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NEWS ARCHIVE

UK Returns to Mars in a Big Way!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 January 2006 11:22
Published on Tuesday, 06 December 2005 00:00
exomars_small.jpgUK scientists are returning to Mars with the news that the UK is to be a major player in the first phase of the European Space Agency's robotic space exploration programme "Aurora", which will set the agenda for Europe's robotic exploration of space for the next 10 years. The announcement was made at the conclusion of ESA's Ministerial Meeting held in Berlin (5-6 December).

The UK is to invest 108.1 million Euros (approximately £74.4 million) into Aurora, making the UK second largest contributor. The majority of this will go into ExoMars (101 million Euros, approximately £69.5 million), ESA's Mars Exploration mission which is due to launch in 2011, arriving at Mars in 2013.  A further 7.1 million Euros (approximately £4.9 million) is invested into the Core Programme to prepare for a future Mars Sample Return mission.

Speaking at the Ministerial Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science and Innovation said, "Aurora will build on last week's exciting Mars Express results which provide the first concrete evidence of significant amounts of water under the surface of Mars. As a major contributor, the UK will have a leading role in this programme which is set to improve our understanding of Mars and the Solar System."

ExoMars will involve exploring Mars in three dimensions * investigating the existence of life on the planet and study Mars's suitability for an eventual human mission. The mission will investigate the surface of Mars with a rover and will also look at what is below the surface with a seismometer, ground penetrating radar and a drill. The technology and instrumentation prepared for ExoMars will pave the way for a future network of science stations and for a sample return mission.

Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) and Chair of the UK Space Board, said, "This commitment by the UK to this major new European programme is highly significant and as well as paving the way for great scientific return it represents an investment in core technologies to be developed not only for ExoMars but for further robotic missions."

He continues, "ExoMars will compliment the international efforts to explore Mars and the rest of ESA's successful space programme to explore our solar system. Mars Express, Cassini-Huygens and Smart-1 continue to deliver amazing results with further revelations set to return through missions such as Venus Express and Rosetta."

The UK also committed 374.3 million Euros (approximately £257.6 million) to ESA's science programme representing approximately 18% of the total ESA science programme budget of 2080 million Euros.

Professor Mason adds, "By re-affirming our commitment to invest in ESA's science programme the UK recognises that this is a pillar upon which the rest of the Agency's activities are built. This will help to ensure a cost effective programme which delivers a high scientific return."

On hearing the news Professor John Zarnecki from the Open University, said,
"This is wonderful news - we can now look forward to British scientific instruments and technology being on the surface of Mars by 2013. This is an outstanding opportunity for UK scientists and industry to be a part of this European venture to search for life on Mars and to understand better the environment of our close neighbour."

Dr Mark Sims from the University of Leicester and Chair of PPARC's Aurora Advisory Board adds, "The Aurora programme is a fantastic opportunity to exploit the great interest in planetary science and exploration throughout Europe and particularly in the UK. This programme will build upon the significant scientific and industrial expertise built up in missions such as Cassini-Huygens, Mars Express, and Beagle 2.  Planetary exploration has the added potential for instrumentation spin-offs into many fields and commercial sectors, and of exciting the general public. In particular planetary space science can inspire our young students to continue their education in science, engineering and technology and ultimately encourage them to enter into careers in science and technology. This can only build and strengthen the UK's industrial and economic base."

In the UK the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council is responsible for the UK space science budget (ESA core space science programme and Aurora investment).

See http://www.bnsc.gov.uk for BNSC release.

Contacts

Gill Ormrod * PPARC Press Office (in Berlin)
Tel: 01793 442012. Mobile: 0781 8013509
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Peter Barratt * PPARC Head of Communications (in Swindon)
Tel: +44 (0)1793 442025. Mobile: + 44 (0)7879 602899
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Nic Fearon-Low - DTI Press Office
Tel: 020 7215 6403

Franco Bonacina * ESA Spokesperson and Head of Media Relations Division
Tel: +33 1 5369 7713. Fax: + 33 1 5369 7690
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UK Science Contacts

Professor John Zarnecki * Open University
Work: 01908 659599. Mobile: 07769 943883 Work:
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Professor Andrew Coates * UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory
Tel:  01483 204145. Mobile: 07788 448318.
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Dr Mark Sims * Leicester University
Tel: 0116 252 3513. Mobile: 07801 858920.
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Professor Monica Grady * Open University
Tel: 01908 659251.
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UK industry contacts

Mike Healy * Director Earth Observation, Navigation and Science, EADS Astrium Tel: 02392 705097. Mobile: 07887 826027.
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Steve Lingard * Vorticity Systems
Tel: 01865 893210.

Notes to Editors
Further comments from UK scientists

Professor Andrew Coates from UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory said,

"This is just the news we've been waiting for. The exploration of Mars, along with other solar system bodies, plays a key part in understanding mankind's place in the Universe. Mars probably offers our best chance to answer a fascinating question - 'are we alone?' The ExoMars rover, Europe's first mobile laboratory on another planet, will explore whether past, or even present life exists on our cosmic neighbour. Now, the UK can really build on the heritage of Beagle 2 and play a lead role in this exciting mission. We look forward to seeing our pictures, and perhaps even video, from the surface of an exciting world".

Professor Monica Grady from the Open University, and a Vice-President of the Royal Astronomical Society, said,

"Joining ESA's Aurora programme is a wonderful opportunity for the UK to be part of an exciting and challenging programme of Martian exploration. It builds on the recent successes that we have seen from other planetary missions such as Mars Express and Cassini-Huygens, and we hope that it will enthuse and excite people, both specialists and non-specialists, in the same way that Beagle 2 did. Over the next few years, we will see a new generation of young scientists, engineers and technologists contributing to this mission, providing inspiration to school students and their teachers. It is our good fortune to be working in this field at this exciting time."

Websites

ESA's Aurora Webpage
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Aurora/index.html

PPARC's Aurora Advisory Committee - membership and remit http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/AurAC.asp

Previous PPARC Aurora releases
October 2004 - UK joins next stage of European Preparatory Space Exploration
Programme * Aurora http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/aurora1.asp

April 2005 * Europe goes back to Mars
http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/rel38.asp

This release from PPARC is forwarded for your information. Forwarding does not imply endorsement by the RAS.