July 8, 2009

ESA, NASA to create exploration initiative

The European Space Agency and NASA have agreed to create a Mars Exploration Joint Initiative, European space officials said.

The agreement -- reached late last month in Plymouth, England, during a meeting of ESA and NASA officials -- will provide a framework for the two agencies to define and implement their scientific, program and technological goals on Mars, the ESA said.

The two space agencies will coordinate launch opportunities during 2016, 2018 and 2020, with landers and orbiters conducting astrobiological, geological, geophysical and other high-priority investigations leading to the return of samples from Mars during the 2020s.

ESA officials in Paris said they and NASA also agreed to establish a joint architecture review team to assist in the planning of missions, which will be approved by ESA member states and by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.