The BBC article Europe's science ministers to decide on ExoMars rover describes a substantial amount of discussion and soul-searching about the level of funding and capabilities for the rover part of the much larger ExoMars project which involves multiple spacecrafts/devices/launches. The section titled 'Dumbed-down' rover describes continued debate about inclusion of autonomous navigation capability, which can make a substantial improvement on productivity and science if the duration is limited, but will add significant complexity and development costs.

Currently it looks like the launch is 4 years away (2020).

I'm 200% all-in for rovers and robotic exploration. and it needs time and accumulation of real off-world experience, so since spacecraft and rover autonomy is inevitable, the sooner an agency gets started the better.

My question is narrowly focused on the science capability of the ExoMars rover. In addition to the wealth of experience that opperating it will provide, does it have any unique science capabilities beyond being in a new location? A new class of measurement for example?

For that matter, will the chosen location offer any pre-established new science? (not including new science not pre-established - who knows, maybe it will find strawberries this time instead of Blueberries)


The rover will be the first that can drill to a depth of 2 m (compared to a few cm for Curiosity). Its instruments for analyzing the drill samples will be more advanced than those on Curiosity. And it will carry a ground-penetrating radar, that hasn't been done in a Mars rover before.

The drill is designed to work in loose soil, but also in frozen soil and soft rock types like sandstone. It'll also work in basalt (from lava). There's no hard cutoff; in harder rock drilling will take longer (15 cm/h in pumice, down to 1 cm/h in harder basalt). The ground-penetrating radar can help assess subsurface hardness so they won't have to waste time drilling into very hard rock.

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    $\begingroup$ Your last sentence could stand to be clarified. Ground-penetrating radar has been done on Mars before. Just not by a rover. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage Nov 28 '16 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ Wow! That's quite a repertoire of new science! The ground penetrating radar will likely have better spatial resolution (at least laterally) than that from orbit. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 29 '16 at 12:54

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