Agreement for NASA and ESA to collaborate on Mars rover mission finalized.  

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NASA and the European Space Agency agreed to fund a European Mars rover mission with hundreds of millions of dollars.  

NASA and ESA inked the agreement May 16 at ESA's Paris headquarters, formalizing their partnership on the 2028 ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover mission.  

According to the deal, NASA will provide throttable braking engines for an ESA-developed descent stage and radioisotope heating units (RHUs) to keep the spacecraft warm. NASA must buy a vehicle to launch the RHUs from the US.  

Roscosmos created the Rosalind Franklin mission's landing platform and planned to launch the spacecraft on a Proton in September 2022. NASA replaced those parts. ESA ended the relationship shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.  

ESA awarded Thales Alenia Space a 522 million euro ($566 million) contract April 9 to restart construction on the rover's landing system. Thales will build a new rover landing platform with NASA engines and RHUs not available in Europe.  

“This pivotal agreement strengthens our collaborative efforts for the ExoMars program and ensures that the Rosalind Franklin rover will set its wheels on Martian soil in 2030,” ESA director of human and robotic exploration Daniel Neuenschwander stated.  

It was unclear how much NASA contributed to the project. NASA's March fiscal year 2025 budget proposal sought $49.2 million for Rosalind Franklin and anticipated $339 million through fiscal year 2029, which includes the mission's late 2028 launch.  

Rosalind Franklin will provide NASA another chance to participate in a Mars mission as the agency revamps its Mars Sample Return program, a cooperative effort with ESA, to address cost increases and schedule delays. NASA's only robotic Mars project is ESCAPADE, a smallsat Mars orbiter set to launch this fall.  

NASA associate administrator for science Nicola Fox said in a statement that the Rosalind Franklin rover's unique drilling capabilities and onboard samples laboratory offer excellent scientific significance for humanity's hunt for past life on Mars.  

It was unclear what extra duties NASA will play on the expedition thanks to this assistance. The agency previously worked on the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer.  

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