The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) issued a request for proposals over the holiday period for a robotic manipulator concept study in preparation for a possible contribution to the joint European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA ExoMars Rover scheduled to launch to Mars in 2018.
This concept study will focus on concept definition, feasibility assessment and cost estimate studies. Other than this study there is no funding for additional follow-up studies or actual robotic arm building. Only should the CSA receive funding in future budgets for this endeavour would the project proceed.
The CSA will fund up to two Phase 0 concept studies with a maximum value of $150,000 for each contract. Proposals are due by January 17th with the study to be completed by March 31st.
The ExoMars program has its roots based in the ESA ‘s program. Over the years because of budgetary contraints the program has had several reboots with changes to the mission. In its current state an ExoMars Gas Trace Orbiter will be launched in 2016 followed by a rover in 2018. Canada is already contributing the Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer (MATMOS) instrument to the ExoMars Orbiter.
Considering Canada’s expertise in robotic arms and the budget problems that both ESA and NASA are having, a contribution by Canada might be welcome. Along with ESA and NASA, Russia has been invited to participate in the ExoMars program.
The ExoMars Rover would continue building on the work of previous Mars rovers by doing more surface and subsurface sampling and in-situ analysis. The rover would also collect and cache samples for a potential return to Earth by a future mission. A Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission is considered a necessary step, in part for planetary protection, before a future human mission to Mars can happen.