THE HAGUE, Nov 26 (Reuters) - European countries reached a deal on Wednesday allowing them to juggle growing ambitions in space with fears of recession after capping the budget for a mission to Mars in 2016, negotiators said.
Haggling over the ExoMars project as well as the International Space Station dominated wider talks on 10 billion euros ($13 billion) of overall spending sought by the 18-nation European Space Agency at a meeting of science ministers.
"Germany wants to be sure the money is spent during a longer period to ease the pressure on financial commitments. It produced a lot of discussion in the corridors," a delegate said.
ESA meets at ministerial level every three years.
ExoMars would involve landing a rover on the surface of Mars and drilling down 2 metres (6.6 feet) into the soil to take soundings. The cost has roughly doubled since an earlier plan.
ESA ministers, who meet along with Canada every three years, agreed that the financial structure of ExoMars would be set by end-2009 and that their combined contribution must not exceed 1 billion euros, a delegate said.
A further 200 million is expected to be raised through co-operation with the United States and Russia. Meanwhile, Canada has pledged a considerable sum to stay within the European agency's future expeditions.
And, according to The Register, ESA and Innovation minister Lord Drayson have signed an agreement to build a research center at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, england.
"The centre will focus on space robots and innovative power sources including development of ExoMars." ExoMars, a source of some controversy as ESA's ministers worked out their priorities, is a planned robotic probe designed to search for life on Mars.