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ESA seeks pricing for Mars rover

Time for sums to be done on fag packets

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The European Space Agency (ESA) has asked Thales Alenia Space, the lead industrial partner on the ExoMars project, to put together a cost proposal for building a Mars Rover, according to reports.

The agency says it wants to hear from the group in just 10 weeks time.

The basic details of the design were hammered out by agency delegates at a meeting in June. Now ESA wants to know how much it would cost to build a 200kg rover capable of trundling over the Martian surface with a 16kg instrument package, searching for signs of life. It might also have to carry an additional 30kg science package that could study the local geology and environment.

Vincenzo Giorgio at Thales Alenia Space told the BBC that it would be a challenge to meet such a tight deadline.

"We now have a deadline of 8 October for delivery of the full committing proposal from industry. This is a challenge not only because there is August - normally a holiday all over Europe - but also because two months is a major challenge anyway to make a full blown proposal."

The group said it will meet with its contractors in Turin next week to kick start the work, while ESA plans to reconvene its delegates to discuss the proposal in November this year. ®

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