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Russia Left Out of New NASA Mars Project

Published: August 4, 2014 (Issue # 1822)



  • An artist's rendering of the Curiosity rover.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NASA will not use any Russian equipment to build its newest Mars rover, but a top Russian scientist said Sunday that political tension between Russia and the U.S. over the crisis in Ukraine had nothing to do with the decision.

A Russian-made instrument called NORD — which is an upgraded version of the neutron detector used aboard NASA's most recent Mars rover, Curiosity — was simply not up to scratch, said Lev Zeleny, head of the Russia Academy of Science's Institute for Space Studies.

NASA announced a tender last year to select the seven instruments that would be used by the new rover, which is simply known as Mars 2020 — a reference to the scheduled date of the mission.

However, when NASA presented the chosen instruments at a news conference in Washington last week, no Russian instruments were on display, prompting observers to jump to the conclusion that the crisis in Ukraine was beginning to unravel the vaunted U.S.-Russia space partnership.

"If you participate in a contest, it isn't guaranteed that you will win," Zeleny told reporters at the annual assembly of the International Committee on Space Research, which is being held in Moscow this year.

"There were a number of other applications, and it didn't go our way. I wouldn't want to link it to political reasons," he said.

NASA's leading Mars specialist, Michael Mayer, said at last week's news conference that the agency had received 58 proposals from companies around the world for their equipment to be fitted to the new rover. In the end, NASA opted for scientific equipment developed by U.S., Spanish, French and Norwegian scientists.

Mars 2020 will be based on the Curiosity rover, which successfully landed on the red planet in 2012.

Russia's space agency Roscosmos is currently working on a Mars probe with the European Space Agency, or ESA. NASA was originally slated to be the ESA's partner on the project, but budget cuts in Washington forced the U.S. space agency to withdraw from the program. Europe turned to Russia, which was eager to get involved in a new Mars project following the loss of the Phobos-Grunt probe in low-Earth orbit in 2011.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Nov. 24


Dr. Axel Schulte, Department Head at Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics in Dortmund, Germany, is the featured speaker at the SPIBA Industrial Committee lecture on “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Digitalization of the Supply Chain.” The event begins at 4 p.m. at the Graduate School of Management at 3 Volkohvsky Pereulok and registration is required by Nov. 21 either by emailing office@spiba.ru or calling 325 9091.



Tuesday, Nov. 25


Tag along with AmCham during their “Industrial St. Petersburg” Tour program today. This incarnation of the ongoing series will visit Philip Morris Izhora and include an Environmental Health and Safety Committee meeting.


Find out how to expand your business east during the “Business With China” forum beginning today and concluding tomorrow at the Lenexpo convention center. The largest Russian forum dedicated to business with the Asian giant, topics that will be discussed include logistics, customs clearance, trade financing and many more.



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