Europe's 2016 Mars Mission Enters Final

June 19 [Wed], 2013, 5:02
Europe's next mission to Mars has passed a key milestone to enter its final construction phase in pursuit of a planned 2016 launch toward the Red Planet.

European Space Agency officials signed the last construction contract for the 2016today (June 17), a deal between ESA and the Mars orbiter's prime contractor Thales Alenia Space. The ExoMars orbiter mission aims to senda methane-sniffing orbiter and a landing demonstrator to the Red Planet.

"The award of this contract provides continuity to the work of the industrial team members of Thales Alenia Space on this complex mission, and will ensure that it remains on track for launch in January 2016," Alvaro Gimnez, ESA's director of science and robotic exploration, said in a statement.