The ESA Aurora Exploration Programme, currently in its Preparatory Phase, features robotic exploration of Mars as a first step to deepen the scientific knowledge of Martian environment and address technological challenges. Current plans include an exobiology mission (ExoMars) and studies of a Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission

The recent successes of Mars Express, SMART-1 and Cassini/Huygens have demonstrated Europe’s capabilities in successfully conducting automatic planetary exploration.

The scientific scope of the Aurora Exploration Programme and of its first missions is the result of a large survey that was conducted among European scientists in 2001. In preparation of the upcoming ESA Council at Ministerial Level it is important to have confirmation of  the priorities by the scientific community involved and interested in the exploration of Mars.

To this aim the European Space Agency, in cooperation with BNSC/PPARC, invites European and Canadian scientists and researchers with an interest in the exploration of Mars to 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 preparatory activities needed to develop a sustainable Mars exploration programme, and will therefore take into account how activities undertaken up to 2013 fit into an overall mission roadmap including a sample return mission. The international context shall also be an important consideration.

The workshop will be held in Birmingham, UK at the ‘Lakeside Centre’ at Aston University. Participation is restricted to scientists and researchers having registered at the following internet address : Registration will close on 31 March.

The Workshop is scheduled to start at 14:00 on 6 April and to finish at around 16:30 on 7 April. Please note that the meeting is organised in conjunction with the RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) The planning will enable participation in the NAM planetary science session. To help people attend both meetings a coach service will be arranged from NAM on 6th for the start of the Aurora workshop.

The workshop will be followed by a morning Press Conference on Friday 8 April at Church House Conference Centre, London. Full details and media invite/registration will be issued shortly.

For any enquiry please contact: piero.messina@esa