Press Release

Scientists eager to get on board ExoMars

By SpaceRef Editor
May 26, 2003
Filed under , , ,
Scientists eager to get on board ExoMars
Mars

For centuries, mankind has wondered whether alien life exists on another
planet in our solar system. One of the most promising places to discover
signs of life beyond Earth is the planet Mars, and scientists around
the globe are clamouring for an opportunity to participate in
ExoMars, an exobiology mission which is being planned as part of
ESA’s pioneering Aurora Programme.

Earlier this year, ESA issued a call for ideas for the Pasteur instrument
payload
that will be carried on the ExoMars rover. The response has been remarkable,
with some 580 investigators from 30 countries expressing the desire to
participate in this exciting mission.

“There has been a great response from the international scientific community,
with approximately 260 universities, research institutes and companies wanting
to take part,” said Jorge Vago, ExoMars study scientist. “Apart from the ESA
Member States, we have had expressions of interest from scientists in
Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Russia, the United States and much of Eastern
Europe.”

“There are some very innovative proposals which involve ‘leapfrog jumps’ in
technology, including cameras that will outperform anything previously
flown and several instruments using biochips, an advanced technology that has
enormous potential for detecting organic molecules.”

Over the next few months, the flood of proposals will
be subjected to a rigorous peer review in order to select the most appropriate
technologies to achieve the mission objectives. Working groups of scientists
from the teams that put forward the most promising proposals will then be given
the opportunity to define the composition of the Pasteur payload that will
eventually travel to Mars.

Background

ExoMars, the first Flagship mission in ESA’s long-term Aurora Programme, is
currently scheduled for launch in 2009.

The primary objective of ExoMars will be to search for signs of life, past or
present, on the Red Planet. Secondary objectives will be to identify potential
surface hazards to future human missions, to determine the distribution of water
on Mars and to measure the chemical composition of the surface rocks.

These studies will be undertaken by a large (230 kg), high-mobility rover
equipped with a comprehensive suite of scientific instruments – the Pasteur
payload. The instrument mass of this payload is anticipated to be around 30 kg.

The final decision on ExoMars will be taken at the ESA Ministerial Council
meeting in late 2004.

For further information contact:

Dr Jorge L. Vago

ExoMars Study Scientist

jorge.vago@esa.int

SpaceRef staff editor.