At a meeting in Moscow yesterday, the heads of the Russian Space Agency and the European Space Agency agreed to a "statement of intent" to cooperate on the 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions to the red planet. The final agreement, they said, would occur in November, when both sides have confirmed the funding.
This partnership came about after NASA pulled out of the joint program with ESA. Europe, without the means to complete the $1.6 billion project alone, invited the Russians to join. A Russian Proton rocket will launch the ExoMars 2016 orbiter, and for the 2018 mission, a robotic lander that will collect soil samples for later return to Earth could be a Russian contribution.