint program to explore Mars in the coming decades and selected the five science instruments for the first mission.

The principal investigator for one of the instruments, and the management for NASA's roles in the mission, are based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, scheduled to launch in 2016, is the first of three joint robotic missions to the Red Planet. It will study the chemical makeup of the Martian atmosphere with a 1000 fold increase in sensitivity over previous Mars orbiters. The mission also will serve as an additional communications relay for Mars surface missions beginning in 2018.

The plan consists of two Mars cooperative missions in 2016 and 2018, and a later joint sample return mission. The 2016 mission features the European built ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a European built small lander demonstrator, a primarily U.S. international science payload, and NASA provided launch vehicle and communications components.