Johann Woerner’s problems with ExoMars – tough times are coming for ESA Mars mission ?

After postponing ExoMars mission for two years from 2018 to 2020 it seems that subcontractors of ESA will be forced to work really hard to make the delay was the last.

On press conference in Prague, on May 9, 2016, Johann Woerner, Director of European Space Agency clearly expressed his dissatisfaction caused by delay with ExoMars. His frustration was totally understandable - mission was postponed already three times: from 2011 to 2013, again from 2013 to 2016 and from 2016 to 2018. Now it is sure that ExoMars lander will be to land on Mars surface and perform various researches using Mars rover equipped in mining equipment not earlier then 2020. Johann Woerner stated that joint decision with Roscosmos chief, Igor Komarov, was not the easiest to made but there was no other way - delays on both sides were covering period of at least 12 months. Mars lander and Mars rover could be ready in 2019, but as in case of Mars InSight mission, next time when Mars will be close enough to Earth to perform flight appears every two years so only 2020 was possible.

Agreement between ESA and Roscosmos signed in 2013 assumed that ExoMars spacecraft will be joint project: ESA was responsible for providing avionics, radar and navigation systems for spacecraft and Roscosmos part was to create rest of lander and develop general conception of landing. Mars rover was thought as joint project (80% Russia, 20% ESA) mainly developed by NPO Lavochkin. Involving large teams on both sides was expensive and delays caused that ESA ExoMars budget at the moment seems to be exceeded for €1 billion. Johann Woerner main problem is to convince countries most engaged in ExoMars, which are United Kingdom and Italy, that these money will not be wasted. Johann Woerner claims that it will be hard to explain why so crucial program is delayed for nine years comparing to original schedule; he expressed even guess, that maybe delay is not matter of technical problems but only effect of wrong organization of work which is not focused on results but on possessing money by contractors:

"The one who is the source of the delays - we should be very carefully looking at whether they are also eligible to get some extra money, because they are the reason we are delayed... From my point of view it's very strange if you say, 'OK, I do it later, and therefore I get more money'."

Again money are problem, just like in case of mentioned above InSight, ESA is in the front of the question: scrub mission, which already cost a fortune, or pay and pray for no further delays. Probably, industrial partners (probably most hard talks will be performed with main contractor - Thales Alenia Space, but program involves contractors from 19 countries and Russia) of ExoMars will get their money, but still it was not unveiled when rising costs will stop. It is obvious that this fact is most interesting for ESA in the moment and Johann Woerner will surely put stress on this during his talks with industrial representatives. Announced increased control of budget of ExoMars (You can read more here) surely will help, but should be part of the ExoMars from the beginning; especially if program assumed that program will involve contractors from 19 countries. Hopefully Johann Woerner will manage to reorganize ExoMars to reach 2020 with spacecraft and lander assembled and ready for the launch.