Anxious wait for Airbus staff as they watch every move of Mars mission which will pave the way for the launch of their Stevenage built rover

The Mars Rover built at Airbus in Stevenage

The Mars Rover built at Airbus in Stevenage - Credit: Archant

Staff at Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage were keeping close watch as a rocket blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday on a mission to Mars.

They were still waiting and watching as the giant rocket left Earth’s orbit that evening to begin its flight to the Red Planet, and will be following its every move in the coming months.

Much hangs on the success of the ExoMars 2016 mission for the team at the Gunnels Wood Road aerospace firm.

Crucially the mission backed by the European and Russian space agencies will launch a satellite into orbit around Mars which – as well as looking for signs of gas being emitted from possible life forms – will relay data to and from a Mars rover being built and tested by the Stevenage team due for launch on a second ExoMars mission in 2018.

When it lands on Mars in late spring 2019, the state-of-the-art rover will be the first of its kind ever built in Europe and will help scientists gain a greater understanding of the planet’s make-up.


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An Airbus spokesman said: “We’re very excited to learn the first part of the mission is safely on its way to Mars, and when it gets there we want to make sure it’s operating properly so when the rover lands it will have its communication life line back to earth.”

With the help of the satellite, the rover will be able to navigate on its own because signals to Mars can take 20 minutes, so driving it by remote control from Earth would take too long.

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The firm will be building one rover for the mission, but is presently working on three prototypes.

The current mission is also crucial because it will land a Schiaparelli capsule on the surface of Mars – the same type of craft that will eventually land the Stevenage-built rover.

For more information on the mission as it develops visit exploration.esa.int/mars.

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