Aurora Science Workshop

Artist's impression of the ExoMars orbiter
16 March 2005

ESA’s Aurora Exploration Programme, currently in its preparatory phase, has as its first step the robotic exploration of Mars. This aims to deepen scientific knowledge of the Martian environment and address technological challenges.

Current plans include the ExoMars exobiology mission and studies for a Mars Sample Return mission.The recent successes of Mars Express, SMART-1 and Cassini-Huygens have already demonstrated Europe’s capabilities to successfully conduct automatic planetary exploration.

The scientific scope of the Aurora Exploration Programme and its first missions is the result of a large survey conducted among European scientists in 2001. In preparation for the ESA Council at Ministerial Level it is important that the priorities decided upon are confirmed by the scientific community involved and/or interested in the exploration of Mars.

This is why ESA, in cooperation with the British National Space Centre (BNSC) and the Particle Physics Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), is inviting all European and Canadian scientists and researchers with an interest in the exploration of Mars to attend a workshop where options for the next missions to Mars will be presented and debated.

The emphasis of the workshop is on the robotic missions feasible up to 2013, thus excluding the implementation of a Mars Sample Return mission. However, the workshop will include consideration of the preparatory activities needed to develop a sustainable Mars exploration programme and will take into account how activities undertaken up to 2013 will fit into an overall mission roadmap that includes a sample return mission. The international context of the programme is also an important consideration.

The Aurora Science Workshop will be held in Birmingham, UK, at the Lakeside Centre at Aston University. It is scheduled to start at 14:00 on 6 April and to finish at around 16:30 on 7 April. As the meeting is taking place at the same time as the Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting (RAS-NAM) 2005, to help people attend both meetings a coach service will be arranged on 6 March to enable RAS-NAM participants to attend the start of the Aurora workshop.

A Press Conference will be held on the morning of Friday 8 April at Church House Conference Centre, London. Full details and media invites/registration will be issued shortly.

Please note that attendance at the Aurora Science Workshop is restricted, and scientists and researchers wishing to participate are requested to register no later than 31 March.

For any enquiry please contact:
Piero Messina

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