UK Scientists to Help NASA Answer the Question, ‘Was There Life on Mars?’

In February 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover and NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter (shown in an artist’s concept) will be the agency’s two newest explorers on Mars. Both were named by students as part of an essay contest. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists from the UK are playing a vital role in a NASA mission to Mars launched on Thursday, 30 July.

SWINDON, UK (UK Space Agency PR) — Backed by the UK Space Agency, researchers at Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum will help the NASA Perseverance rover select Martian rock and soil samples to be brought back from the red planet as it searches for evidence of ancient microbial life.

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ExoMars Rover Upgrades and Parachute Tests

The Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover after completing environmental and vacuum testing in Toulouse, France. The rover was tested in a clean room to withstand conditions similar to those on Mars. (Credit: Airbus Space)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — The second ExoMars mission, scheduled for launch to the Red Planet in 2022, is taking advantage of the extra time to upgrade some of the rover’s instruments and get ready for the next parachute high-altitude drop tests.

The new launch date on the horizon is allowing more margin for replacements and repairs to the ExoMars  Rosalind Franklin rover.

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ExoMars Launch Postponed 2 Years Until 2022

ExoMars orbiter and rover (Credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Roscosmos Space Corporation have decided to postpone the launch of the second ExoMars mission to study the Red Planet to 2022.

The joint ESA-Roscosmos project team evaluated all the activities needed for an authorisation to launch, in order to analyse the risks and schedule. With due consideration of the recommendations provided by European and Russian Inspectors General, ExoMars experts have concluded that tests necessary to make all components of the spacecraft fit for the Mars adventure need more time to complete.

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ExoMars Rover Completes Environmental Tests

ExoMars rover undergoing environmental testing. (Credit: Airbus)

TOULOUSE, France (ESA PR) — The Rosalind Franklin rover of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission completed a series of environmental tests at the end of 2019 at Airbus, Toulouse, France. This included final thermal and vacuum tests where the Rover is heated and cooled to simulate the temperatures of its journey through space and on the surface of Mars.

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ExoMars Parachute Fails in Test

ExoMars 2020 parachute deployment sequence (Credit: ESA)

KIRUNA, Sweden, 12 August 2019 (ESA PR) — As the second ExoMars mission, comprising a rover and surface science platform, progresses towards launch next year, teams continue to troubleshoot the parachute design following an unsuccessful high-altitude drop test last week.

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ExoMars Rover Named After Co-Discoverer of DNA Structure

Rosalind Franklin (Credit: Jewish Chronicle Archive/Heritage-Images)

STEVENAGE, UK, February 7, 2019 (UKSA PR) — The UK made ExoMars rover, due to roam the surface of the red planet in 2021, has been named after UK scientist and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA – Rosalind Franklin.

The name was revealed this morning by Science Minister Chris Skidmore and British European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Tim Peake in the ‘Mars Yard’ at Airbus Defence and Space UK in Stevenage, where the rover is being built.

Chris Skidmore, UK Science Minister said:

“It is a tremendously fitting tribute that the rover has been named after Rosalind Franklin as she helped us understand life on Earth and now her namesake will do the same on Mars.

“Just as Rosalind Franklin overcame many obstacles during her career, I hope ‘Rosalind the rover’ will successfully persevere in this exciting adventure, inspiring generations of female scientists and engineers to come.

“This is a big moment for British science and through our modern Industrial Strategy we are embracing this moment as part of our ambition to be the world’s most innovative economy, creating opportunities for business through science.”

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