Entry Fees for New ESA Members Go to ExoMars

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PARIS — The ruling council of the European Space Agency (ESA) on Oct. 17 agreed to an unusual request from Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain to divert two new ESA members’ entry fees to help finance the ExoMars mission, according to ESA officials.

Meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Paris, the council gave the green light to Dordain’s proposal that 11.3 million euros from Poland and 3.6 million euros from Romania be given over to the ExoMars Risk Mitigation package.

ExoMars includes a telecommunications orbiter, a rover and a small lander to be sent to Mars on two Russian Proton rockets in 2016 and 2018. NASA is also taking part in the mission with a communications instrument.

Despite the no-charge Russian launches and the small NASA contribution, ESA has had trouble financing ExoMars. While not all the financing has been secured, the program is now viewed as on solid footing.

In early 2012, Dordain proposed a series of exceptional measures to be taken to find the necessary monies. At one point he had even floated the idea of postponing the agency’s move into a new headquarters, with the savings to go to ExoMars.

The 14.7 million euros ($20 million) from Poland and Romania is but a drop in the bucket for ExoMars, which is costing ESA an estimated 1.2 billion euros. But it is a demonstration of Dordain’s personal stake in the mission’s success.

 

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