back to article If at first you don't succeed, send another Mars lander – this time a deep driller

Undeterred by the crash of the Schiaparelli Mars probe during the first ExoMars mission, the European Space Agency has signed off contracts that will hopefully deposit a new and more advanced lander directly on the Martian Surface. In one piece. In a ceremony in Rome, ESA inked a deal with private firm Thales Alenia Space to …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Better put a couple of metres on that drill bit

    To give the equivalent of the radiation protection we get at sea level on Earth needs about 4m of Mars soil.

    Now if they could target a site with a suspected ice deposit close to the surface.....

    I wish them luck.

    1. james 68

      Re: Better put a couple of metres on that drill bit

      I think they're actually looking for past life as opposed to present life. They don't need to drill so deep for that as the idea is that life could have evolved there when mars still had an atmosphere and liquid water, meaning it could have existed closer to, or even on, the surface.

      I am also of the view that they should send a longer drill though, due to the forms of life likely to have evolved attempts to survive mars losing its atmosphere. They would have been the tougher more extremophile types and would likely be found somewhat deeper, but with them being the "toughest of the tough" then those are the ones likely to have left the most traces of their passing. I guess though that a longer drill will mean more torque stress as it extends and whatever material they use for the drill body is likely lightweight it could be a tradeoff, using a 2 meter drill means it (hopefully) wont snap.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Better put a couple of metres on that drill bit

        Just hope they don't economise and buy the 'six for £1' drill bits from Poundland like I foolishly did. See the Vimes theory of Boots.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Better put a couple of metres on that drill bit

      To give the equivalent of the radiation protection we get at sea level on Earth needs about 4m of Mars soil.

      Is that with or without magnetosphere?

      "We have lost 50% of our planetary forward deflector shields"

      "I told them to keep the iron core heated!"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Digging holes in the Mars surface was not an issue for ESA...

    ... hope this time they'll do it in a much more controlled way.

    Especially since I work in the same site were the drill has been developed, don't want to see very sad faces around.

    Just, do they trust a Roscosmos descent module more than theirs? Russia doesn't have a good record with Martian probes as well...

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Digging holes in the Mars surface was not an issue for ESA...

      All they need is to make sure they use a drill Chuck Norris and Mars won't stand a chance...

  3. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    I know this is an EU project...

    But maybe they should contract a U.S. landing system, considering the U.S. has successfully landed 4 out of 4 drones sent to Mars, and the ESA's landing record is basically 0 for 2 now?

    It's bad enough that the comparatively cheap Schiaparelli cratered, but this next probe is going to be very expensive.

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: I know this is an EU project...

      No, it'll be fine, they've got Thales developing it they have a great record of automated landings...

    2. EastFinchleyite

      Re: I know this is an EU project...

      Bring the USA in by all means but make sure they/us agree beforehand whether to use feet and inches or SI units. We wouldn't want another Mars Climate Orbiter balls up to dent their reputation again.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Send Bruce Willis

    2 meters... we need to go deeper... He's the man for this.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Send Bruce Willis

      Too bad John Holmes isn't availiable any more.

  5. Peter X

    20 metres

    20 metres.... so that's more than Schiaparelli drilled is it?

  6. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Get some

    Kerbals in to devlope the thing.... if at first you dont succede... add moar struts and boosters ....

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Get some

      But there is one problem that can't be solved by moar boosters or struts, they need to check their staging.

      Well, really it was more a problem of the staging being triggered too soon, but still: Never not always check yo staging.

  7. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Cable Management

    That rover looks almost exactly like a networking rack I have in a branch office...

    1. Infernoz Bronze badge

      Re: Cable Management

      I doubt that all those exposed and poorly secured cables are a good idea, especially for an harsh environment which may damage or move them, also the vehicle looks stupidly top heavy, which could cause another failure via toppling, say by on uneven or sloping ground.

      I think that the rover should have an environment protection shell, the rover should have wide support, possibly via deployable drilling stabiliser legs, and the drill may be better kept horizontal until it needs to be used, to reduce toppling risk.

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        Re: Cable Management

        I think the pair of black cables poking out the backend are a bit of a giveaway that this is just the demonstrator. Unless of course they've found some convenient power sockets located on Mars?

        4 years out from Launch, demonstrators dont tend to look like flight hardware, they're just there to show that they can do the main task the funding is for...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cable Management

          This rig is waiting for the The Brain that wouldn't die

  8. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Explore Martian lava tubes instead?

    The technical challenges of exploring the Martian lava tubes with drones or rovers captures my imagination more than drilling into the surface. Obviously lava tubes would once have been sterile, whereas sedimentary material is more likely to contain evidence of any past microbes - so they might not be scientifically interesting. However, lava tunnels might be suitable for human habitation, providing protection against radiation, micrometeorites and temperature fluctuations.

    The challenges are locomotion (how does it crawl, climb or fly around?) and control and communication (how do you get a radio signal from the underground probe to the surface?). Lots of fun for engineers to be had here! :)

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Explore Martian lava tubes instead?

      No point. The lava tubes are almost certainly the home of mind-controlling dragons, who will take over the brains of anyone exploring the tubes and convince them they are seeing an empty cavern.

      (c) E.E. Smith

  9. herman Silver badge

    Why drill? They can just land one in the same sport as the last one and analyze the ejecta from the crater.

  10. MrDamage

    Off topic again

    Com on El reg, I know you need the ads to bring , the cash to pay your staff, but now it's getting fucking ridiculous.

    If you're not going to host the ads yourself, then at least tell your provider to make them relevant to your publication.

    Clickbait ads deserve nothing less than to have the ad slinger introduced to a cattleprod, shovel, roll of carpet, and bag of quicklime.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Life on Mars ? maybe ...

    The question I'm thinking about is "Does intelligent life exist at the EU headquarters in Brussels ?"

    Just makes me think of Monty Python's Galaxy Song :

    "And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space

    'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Life on Mars ? maybe ...

      /pol/ is over there ---->

  12. aberglas

    Two tonnes is very heavy

    Curiosity was only 899kg. And remember that each kg on Mars requires hundreds of kilos on the launch pad.

    I'm curious that Curiosity did not dig. I does not seem to be all that much more capable than Spirit and Opportunity.

    The ESA does not look like it has an arm. Which I would have thought would be very useful for something that digs. Could also be used to steady itself etc.

  13. Spudley

    They need to get Elon Musk involved! Turns out he wants to get into drilling holes too.

  14. Stevie Silver badge


    Good plan. This mission can leverage the gains made in the first by landing in the same place. The first few feet have already been excavated.

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