[LINK] "Russia and Europe joint Mars bid agreement approved"
The European Space Agency seems to be rapidly expanding its capacities. Not only has it built a global tracking network comparable to NASA's, but the collaboration with Roscosmos that has led to last year's agreement to launch an ESA probe to Jupiter on a Russia rocket has extended to plans to enlist Roscosmos to replace NASA in the ESA's ExoMars probe. The BBC's Jonathan Amos reports.
European Space Agency member states have approved the agreement that would see Russia take significant roles in Red Planet missions in 2016 and 2018.
The former is a satellite that will look for methane and other trace gases in the atmosphere; the latter will be a surface rover.
Russian participation fills a void left by the Americans who pulled back from the projects earlier this year.
For a while, it looked as though the ventures, known as ExoMars, might have to be cancelled. But Russian desire to pick up many of the elements dropped by the US means ExoMars is now on a much surer footing.
Esa member states indicated their happiness with the cooperation text on Monday. All that remains is for the documentation to be signed by both parties.
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The planned agreement calls for Russia to provide the Proton rockets to send the two ExoMars missions on their way.
Russia would also get instrument space on the 2016 satellite and the 2018 rover. In addition, its researchers would join the science teams that exploit the missions' data.
One key contribution would be the landing system that places the rover on the surface of the Red Planet. With the exception of some key components, this would be built by Russian industry.