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Franco-American cooperation extends to Mars mission

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-02-11

The United States and France unveiled plans Monday to collaborate on a new mission to Mars that is scheduled to launch in March 2016 and set to arrive on the Red Planet six months later.

The InSight project – short for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport – will see an unmanned lander sent to study the deep interior of the dry, dusty planet.

The joint agreement was signed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of France's National Centre for Space Studies, at the Mandarin Hotel in Washington.

"The research generated by this collaborative mission will give our agencies more information about the early formation of Mars, which will help us understand more about how Earth evolved," said Bolden.

Not only would the lander return details about how Mars, a rocky planet like Earth, first formed, it would also probe how tectonic activity and meteorite impacts shaped the Red Planet.

Other partners on the project include the German Aerospace Center, United Kingdom Space Agency and the Swiss Space Office.

The announcement comes two years after NASA withdrew from a European project called ExoMars to send a probe and lander to the Red Planet, citing budget constraints.

Russia stepped in last year and inked a deal to cooperate with the European Space Agency on the project, which aims to send two unmanned missions to Mars. An orbital probe scheduled to arrive in 2016 will look for atmospheric traces of methane gas – an indicator of microbial life – followed by a deep-drilling robotic vehicle in 2018.

NASA currently has two rovers actively exploring Mars – the Curiosity rover, which launched in 2012, and the smaller Opportunity rover, which recently marked its tenth year in operation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

Date created : 2014-02-11

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