EU Funds Mission to Mars in 2020

(CN) – The European Space Agency has secured the additional funding that it needs to land its first rover on Mars and continue its ExoMars program.

European Union member states that make up the space agency approved another $480 million in funding for the agency’s program, which is seeking signs of past or present life on Mars. The 22 states approved a total budget of $11 billion Friday – close to the $11.7 billion the agency requested.

The funding comes a month after the Schiaparelli lander – a craft the agency used to test technology for landing on the surface of Mars – unexpectedly crashed-landed on the planet, and amid concern among member states about cost and schedule overruns.

“It’s not an easy thing, but we are confident we will succeed,” agency director General Jan Woerner said, also noting that a delay to the Mars rover mission beyond 2020 is not an option.

The member states also said Europe’s participation in the International Space Station will run until at least 2024, allowing for more European astronauts.

Ministers from the member states determined the programs, policies and funding for the ESA over the next three to five years.

The Asteroid Impact Mission, meant to be part of a mission to explore how to deflect an asteroid heading for Earth, was among the programs that did not receive full funding from the council – a fact that concerned Woerner.

“These asteroid activities, looking at how we can really defend our planet in case something is happening and Bruce Willis is not ready to do it a second time, will be continued,” he said, referencing the 1998 film “Armageddon,” which depicts a team sent to destroy an asteroid that threatens Earth.

In this photo dated Tuesday, Nov, 29, 2016 the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with the Progress MS-04 cargo ship is installed on a launch pad in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The unmanned Russian cargo space ship Progress MS-04 broke up in the atmosphere over Siberia on Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, en route to the International Space Station due to an unspecified malfunction, the Russian space agency said. (Sergei Sergeev/ Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service photo via AP)
In this photo dated Tuesday, Nov, 29, 2016 the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with the Progress MS-04 cargo ship is installed on a launch pad in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The unmanned Russian cargo space ship Progress MS-04 broke up in the atmosphere over Siberia on Thursday Dec. 1, 2016, en route to the International Space Station due to an unspecified malfunction, the Russian space agency said. (Sergei Sergeev/ Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service photo via AP)

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos was not as lucky Friday, as it continues to search for debris of a cargo spaceship that crashed near the nation’s border with Mongolia minutes after its launch.

The Progress module was launched from Russia’s space complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Thursday morning, carrying 5,383 pounds of water, medical equipment toiletries, food, and other supplies for the International Space Station.

About 6 minutes, 30 seconds into the flight – and more than two minutes before it was supposed to enter orbit – Progress stopped communicating. The craft then failed to separate from the third and final upper-stage of its rocket.

NASA told the Expedition 50 ISS crew aboard the space station about the crash.

“Unfortunately, I have some not-so-great news for you guys,” a mission controller told the crew. “Basically, what we saw was indications of the third-state (separation) occurring a few minutes early and we haven’t had any communications with the Progress at all.”

Russia has formed a commission to investigate why the Progress module failed to reach orbit.