UK 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.”
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