The countries participating in the Preparatory European Space Exploration
Programme “Aurora” have recently confirmed and increased their

This preparatory phase has attracted additional contributions for the period
2005-2006. Sweden has now joined the programme. The subscribed envelope has
nearly tripled, from the original E14.3m to around E41.5m currently.

Italy has confirmed its interest and ambitions in space exploration by
further increasing its participation. The United Kingdom will also
contribute additional money. France, the third-largest contributor to the
programme, is followed by Belgium, Spain and The Netherlands. Other
participants are Austria, Switzerland and Portugal. Canada, a Cooperating
State, also confirmed an increased contribution.

On 15 December, the ESA Council approved the Agency’s budgets for 2005,
including the budget for “Aurora”. These developments enable major
industrial activities to continue and will enable the work on preparing the
full programme proposal to move ahead in line with original plans.

Invitations to tender for industrial contracts will be issued starting next
February. These include work for the ExoMars mission and the Mars Sample
Return mission. Other activities
will cover in-orbit assembly, rendez-vous and docking, habitation and
life-support systems plus a broad range of technology development work.
Industry will also be called upon to contribute to the definition of a
European Space Exploration strategy and architecture.

The preparatory phase of the “Aurora” Exploration Programme will culminate
in a full programme proposal, which will be submitted to the next ESA
Council meeting at ministerial level, currently scheduled for end-2005.

For further information, please contact:

ESA Media Relations Division
Tel: + 33(0)
Fax: +33(0)


Piero Messina
Aurora Exploration Programme
ESA HQ – Paris
Tel.: +33 1 5369 7410 or +33 6 87715126